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The Tenement Museum in New York is a must-see

Sink in the Baldizzi family apartment Tenement Museum New York

New York is such an amazing city with so much to see and do. Even if you lived in the city, you’d never see everything it has to offer. I’ve been to New York so many times yet it was only on our last visit that a friend recommended visiting the Tenement Museum. I’d never heard of it! It also happened to be about a 5 minute walk from our hotel, The Ludlow, on the Lower East Side so no excuse not to visit. And I’m so glad they recommended it because it was fantastic and so interesting. Read why the Tenement Museum is a must-see in New York

The Tenement Museum building in New York

What is the Tenement Museum about?

The Tenement Museum opened in 1988 and offers guests the opportunity to explore 100 years of history in an interactive way. It tells the story of immigrants, migrants and refugee families who came to New York from Europe, South America and Asia. The museum owns two tenements buildings at 97 Orchard Street and 103 Orchard Street, which is where the apartment tours take place. The apartments have been recreated to be as accurate as possible for the time period.

Dressing table in the Baldizzi family apartment Tenement Museum New York

What tours can you do?

For most visitors there are three types of tours you can book. One is an apartment tour, one is a walking tour around the neighbourhood and the other is a historical food tour where you learn about how the people living in the tenement preserved food and adapted the food traditions of their home countries as well as how the community was sustained through grocers, street vendors etc.

We did the ‘Under one roof’ tour and got to visit the apartments belonging to a Jewish family and an Italian family who were neighbours at number 97 Orchard Street. Our guide shared how the families came to New York, who the family members were, what they did for work and what life was like at the time in the early 1900s. It was really fascinating. There are also some laminated photos and fact sheets that you can read to learn more. You can also ask questions at any point.

Rogarshevsky family apartment Tenement Museum New York

There are many different families that you can learn about so I’d recommend taking a look at the tours on offer to see which one you’d like to do. For example, one tour explores the Epstein and Saez Velez families in the 1950s and 60s. Another explores the Moore family, who were Irish Catholic immigrants who fled the famine in Ireland for New York. They moved into their tenement apartment in 1869.

We chose the ‘Under one roof’ tour because it features an Italian family and my husband is Italian. Next time we visit New York we will definitely do another tour and learn about another family or more about the neighbourhood, through a walking tour.

How long are the tours?

The apartment tours last around 60 to 75 minutes and the walking tours and food tour are 90 minutes. Our guided apartment tour took around 75 minutes. These tours are great of you want to do something cultural and learn about New York’s history but you don’t have hours to spare.

Is the Tenement Museum expensive?

The Tenement Museum is a nonprofit organisation and is not free to visit. However, your ticket price is helping to preserve the museum and teach people about an important part of the city’s history. The apartment tours and the walking tours cost $30 and are free for children under 5 years old. There is often a discount code on the website, usually offering 30% off. We had a 30% off discount when we booked our apartment tour. Note though that if you book your tickets online, there’s a $2 service charge per ticket.

The historical food tour costs $55 dollars per person, which includes five tastings from local food vendors.

Top tips for visiting the Tenement Museum

Book in advance as the tours are really popular and spaces on the tours are limited. So make sure that you don’t miss out as it really is a great experience.

Arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour as you will need to check in at the Visitor Centre, which is located at 103 Orchard Street. There is also a shop at the Visitor Centre as well as toilets and storage lockers. Large backpacks and luggage are not allowed on the tours.

The nearest subway stations are Grand Street (Lines B and D) and Delancey Street/Essex Street (Lines J,Z,M,F). The Visitor Centre is located on the corner of Delancey and Orchard Street.

Children under 5 are not allowed on most of the apartment tours, however they can join the Meet Victoria tour, which is an immersive apartment tour featuring an actor playing a teenager who lived in one of the tenement apartments. They can also join the walking tours and the food experience tour.

If you have accessibility needs, please visit their website for information on wheelchairs, assistive listening devices and more.

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Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.

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