Greenwich Village, often referred to as simply “the Village,” is a largely residential district bordered by Broadway to the east, the Hudson River to the west, Houston Street to the south, and 14th Street to the north. The Village’s history of being a home to movements that have changed American culture is a point of pride for its residents. Today, Greenwich Village is mostly made up of mid-rise apartments, 19th-century row houses, and the occasional one-family walk-up.
When the English conquered the Dutch settlement of New Netherland in 1664, Greenwich Village developed as a hamlet north of New York City. The narrow streets, many of which do not conform to the grid pattern established for New York city in 1811, were built in the 18th century and are now considered part of the neighborhood’s historic charm. The 19th century saw waves of immigration from France, Ireland, and Italy, which led to the construction of tenement buildings and factories such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. New York University was established on the east side of Washington Square in 1836, making the neighborhood the site of art clubs, literary salons, and libraries. Henry James wrote his novel Washington Square in 1880 and many of Edith Wharton’s books, including The Age of Innocence, take place in the Village during the 1880s.
Greenwich Village established its bohemian identity during the 1950s, when artists from the Beat Generation moved there to flee what they saw as oppressive social conformity. The Village played a central role in the writings of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, and many more. In 1969, the Stonewall Riot kicked off the LGBT rights movement in the United States and established Greenwich Village as the center of LGBT culture. Over the past decade, many of the artists and activists who called the Village home have fled to other New York City neighborhoods due to rising rent costs. Today, residents of Greenwich Village enjoy convenient access to the NYC subway via the A, B, C, D, E, F, M, 1, 2, and 3 lines as well as proximity to endless options for food, arts, and entertainment. Homes sell for an average of $1,784 per square foot, which is about 22% higher than the NYC average. One bedroom rentals average $3,400 in the Village.
If you’re looking to explore Greenwich Village’s historic charm and lively atmosphere, I suggest heading to these spots:
Washington Square Park
5th Avenue b/t Waverly Place and West 4th Street
Named for George Washington, this park has served as a meeting place, center of activism, and respite from city chaos since 1827. At any given time you’ll see NYU students congregating around the park’s fountain, sunbathers lounging on the lawn, chess players facing off in the chess plaza, and musicians performing under the famous arch at Fifth Avenue. Landmarks include a bronze statue of Garibaldi, a World War I commemorative flagpole, and the central fountain which was moved from Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in the mid-1870s.
119 MacDougal St
at West 3rd St
This Middle Eastern restaurant has been a Village staple since 1971. For under $4, you can get a falafel sandwich stuffed with veggies and drizzled with delicious tahini. Lines often extend outside the restaurant, and their extended hours make Mamoun’s a late-night favorite among local bar-goers. Mamoun’s has opened other locations around the city, but nothing beats the original.
West 4th Street Courts
Ave. Of Americas, b/t West 3rd St and West 4th St
Also known as “The Cage,” the West 4th Street Courts are home to amateur basketball tournaments and seen as a basketball mecca for the city. The Cage is noted for its non-regulation size, and competition here is stiff – some of the regulars here go on to play in the NBA.
The Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher St
b/t Waverly Pl & 4th St
The legendary Stonewall Inn is the birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement. On June 28th, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against what had become regular, tolerated, city sanctioned harassment by the police department. Known as The Stonewall Riots, this uprising is seen as a catalyst for positive social change for LGBT Americans. Now home to friendly bartenders, weekly events, and an extensive liquor selection, The Stonewall Inn is a welcoming site for learning some history while having a great time.
323 6th Ave
at West 3rd Street
This independent film center shows independent and foreign films along with cult classics, short films, and everything in between. The Center features five cinemas, a classic concession stand, and comfortable seating. You can find out what’s playing and purchase tickets on their website.
117 MacDougal St
at West 3rd St
Hidden beneath street level on MacDougal Street, the Comedy Cellar has hosted performances by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart and Wanda Sykes. The club sometimes offers free tickets for Sunday through Thursday shows that aren’t sold out (you’ll just have to meet a two-drink minimum) – check comedycellar.com on the day of the show for availability. If you do purchase tickets, make sure to arrive early to get good seats, as the venue can get a bit cramped during popular shows.
b/t 5th Avenue and University Place
Originally designated as private farmland, the street housed horse stables until the early 1900s, when they were converted into art studios. Now mostly occupied by NYU faculty, the Washington Mews is open to the public during the day. The cobblestone street and ivy-draped buildings will provide a glimpse into the 19th-century New York depicted in novels by Henry James and Edith Wharton.
113 Macdougal St
at Minetta Lane
Keith McNally, the restauranteur who brought New York Balthazaar and Odeon, re-opened this 1930s-era tavern as a high-end French bistro in 2009. Most of the interior was left in tact, making the place feel like a 20th century saloon. The most sought-after menu item is the Black Label Burger, which is one of my favorite burgers in the city.
115 MacDougal St
at Minetta Lane
This historical music venue is where performers like Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor got their start. The Café Wha? House Band plays every Wednesday through Sunday, and each Tuesday is dedicated to funk music. You can reserve tickets on the Café Wha? website – many of the performances are free.
131 W 3rd St
b/t Avenue Of The Americas & MacDougal St
Since its inception in 1981, Blue Note has become one of the premier jazz clubs in the world and a cultural institution in Greenwich Village. In addition to the main acts that feature the likes of Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, and Chris Botti, Blue Note has introduced the Monday Night Series and the bi-weekly Late Night Groove Series to showcase New York’s up-and-coming jazz, soul, hip-hop, R&B and funk artists. Blue Note offers music every night at 8pm and 10:30pm, and hosts a Late Night Groove Series on Friday and Saturday nights. You can purchase tickets through the venue’s website.
The Village Chess Shop
82 W 3rd St
b/t Thompson St & Sullivan St
Just one block below Washington Square Park, The Village Chess shop was created in 1972 as a place for chess enthusiasts to face off against each other, and potentially find a set to bring home. The shop now displays hundreds of chess sets from all over the world, with many available for purchase. Come here to play pick-up games, sign up for classes, or just browse the shops’s collection.