Gramercy Park, NYC Neighborhood Guide

Located on the east side of Midtown Manhattan, Gramercy Park is one of New York City’s most upscale neighborhoods. The area is famous for its ultra-exclusive private park, a roughly two-acre green space that can only be accessed by those individuals in possession of a key—with keys only being granted to residents of approximately three-dozen buildings in the park’s immediate surroundings. Gramercy Park is full of historic brownstones that have been home to an impressive assortment of politicians, actors, writers, and wealthy socialites over the course of the past two centuries.

Gramercy Park Neighborhood History

Gramercy Park as it is known today can trace its history back nearly 200 years to the 1830s, when the property developer Samuel Ruggles purchased a couple dozen acres of land in the area. He then set aside two of those acres for private use by the families living on the property lots around those two acres. A fence went up around the two acres in 1833, and other than a brief two-year period during the Civil War when the site was opened up for use by Union soldiers who’d protected the locals from the rage of individuals participating in the Draft Riots of 1863 (immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York), the park has been closed to the public ever since.

Exploring Gramercy Park

Gramercy Park is a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan for a bit by going on a scenic sightseeing stroll. The neighborhood itself is quiet, pleasant, and full of leafy streets lined by elegant brownstones and luxurious apartment buildings. And even though Gramercy Park itself is off limits to the public, plenty of other historic attractions in the area are worth checking out, too—though keep in mind some of them are not open to the public either.

Top historic attractions found in the Gramercy Park neighborhood include the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, a replica of the nineteenth-century brownstone in which the 26th President of the United States grew up; the National Arts Club, a non-profit organization whose art galleries occupy the Samuel J. Tilden House; and The Players, a private social club founded by the brother of John Wilkes Booth that is home to a large collection of theater memorabilia.

If and when you’ve had enough history for one day, you can dive into all things contemporary photography at Fotografiska New York. The Manhattan affiliate of this popular Swedish photography museum chain is located in a beautifully ornate building on Park Avenue at the northwestern edge of the neighborhood. Between Fotografiska New York’s rotating temporary exhibits and multiple dining options, it’s a terrific place to spend an afternoon.

The wealthy and exclusive Manhattan neighborhood of Gramercy Park is bordered to the north by Kips Bay, the south by East Village, the west by Union Square and the Flatiron District, and the east by Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village.

Gramercy Park Dining

Perhaps the most famous food-and-drink establishment in the neighborhood is Pete’s Tavern. The building itself dates to nearly 1850, while a bar has been operating on the site since 1864, making Pete’s Tavern one of only a handful of businesses with a legitimate claim on the title of “New York City’s oldest pub.” Among Pete’s Tavern’s many other claims to fame is that the legendary writer O. Henry regularly wrote here while drinking, and it’s said that several of his most beloved short stories, including the Christmas classic “The Gift of the Magi,” were penned over pints in a booth on the premises.

If you’re in the mood for something truly special, destination diners might want to seek out Gramercy Tavern. This acclaimed establishment was founded in 1994 by celebrity restauranteur Danny Meyer, and has won numerous James Beard Awards. Considered one of the best restaurants in the United States, Gramercy Tavern has a high-end seasonal menu and one Michelin star to its name.

Gramercy Park Shopping

Given its many historic attractions, exclusive real-estate properties, and overall air of a quiet, residential neighborhood, Gramercy Park’s shopping scene is relatively tame by Manhattan standards. In general, the businesses that are located in Gramercy Park tend to consist primarily of specialty gift shops, vintage clothing stores, gourmet food purveyors, and high-end boutiques.

However, Gramercy Park is situated adjacent to multiple neighborhoods considered prime New York City shopping destinations. These include the East Village, Union Square, and the Flatiron District, all of which border Gramercy Park and are just a short walk away.

Explore Gramercy Park Like a Local

  • Though the National Arts Club is a membership-based organization, it does routinely host guest lectures, live performances, and special events that are open to the public. Visit their official website for a calendar of events and more information on when you could drop into the National Arts Club and peruse its lavish Gramercy Park home.
  • Gramercy Park is perfect for exploring on foot, and Free Tours by Foot has an outstanding complimentary, self-guided tour of the neighborhood (as well as nearby Union Square). This approximately two-hour experience can be accessed on their website and points out, among other things, the homes of prominent writers like O. Henry and Washington Irving who once called the area home.
  • Several well-known performance venues are located in the Gramercy Park area. These include major brands like Irving Plaza, Repertorio Español, and the Gramercy Theatre. Whether you’re a music or theater person, if you know you’re going to be visiting Gramercy Park it’s worth seeing what/who is scheduled to be playing at these venues when you’re planning to be in the neighborhood.