A chic yet artistic vibe permeates the quaint, tree-lined streets of the West Village, a primarily residential neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. It’s the kind of place where fashionably dressed residents sip lattes at sidewalk cafes and where shoppers stroll past charming storefronts—both bearing witness to the neighborhood’s status as one of the city’s most desirable.
The Dutch settled what we know as Manhattan in the1600s, but this area remained forested until the early 19th century. Today, many of the buildings established during that time—stately Italianate brownstones, Federal and Greek Revival townhouses, Art Deco-style apartment buildings—give the West Village its small-town feel. Another unique characteristic: its streets. Instead of being on a grid, they bend at odd angles, like a winding maze, and create confusing corners like at the intersection of West Fourth Street and West 10th Street.
The West Village’s bohemian heritage can be sampled at the White Horse Tavern where Dylan Thomas took his last drink, at the Village Vanguard, where jazz greats like John Coltrane and Wynton Marsalis have played since 1935, and at the Cherry Lane Theater, New York’s oldest, continually running Off-Broadway theater. Small independent bookstores (Three Lives and Company, Left Bank), specialty food shops (Murray’s Cheese, Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, Myers of Keswick) and A-list boutiques (Marc Jacobs, Odin, Rag & Bone) pepper the streets. Another historical stop is the Stonewall Inn, the gay bar that played a central role in the Stonewall riots.
The West Village is also home to the original Magnolia Bakery—its cupcakes were made famous by Sex & the City—along with April Bloomfield’s famous gastro-pub, the Spotted Pig. At the northwest border of the West Village, you’ll find the Meatpacking District, where former slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants from the early 20th century have been transformed into trendy boutiques, clubs and restaurants. Women in stilettos and sharp-dressed men navigate the Meatpacking’s cobblestone streets into the wee hours of the morning.
The club scene of the Meatpacking is a far cry from the tranquil atmosphere a few blocks west at the Hudson River Park. There’s a paved cycling path and a string of piers with large green lawns, playgrounds, tennis courts and recreational space. Another popular park is the High Line, an elevated, naturally landscaped walking path created on top of a former freight-rail bed. It starts at Gansevoort and Washington streets and stretches north to W. 30th Street.
The West Village bustles day and night, and sticking to main thoroughfares ensures you’ll be in the company of New Yorkers, even well past midnight on the weekends. It is generally considered safe to walk the streets and hail a cab at all hours, although the area near the river thins out as darkness settles. A number of train lines stop in the area, including the 1 at Houston St., the A, C, E; B, D; F, M at W. 4th St., and the A, C, E, and L at 14th St./8th Ave. The West Village lies between 14th Street to the north and Houston Street to the south. It stretches from the Hudson River on the west and to 6th Avenue on the east. Chelsea is immediately north, and SoHo is to south. The East Village is east of 6th Avenue, and sometimes the middle zone between the two neighborhoods is called Greenwich Village. Although NYU’s main campus is technically in the East Village, centered around Washington Square Park, there’s plenty of student spillover into the West Village.