West Village, Greenwich Village & East Village Guides
West Village Tips via Turf Savvy
If you think of the Village neighborhoods (East, Greenwich, and West) as a family, the West Village is definitely the sibling that went to medical school and now splits their time between New York and Martha’s Vineyard. It has just as many great shops and restaurants as East and Greenwich Village, but with much more of a buttoned-up polish: brownstones, tree-lined streets, designer labels, and a general tranquility that’s hard to find in New York City. To many, it’s one of New York City’s best neighborhoods.
WEST VILLAGE HISTORY
What is now referred to as the West Village was originally considered the center of Greenwich Village – which was an actual village established in 1712. In the 1600s, Dutch and freed African settlers had farmed on the land, and it became a hamlet separate from New York City, which was still contained further south.
From 1797 to 1829, the village was the site of Newgate Prison, New York State’s first penitentiary. Located on the edge of the Hudson River at current-day West 10th Street, the prison soon became severely overcrowded and saw frequent rioting. Up to 50 prisoners a day had to be released even to keep its population to 800, nearly double the intended capacity of the facility.
The West Village became home to industry, with companies such as Bell Telephone Laboratories having a major presence there. From 1898 to 1966, the technology company churned out several momentous inventions, including the first talking movies and the vacuum tube. When the High Line’s elevated train tracks opened in 1934, Bell Laboratories and other companies allowed for direct freight deliveries by constructing train tunnels inside their buildings.
Innovation also thrived in the neighborhood in the form of the arts and social movements. Artists from all over the United States have been drawn to Greenwich Village and the West Village ever since the construction of the original Tenth Street Studio Building in 1857. By the 1950s and 60s, writers (including Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac and James Baldwin) abounded and added to the neighborhood’s bohemian character; one of their frequent hangouts was the White Horse Tavern.
Beginning in 1938, the neighborhood was the site of the country’s first racially integrated nightclub, Café Society, located next to Sheridan Square. The club hosted performances by the likes of Miles Davis, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday.
From the 1950s on, the West Village also hosted many of the city’s gay and lesbian bars. The most historically notable of these establishments is the Stonewall Inn, which is still operating today on Christopher Street. In 1969, police raided the bar (a common occurrence at gay bars in those days), and fed-up patrons decided to fight back. The gay rights movement was born out of this pivotal uprising. The first gay pride demonstration in history took place on Christopher Street a few days after the Stonewall Inn raid, drawing about 500 marchers. Since then, the neighborhood has been a frequent center of LGBT activism, and serves as the end point for the annual pride parade to this day.
WEST VILLAGE VIBE
Home to stars like Claire Danes, the Olson twins (!), Will Ferrell, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Brooke Shields, the West Village is the East Village’s more glamorous cousin. These crooked (and often confusing) streets on the far western side of the island are as close to quaint as Manhattan gets. Many say that the area has a distinct European feel and tree-lined blocks, historic brick townhouses, trendy boutiques, and hip restaurants abound. And if the weather cooperates, we can’t think of a finer place to take a stroll.
While the atmosphere is delightful, be forewarned that much of the West Village is not on a grid system. We’re still not sure how West 10th street can intersect with West 4th street, but somehow it does. Like neighboring Greenwich Village, living in the West Village typically means trading space and new construction for aesthetics and location. Most West Village apartments are walk-ups; although the Richard Meier-designed apartment towers at 173 and 176 Perry offer an opportunity to live in a luxury building. If your bank account can handle it, the neighborhood has a number of beautiful Federal, Italianate, and Georgian style townhouses that would make a lovely home.
Of all three villages, the West Village is the area that is the most-buttoned up and residential. If you’re looking for quiet streets and easy access to the Hudson River, the West Village might be just the ticket.
WEST VILLAGE TRANSPORTATION
With you gain in beautiful architecture and tree-lined streets, you lose in transportation accessibility. The West Village only real subway access can be found at Christopher Street and Houston Street (the 1 train). Although the ACEL lines at 14th Street are also nearby. If you venture farther West, your best bet may be a cab or a long walk. And remember – the streets in the West Village are quite a maze, so be sure to allow for plenty of travel time if you don’t know where you’re going!
WEST VILLAGE SUBWAY & WALKING TIMES
The West Village also offers easy access to the PATH train at Christopher Street. The PATH connects Manhattan and New Jersey via a tunnel under the Hudson River and provides service to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison, and Newark.
