Greenwich Village and its close neighbor, the East Village, are located below Fourteenth Street. If you're planning to meander around the Village, it's best to get down there by public transportation. Greenwich Village is very popular, and parking is at a premium.
Go to the West Fourth Street-Washington Square station (A, B, C, D, E, F, or V train) or Christopher Street-Sheridan Square station (1, 2, or 3 train). The nearest subway stop in the East Village is the Astor Place station (6 train).A Little History
The Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam ventured north in the early 1600s and discovered a large area of land where they could plant crops. Until then, the land had been inhabited by Native Americans. When the English took over in the later 1600s, the neighborhood became a country setting — a suburb of sorts. By the 1700s, the West Village by the Hudson River was a major area for fishing and growing produce. Room was set aside for a public gallows in the center of the city, which is now Washington Square Park.
In the early 1800s, more and more settlers moved north to escape the epidemics — smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera — that plagued the city. They moved primarily to the area below Houston Street. Farms, shops, markets, and various businesses sprang up in the Village. Finer, more fashionable homes were built, particularly at the foot of Fifth Avenue around Washington Square Park. The luxurious town-houses remain, mostly now serving as offices of New York University.
Electric Lady Studios at 52 West Eighth Street is a Village landmark that musicians flock to. This was the first recording studio ever owned by a recording artist. It was founded in 1970 by Jimi Hendrix and has been used by David Bowie, the Beastie Boys, and many other artists from the 1970s to the present. In 1997, its signature curved brick arch was demolished and replaced with a glass front.
The nineteenth century also saw the birth of New York University and the emergence of galleries and establishments for the literary community. An upscale community throughout much of the nineteenth century, the neighborhood began to change toward the turn of the century. The elite moved further north, and a more bohemian culture settled into the area. Small theaters and galleries opened, and local publishers distributed diverse local magazines and irreverent books.
Greenwich Village blossomed into New York City's home of up-and-coming writers, artists, and musicians. Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain lived in Greenwich Village in the 1800s, and Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O'Neill, Jackson Pollock, and Norman Rockwell were among the many to be part of the Village in the twentieth century. The Beat poets of the 1950s gave way to the folk singers of the early 1960s, including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. By the late 1970s, the East Village was home to punk rock.
Whatever the artistic trend, the Village captures it in art and music. Outdoor art shows flank the park twice a year, and clubs like Webster Hall present the hottest up-and-coming and established performers. Off-Broadway and avant-garde theater became part of the local artists' own brand of self-expression many years ago, and it remains a significant part of Village culture today. Stores and galleries have displayed the latest trendy paraphernalia of each new generation, and the fads and fashions are evident in the area around Washington Square Park.
Demographically, the stereotypical starving artist and writer have fled to ever-more outlying boroughs of the city and even New Jersey. Previously dirt-cheap walkup tenements have been reincarnated as highly prized condos.
Movements and social causes have been an important part of Village life, from the antiwar protests of the 1960s to activities championing the rights of gays and lesbians in recent decades. The Village has become a place where the gay and lesbian community can thrive and flourish.
In terms of aesthetics, little has changed in Greenwich Village over the past thirty years. Redbrick townhouses with cozy little court-yards still line the streets. Restaurants, shops, and galleries are still busy at night; only the latest merchandise changes with the times.The East Village
The neighboring East Village was a drug-infested, seedy neighborhood in the 1970s. Today it has joined the city's economic and social boom. Dozens of relatively inexpensive Indian restaurants can be found on East Sixth Street (between First and Second avenues), theaters featuring rising talent are busy on East Fourth Street, and trendy shops are in vogue on St. Marks Place. The East Village has emerged as the alternative to the alternative, especially for those interested in escaping the more commercial Greenwich Village. Don't be fooled, however — some of the East Village shops have Fifth Avenue prices.A Quick Itinerary
Stroll through Washington Square Park, the Village's heart and soul. Note the Memorial Arch built in 1889 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration. Watch street performers, chess and checker players, and artists drawing or sketching.
Go shopping on Eighth Street in the more popular mainstream stores, on Bleecker Street for trendy shopping, or on St. Marks Place in the East Village for even trendier shopping. Get great gourmet food at Balducci's on Sixth Avenue by Tenth Street or the absolute best pastries and desserts at Veniero's on Eleventh Street between First and Second avenues. If you want first-rate tea or coffee, try McNulty's Tea & Coffee Company on Christopher by Bleecker.
See a play at the Actor's Playhouse, Cherry Lane Theater on Commerce Street, the Minetta Lane Theater, or Astor Place Theater on Lafayette (East Village). Find out what is playing at the Joseph Papp Public Theater on Lafayette Street between Fourth Street and Astor Place, where musicals such as
Check out the nineteenth-century houses of Grove Court between Bedford and Hudson streets or Gay Street between Waverly and Christopher. Blink and you'll miss 75 Bedford Street; only nine and a half feet wide, it was built in 1873. Its neighbor, 77 Bedford Street, is some 200 years old.
Browse the Forbes Magazine Galleries, featuring items from the Forbes personal collections, including hundreds of toy boats, thousands of toy soldiers, and numerous trophies and awards. There are also changing exhibits at the gallery on 62 Fifth Avenue (near Twelth Street) in the Forbes Building.
Have a drink, or at least a look, at White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street at Eleventh Avenue. The 120-year-old saloon was the drinking home of poet Dylan Thomas and storyteller O. Henry, who has a booth named after him here, among other writers, poets, and artists.
Go to a concert at Webster Hall (formerly the Ritz) at 125 East Eleventh Street, where Duran Duran got its U.S. start. There's also the longtime home of folk music, the Bitter End, on Bleecker. You can also find plenty of jazz if you visit legendary clubs like the Blue Note, Village Vanguard, or Knickerbocker (a celeb favorite because of its food).
Stroll down narrow Minetta Lane and stop in to see the former speakeasy Minetta Tavern at Minetta and MacDougal. You might also stop at Le Figaro Café, a great people-watching locale and longtime favorite Village hangout on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal.
Admire the Gothic Revival architecture of the Grace Church (1846) or the Church of the Ascension (1841), the Romanesque architecture of Judson Memorial Church (1892), or the more recent copper-domed St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Church (1970s).
Have dinner at one of the many village restaurants. Choose from the following suggestions or venture out on your own:
Café Loup, on West Thirteenth Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues
Ennio & Michael, on LaGuardia between Bleecker and West Third Street
James Beard House, on Twelfth Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues
Il Mulino, on Third Street between Thompson and Sullivan
La Ripaille, on Hudson between Bethune and West Twelth Street
Westville East, on the corner of Avenue A and Eleventh Street
Pearl Oyster Bar, on Cornelia between Bleecker and West Fourth Street
The spring and fall art shows are enjoyable, but the Village always has so much activity that it's easy to get caught up in the atmosphere that makes this New York City's most eclectic, yet earthy, neighborhood.