Dive into American history with a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty is the emblem of New York, and indeed of the United States as a whole. It depicts a woman dressed in a draped gown and wearing a seven-pointed crown representing the seven continents. She faces Europe and holds in her left hand a tablet on which is engraved the date of the United States' independence, while her right hand holds a torch whose flame is covered in gold leaf. Incidentally, the statue's green tint is due to the oxidation of the copper, not its original colour! Symbolising freedom illuminating the world, it was the first thing immigrants saw when they arrived in New York harbour, in the hope of finding a better life in the United States. But before they could set foot on American soil, they had to reach Ellis Island, where the American immigration services were located.

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The history of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Made of a multitude of thin copper plates, the Statue of Liberty was built in France by the French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi with the help of the architect Eugène Viollet le Duc and later Gustave Eiffel. It was offered to the United States to celebrate Franco-American friendship and the centenary of the American Declaration of Independence, arriving in New York on 28 October 1886. Today, it is one of the most visited monuments in the United States, and one of the country's most powerful symbols, representing freedom and emancipation in the face of oppression.

Immigrants at Ellis Island in 1910.

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Located on Liberty Island, at the entrance to New York harbour, the Statue of Liberty was the first thing migrants saw as they approached American soil. They then made their way to Ellis Island, where more than 12 million people underwent the sometimes harsh controls and medical examinations of the immigration service between 1892 and 1954.

Why and how to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island?

The Statue of Liberty

From the ferry, you already have a great view of the majestic Statue of Liberty, but it's when you disembark on Liberty Island that you really realise just how impressive it is. The statue itself is over 45 metres high, and when standing on its monumental pedestal it reaches a height of 93 metres, weighing in at 225 tonnes.

The Statue of Liberty is the symbol of the United States.

- © Skreidzeleu / Shutterstock

Liberty Island is rather small, so you can walk around it fairly quickly, but the view of the New York skyline is simply incredible. Those whose ticket includes access to the plinth can see the statue from the inside and admire its metal frame. There are also photos and artefacts recounting the construction of the Statue of Liberty. If you've managed to get a ticket for the crown, you'll enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole of New York Bay.

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Ellis Island

Once you've finished visiting Liberty Island, hop back on the ferry to Ellis Island, now home to the Museum of American Immigration. Wandering through these corridors, you can put yourself in the shoes of the 5,000 daily migrants who disembarked from Europe hoping to find a gentler life in the United States.

Ellis Island is now home to the Immigration Museum.

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Photographs and artefacts from the period give us a sense of the stress they were under when, after days of travelling in complicated conditions, they had to pass medical examinations, fill in administrative questionnaires or prove their ability to read in order to cross the Golden Door and begin their new life on American soil. This is an important visit for understanding the cosmopolitan nature of New York.

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Practical information for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

As true symbols of the United States, don't miss a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island during your holiday in New York! Allow around five hours to visit both islands.

⛵ How do I get to Liberty Island and Ellis Island?

Only one ferry company is licensed to operate between Liberty Island and Ellis Island, Statue City Cruise. It operates from two embarkation points: Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan and Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

⏰ Timetables for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Both islands are open to the public every day except 25 December. The first ferry of the day leaves Battery Park at 9am. The last boat leaves Liberty Island at 4.15pm and Ellis Island at 4.30pm.

👉 Schedules are subject to change, find them on the Statue City Cruise website.

A ferry takes you to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

- © Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock

👛 Price of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

  • Full price: 24
  • Over 61s: $18
  • Under 13s: $12
  • Under 4s: free
  • New York CityPASS / GoCity Explorer Pass: free

Ticket includes ferry rides between Manhattan, Liberty Island and Ellis Island, access to the Immigration Museum and an audio guide.

👉 For just 30 cents more, you can also climb the statue's pedestal. It is usually possible to visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty for a few extra dollars, but the observatory is currently closed with no date announced for reopening.

As the Statue of Liberty is one of the most visited monuments in the United States, it is strongly recommended that you book your visit in advance on the official website.

A few tips for your visit

  • If possible, book a place on the first ferry to avoid the crowds on Liberty Island. If you book a visit after 2pm, you may not have time to visit both islands.
  • Go to the boarding gate about thirty minutes before the time shown on your ticket: a fairly strict security check is carried out before boarding the ferry.
  • You need to book at least two months in advance if you hope to reserve a ticket for the Statue of Liberty: the earlier the better! Be warned: you'll have to climb almost 400 steps.
  • Both islands are accessible to PRMs.
by Editorial Team
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