West Village is the most charming neighbourhood in New York City. With quiet, tree-lined, cobblestone streets, boutiques and trendy bars, West Village is an iconic neighbourhood in New York, while also being like nowhere else in Manhattan. West Village is wedged between the tiny Meatpacking district and Chelsea to the North, the rest of Greenwich Village to the East, SoHo to the south and Hudson River to the west. I’ve put together this West Village Neighbourhood Guide not only to share my favourite things to do and places to eat and drink in West Village, but also to keep track for my next visit to New York!
A bit of West Village History
West Village has a strong literary history, as well as playing an important role in the gay liberation movement. It was home to artists, musicians and writers like Allen Ginsberg, Diane Arbus, Ezra Pound, Jim Morrison and Jack Kerouac. Its forward-thinking residents made West Village a hotbed of alternative and avant-garde culture. It was the birthplace of political, artistic and cultural movements, including the gay liberation movement and the Beat literary movement. Like most places, the types of artists who made it cool could not afford to live there now. Today, West Village’s resident artists are A-listers, like Julianne Moore, Hugh Jackman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift.
Getting to West Village
Get the 1 train to Christopher Street or the A, B, C, D, E or F line to West 4th. My favourite parts of Village are around West 10th, Carmine Street & Bleeker Street.
Best Things to Do in West Village
Visit Washington Square Park
Historic Washington Square Park is one of my favourite spots in New York City. I love sitting just inside the fountain (in the patches which don’t get intermittently sprayed with water) and watching the world go by on a hot summer’s day. It’s a New York City icon, but at the same time is not quite like anywhere else in the city.
Hear the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard
178 7th Ave, West Village
New York City is renowned for jazz clubs, and there’s no better place to start than Village Vanguard. One of the oldest jazz rooms in the city, Village Vanguard has been running since 1935, and celebrates jazz in all it’s many forms. Name a jazz great and they’ve played at the Vanguard. Thanks to the room’s unique triangular shape, and therefore great acoustics, there are dozens of “Live at the Vanguard” albums from artists of all stripes. The Vanguard was opened by Max Gordon, who ran the place until he died in 1989. His wife, Lorraine Gordon, took up the reins until she passed away in June this year – making it a remarkable 83 tenure between the couple.
The Vanguard hosts rotating acts for weeks at a time, as well as being home to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, which plays on a Monday. I saw the Jazz Orchestra, and loved it – I just wish I’d booked a little earlier, so we could have seen the 8pm rather than 10pm show, it was a struggle to stay awake late with jet lag!
See a Show at Comedy Cellar
117 MacDougal St, West Village
Comedy Cellar is the most famous comedy club in New York City, if not the world. Comedy Cellar uses a showcase format, rather than headline acts, which is great because you get to see 5-7 comedians in one show and it keeps tickets affordable. You never know who might show up – Amy Schumer, Dave Attell and and the like have been known to show up unannounced to practice material. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in New York City!
Shop on Bleeker Street
Bleeker Street is West Village’s most well known shopping destination. Some of my favourite spots in the area are Maje and Intermix for clothes and CAP Beauty & The Mask Bar for skincare.
Visit “Carrie’s Apartment”
66 Perry St, West Village
Sex and the City fans can see Carrie’s apartment steps in West Village. Carrie lived in the Upper East Side in the show, but the entrance was actually from an apartment in West Village. Hugh Jackman & Calvin Klein are both rumoured to live on Perry Street too.
Best Cafes & Brunch Spots in West Village
Jack’s Wife Freda
50 Carmine St, West Village
One of the most popular cafes in Manhattan, Jack’s Wife Freda has a lovely, warm and welcoming atmosphere, which is so typical of West Village. If you didn’t know any better, you could almost be at your favourite neighbourhood cafe anywhere. It’s very popular, so to avoid a long wait try and get there before 9. I love the menu here because it’s super fresh and very veggie-friendly.