WEST VILLAGE GUIDEBOOK LANDMARKS
The Gansevoort Market Historic District
This preserved area includes 112 buildings over the span of 11 blocks and is most commonly referred to as the Meatpacking District. Its most defining features are cobblestone streets, warehouses, and rowhouses. And in recent years, it’s become the home to the city’s trendiest clubs. If you love the nightlife, the Meatpacking District will be calling your name.
The Stonewall Inn
This tavern is most famous as the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which became the birthplace of the gay rights movement. The bar is still operating today and remains a hub of LBGT activism.
Bob Dylan House
161 West 4th Street might look any other West Village apartment, but its plain appearance belies its place in music history. In 1961, shortly after arriving in New York, Bob Dylan made the apartment his home. Not only did he likely write some of the most famous songs in history in the apartment, he was photographed for the snowy Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album just down the street.
WEST VILLAGE INSIDER LANDMARKS
Near the Christopher Street subway station at the corner of Seventh Avenue, a curious tiled triangle sits on the sidewalk. It represents the Eminent Domain battle between the City and landowner David Hess, who was pushed off of his property, but in the end refused to give up the mere 500-square-inch triangle that remained in 1914. The Hess Triangle is the smallest piece of private property around, and although people walk all over it, it is still not officially part of the public sidewalk—it is owned by the corner cigar shop, which bought it for $1,000 in 1938.
Although this volcano has remained dormant for years, there are many New Yorkers who are hopeful that one day it will come back to life. Okay, so it’s not a real volcano. In the early 1980s, there was a crack in the sidewalk which let steam vent through the sidewalk. A New Yorker with a healthy imagination and good sense of hunor decided that it was the perfect site for an artificial volcano, so they built one with cement. The steam has since died off, but the miniature volcano remains… casting a small but menacing shadow over the West Village.
WEST VILLAGE PARKS & RECREATION
James Walker Park (1.7 acres)
The Park is definitely lovely, just try not to think too much about its past. Before becoming a park in 1895, the land previously served as the cemetery for Trinity Park. Today, there is a reminder of the Park’s past in the form of a large sarcophagus dedicated to three deceased fireman in 1834. Once you move past the fact you are playing in a cemetery, you will really enjoy this place! There are baseball fields and playgrounds make it a popular gathering place for neighborhood families.
Highline Park (6.7 acres)
In a city filled with parks, the Highline is perhaps the most striking, as it exists 30 feet above the street level. The Highline Park was created in the footprint of an elevated train track that was built in the 1930’s to remove congestion from the street. Trains ran until 1980 and then the tracks stood until a group of private citizens stepped in to prevent its demolition in 1999. Ten years later, after an international design contest, hundreds of hours of lobbying, and massive construction, the first section of the Highline opened. Today, the Highline is a wonderful place to stroll down New York’s west side with views of both the Hudson and the skyline. The Park prominently incorporates local plant life with over 160 plants that are native to New York and over 200 overall. It is a wonderful place for a stroll and when it’s not too crowded, you certainly feel like you are above the fray of New York City life.
Hudson River Park (550 acres)
The Hudson River Park, one of the City’s most popular leisure destinations, came into being following an aboveground road collapse and a failed highway project that left a large portion of the west side of the City unused. After years of political battling over how to handle the space, Hudson River Park was approved in 1998. The Park’s first section was opened in the West Village in 2003. Today, the Park stretches along the river from Battery Park City up to 58th Street. The Park is extremely popular for runners and cyclists who provide a steady stream of traffic for the bikeway, but is equally popular among the multitudes of sunbathers who take up camp on the Park’s green banks. One of the Park’s most interesting features is its incorporation of old piers, which have been converted into public park space.
Greenwich Village Tips via Culture Trip
With a history of activism, art, and bohemian spirit, Greenwich Village has always been home to small businesses and big ideas. Today the neighborhood is as diverse and inclusive as ever, housing everything from classic Manhattan landmarks to innovative young restaurants. Here we’ve profiled ten of the most unique places sharing the West Village streets.
Smalls Jazz Club
Amongst the slew of jazz clubs populating Greenwich Village, Smalls Jazz Club stands out for its intimate venue and diverse bookings. Ranging from classic to contemporary sounds, this hole-in-the-wall spot offers three nightly performances (at special discounts for students and late-night patrons). With creative cocktails, friendly service, and a retro speakeasy atmosphere, Smalls specializes in big fun.