172 Waverly Place, West Village
Jeffrey’s Grocery is known for its oyster bar, but it does a great brunch! I caught up with a Canadian friend of mine, who I met while I was on a student exchange in Paris, years later when we both happened to be in New York at the same time. Their menu is a mix of brunch classics and, not surprisingly, great fish-for-breakfast options (smoked trout & zucchini pancakes, whitefish toast, bagels & lox…yum).
44 Charles St, West Village
It might not be owned by Australians, but it serves solid Aussie coffee. For homesick Australians looking for a caffeine fix, Toby’s Estate is your place – just don’t expect a $4 flat white like at home! Good coffee is getting easier to find in New York, but Toby’s is still always busy – don’t count on being able to stop for a table.
30 Carmine St, West Village
Another spot for Aussie coffee, Bluestone Lane is like a little slice of Sydney in Manhattan – complete with Aussie accents everywhere.
Best Restaurants & Places to Eat in West Village
113 MacDougal St, West Village
Minetta Tavern is easily one of my favourite restaurants in New York. The restaurant is also owned by Keith McNally, just like Balthazar in SoHo (one of my other favourites). The menu runs French at Minetta, and the trout meuniere is perfection. You will definitely need to book – I booked about six weeks out for a Wednesday evening, and we could only get a 5 or 10pm seating.
The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St, West Village
This popular gastropub may have lost its Michelin star, but Chef/Owner April Bloomfield’s famous chargrilled burger still makes The Spotted Pig one of the best places to eat in the neighbourhood. Again, I recommend booking, lest you want to squeeze into a seat at the super crowded bar.
Best Bars in West Village
234 W 4th St, West Village
Fairfax is an all day cafe, restaurant and wine bar, with a modern Mediterranean menu. We popped in for a glass of wine and cheese between seeing a show at Comedy Cellar and a late set at the Village Vanguard. It feels like you’re in someone’s really stylish living room, again capturing that comfy, warm West Village atmosphere that makes the neighbourhood so popular. It’s at the intersection of West 4th St & West 10th Street, which is also where you’ll find Bar Sardine, from the same owners, and Empellon Taqueria. This is probably the tastiest intersection in New York. I didn’t realise til I was writing this blog post, but Fairfax is also by the same team who own Jeffrey’s Grocery!
264 Bleeker St, West Village
Murray’s Cheese has the biggest selection of cheese in New York City. And the staff are generous with tastings. Need I say more? The best part is, they have a wine & cheese bar on the same street, so you can enjoy cheese & wine flights even if you’re just visiting. We went for a cheese & wine flight before going to dinner at Minetta Tavern, it was the perfect start to the evening.
510 Hudson St, West Village
Employees Only has stood the test of time. Opened in the early 2000s by industry veterans, Employees Only kicked off the craft cocktail movement while also offering a rowdier cocktail experience than Manhattan’s typically serious cocktail bars. It’s consistently ranked in the World’s 50 Best Bars, and has so far stood the test of time through personable, unpretentious service, serious cocktails and generous pours of top knotch ingredients. The entrance is tucked behind a tarot card reader’s rooms – which you can visit if you need a break from the crowded bar, which is packed wall-to-wall on weekends.
Side note – has anyone noticed that there are tarot readers and psychics everywhere in New York? Psychics and shrinks seem to be essential for survival in the chaos of Manhattan.
22 7th Ave
Tucked away in a quiet corner of West Village, Little Branch is part of bar savant Sasha Petraske’s cocktail bar empire. The subterranean bar is small and slightly more relaxed than the late Petraske’s most famous venture, Milk & Honey. Petraske is also credit with leading the craft cocktail revival and starting the trend of serious cocktail bars, where bartenders were suited up in whites, drinks were made carefully and entrances were tucked out of sight.
Fun Fact – Petraske also had a hand in opening The Everleigh in Melbourne!
Sweet treats in West Village
401 Bleeker St, West Village
Yes it’s touristy, because of its Sex and The City fame, but the cupcakes are good.
31 Carmine St, West Village
Goat’s milk gelato might sound weird, but the team at Victory Garden swear it,saying that without as much fat as cow’s milk, you can taste more of their flavours. Try the honey lavender!
Have you got any favourite places in West Village? Let me know in the comments!
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