Smalls Jazz Club, 183 West 10th Street, New York, NY, USA
Since introducing the cappuccino to America in 1927, Caffe Reggio has dedicated itself to providing New Yorkers with an authentic European dining experience. Serving Italian staples like pasta with homemade pesto, ricotta cheese cake, and canollis, the cafe has designed an impressive food menu to accompany its selection of Italian wines and coffee beverages. With its European-inspired sidewalk seating and warm interior decorated with antiques and artwork, this historical spot allows you to explore the culinary offerings of Europe without ever leaving New York.
Caffe Reggio, 119 Macdougal Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 475 9557
Packed with quality vintage finds dating from the 1930s to the 1980s, Star Struck has attracted the attention and business of both fashion industry players and style-savvy New Yorkers. Let the shop’s knowledgable staff guide you through its extensive collection of vintage band shirts, military wear, and more. You can expect to score both timeless wardrobe staples and fun playful pieces at this one-stop vintage destination.
Star Struck Vintage Clothing, 47 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 691 5357
Celebrate the neighborhood’s artistic history with a visit to Maccarone, a gallery showcasing excitingly experimental work by established artists. Presenting paintings, sculptures, and interactive installations, the establishment delivers consistently strong and thought-provoking exhibitions.
Maccarone, 630 Greenwich Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 431 4977
Sticky’s Finger Joint
Your favorite kid’s menu staple gets a grown-up twist at Sticky’s Finger Joint, where fried and grilled chicken tenders are served in inventive flavors like salted caramel pretzel and wasabi-ginger. The menu of graduated snacks features additional elevated classics such as truffle fries and the popular fried green beans. Its late-night hours and familiar flavorful dishes make Sticky’s a great place for kids at heart to cap off a night out.
Sticky’s Finger Joint, 31 West 8th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 777 7131
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books
As implied by its name, Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books is not your average bookstore. Composed entirely of hand-picked selections, the unique stock of this independent shop ranges from renowned classics by authors like William Shakespeare and Allen Ginsberg to more obscure titles on philosophy, art, and more. Perfect for open-minded browsing and comic book hunting, Unoppressive Non-Imperialist promises refreshingly unusual finds at remarkably low prices.
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist, 36 Carmine Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 229 0078
Take in a film at the IFC Center, an alternative theater showcasing independent, foreign, and documentary films. Often hosting in-person Q&A sessions with the creative teams behind its screened works, the art house caters to dedicated film enthusiasts as well as individuals looking for a richer, more immersive movie-going experience.
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 924 7771
For standup performances from veteran talents, check out Comedy Cellar, the city’s premier comedy club. Hosting a number of experienced comics each night, the club is known for its frequent surprise guests like Louis CK and Sarah Silverman.
Comedy Cellar, 117 Macdougal Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 254 3480
With boardgames, billiards, live music, and more, this multi-purpose bar offers something for everyone. A great destination for group outings, fat cat’s spacious below-ground area is stocked with games including ping pong, shuffleboard, and scrabble. For smaller groups, the intimate lounge area complete with comfortable worn-in couches is the perfect place to enjoy live musical performances.
fat cat, 75 Christopher Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 675 6056
Washington Square Park
Visit one of Manhattan’s most iconic landmarks, celebrated for its architecture, history, and the varied crowd it attracts. Home to the famed Washington Arch, Washington Square Park is an unmissable destination for locals and tourists alike. Behold students, families, and devoted chess players gathered harmoniously around the park’s grand fountain in an admirable exhibition of the city’s diverse environment.
Washington Square Park, New York, NY, USA
East Village Guide via Culture Trip
Stretching from 4th Avenue to the FDR, the East Village boasts a wide variety of shops, theaters, museums and parks. This relatively small neighborhood has gained a great deal of recognition throughout the years as a cultural center and a hub for the arts. Read on to see what we highlight as several points of interest in this unique part of town.
La Sirena Mexican Folk Art
A homey craft and antique store operating in the East Village since 1999, La Sirena Mexican Folk Art sells authentic Mexican art and merchandise. Much of the work sold in the shop is handmade, ensuring that the traditions of the artists’ families live on and that the artist is fully compensated for his or her work. From clay and glass pieces to dolls and figurines, one could spend hours sifting through all that La Sirena has to offer.
La Sirena Mexican Folk Art, 27 East 3rd St, New York, NY, +1 212 780 9113
St. Mark’s Bookshop
Established in 1977, St. Mark’s Bookshop is nestled in the heart of the East Village. Carrying works of literature that encompass genres such as cultural theory, graphic design, poetry and small-press publishing, this engaging and unique bookshop embodies the essence of the surrounding area. If you’re an avid reader and supporter of the arts, or simply just want to check out a long-standing establishment in the neighborhood, then St. Mark’s Bookshop is the place to go.
St. Mark’s Bookshop, 136 East 3rd St, New York, NY, +1 212 260 7853
A notable off-Broadway production house, the Orpheum Theater has existed since 1904. In its early days, the Orpheum was referred to as the ‘Players Theater’ and was located in the Yiddish Theater District. The theater changed with times, transitioning into a film house and then back to a full-fledged performance stage in 1958. The theater has hosted countless performances, from the revival of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes in 1962 to the show performed by percussion group Stomp, which has been on the same stage since 1994. Orpheum is well known as one of the oldest off-Broadway theaters in NYC.
Orpheum Theater, 126 2nd Avenue, New York, NY
Tompkins Square Park
With ten and a half acres of beautiful greenery, open space, and public facilities, Tompkins Square Park is a simple yet appreciated neighborhood attraction. There is something to do for all ages in this little slice of nature. From playgrounds for kids to basketball and handball courts for athletic visitors and chess tables for those who want to give their mind a workout. There are also many performances held in the grassy area of the park throughout the year, which are free of charge and open to the public.
Tompkins Square Park, Avenue A to Avenue B, East 7th Street to East 10th Street, New York, NY, +1 212 387 7685
Anthology Film Archives
Opened in 1970, Anthology Film Archives is a place of study that is dedicated to the preservation and screening of films, specifically independent and avant-garde works that are otherwise overlooked. These films are studied, collected and exhibited for the public to see. In fact, Anthology Film Archives has grown to such an extent over the years that it now holds the world’s largest collection of literature related to avant-garde film, making this place a must-see for film enthusiasts who find themselves in New York.
Anthology Films Archives, 32 2nd Avenue, New York, NY, +1 212 505 5181
New York Marble Cemetery
A landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the New York Marble Cemetery is the oldest public, non-sectarian cemetery in New York City. Nestled in a small alley on Second Avenue, it is hard to imagine that over 2000 burials have taken place here, mostly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At this particular cemetery, all of the deceased are laid to rest in solid white marble vaults located below the surface. Interestingly enough, the cemetery is privately owned by the descendants of the original owners of these vaults, and those descendants can still be buried today in their family vaults. It’s open once a month to the general public. Furthermore, the ground is also accommodating garden parties and available for use as wedding grounds.
New York Marble Cemetery, 41 1/2 2nd Avenue, New York, NY, +1 410 586 1321
The Pyramid Club
A renowned dance club and bar that has been operating since 1980, The Pyramid Club offers live music, a DJ and open mic nights. A critics’ pick in New York Magazine, this club has withstood the test of time and continues to thrive in the East Village. Also a stage for occasional off-Broadway performances, The Pyramid Club is a great option for some late-night fun.
The Pyramid Club, 101 Avenue A #1, New York, NY, +1 212 228 4888
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space
Pursuing a mission of restoring and preserving the beauty of nature and public spaces in the East Village and Lower East Side, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) is a volunteer-run history museum that is open to the public five days a week. The goals of the museum are to ensure that community spaces stay intact and to educate the public on the political implications of the reclaimed space. Whether you are an urban activist, a museum lover or simply someone who enjoys all of the gardens and open spaces throughout the Lower East Side, the MoRUS should definitely be on your agenda.
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, 155 Avenue C, New York, NY, +1 973 818 8495
Since 1886, Webster Hall has continually served the surrounding community as a performance hall and nightclub. One of the largest speakeasies during Prohibition, it then transformed into an iconic rock ‘n’ roll club under the name The Ritz, only to transition back to the original name of Webster Hall and host a larger variety of events. This historic landmark continues to host various events, and with its three large ballrooms, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street, New York, NY, +1 212 353 1600
Yoga to the People
Yoga is a great way of decompressing and calming your inner self, especially when one is immersed in such a busy place as New York. With locations based around the country, Yoga to the People aims to give everyone the opportunity to practice this form of meditation at an affordable cost and a chosen level of exertion. The affordability and variety of levels ensure that people will not be turned away from yoga due to money or physical incapability. If you have time to spare and are looking to relax, you should keep Yoga to the People in mind.
Yoga to the People, 12 St. Mark’s Place #2R, New York, NY, +1 917 573 9642