If you’re the type of New York City visitor looking to avoid as many other New York City visitors as possible, you’re likely to enjoy everything about the area “North of Houston Street,” or NoHo, as it’s known. That’s because NoHo is a largely residential neighborhood that gets significantly less tourist foot traffic than some of its larger nearby counterparts like Greenwich Villages, the East Village, NoLita, and Union Square. But don’t let the relative quiet fool you: NoHo is home to a great selection of bars, restaurants, theaters, and more.
NoHo Neighborhood History
The neighborhood we know today as NoHo has a long history as the home of some of New York City’s wealthiest residents. Throughout the nineteenth century prominent local families like the Astors and Vanderbilts owned mansions in the area, while the architect Alexander Jackson Davis designed ornate row homes (like Colonnade Row on Lafayette Street) in the Greek Revival style that still stand today as major historical landmarks.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, many of these wealthy citizens moved elsewhere in New York City, and NoHo in time became popular with artists drawn to the neighborhood’s readily available inventory of lofts, warehouse spaces, and cheap apartments. Major artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, just to name a few, called NoHo home at one time or another. Today the neighborhood is a desirable residential district in the midst of some of Lower Manhattan’s liveliest areas.
For as small in size as NoHo is, the neighborhood is home to a disproportionate number of theaters. For anyone with the slightest bit of interest in New York City theater, this is one of the area’s greatest draws. Within a few-block radius, you’ll encounter the Public Theater, which occupies a stately building that was once the Astor Library; the Gene Frankel Theatre, a legendary Off-Off-Broadway venue; and the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, a multipurpose facility with galleries, theaters, and rehearsal spaces.
No trip to NoHo is complete with paying homage to Bernard Rosenthal’s massive sculpture Alamo. Alternatively known as “the Astor Place Cube” or even just “The Cube,” this approximately one-ton steel sculpture was completed in 1967 as part of a temporary public art project sponsored by the city. Rosenthal’s cube proved so popular that it was kept in place permanently and remains a major landmark of the area today. You’ll definitely want a picture of it.
The Merchant’s House Museum on East 4th Street is situated within a preserved building that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark. Dating to 1832, this historic home was owned by the wealthy Treadwell family for nearly a century, and the majority of the museum’s 3,000-item permanent collection were once their belongings. Visitors to the Merchant’s House Museum can explore five floors of historic furniture, clothing, artwork, books, photographs, domestic items, and more.
NoHo is a tiny, triangular-like wedge of a neighborhood squeezed between Greenwich Village and East Village. To its north you’ll find Union Square, while NoLita is located directly to the south.
Joe’s Pub, one of the multi-faceted venues located within the Public Theater, has its very own in-house restaurant, and a superb way to enjoy a true contemporary NoHo experience is by catching a meal and a show here. The venue hosts all types of acts, too, from major touring bands to up-and-coming local artists.
Dinner out in NoHo will cost you a pretty penny, especially if you choose to eat at one of its world-class restaurants. In broad terms of genre/cuisine, other popular NoHo restaurants include modern takes on classic Italian, so-called “referral-only” Japanese cocktail bars, upscale French bistros, and American rotisseries.
Visitors to NoHo hoping to do some shopping are spoiled for options. With prime New York City neighborhoods like East Village, Greenwich Village, NoLita, and Union Square nearby—each one a shopping destination in its own right—there are plenty of places to shop until you drop just down the street.
Within NoHo proper, a few highlights standout. Trendy retailer Kith has their hip brand’s flagship location here on Lafayette Street, where you can check out their house sneakers, clothes, and accessories in a sleek, 10,000-square-foot space spread out over three floors. Showfields, the eclectic retail space that ambitiously bills itself as “The Most Interesting Store in the World,” has a brick-and-mortar location on Bond Street that features a rotating selection of unique brands across a range of home and design products. Dashwood Books, one of the more specialized bookstores you’ll come across, is a fantastic place to pick up a photography book.
Explore NoHo Like a Local
- Art fans will want to make the pilgrimage to 57 Great Jones Street, where a commemorative plaque marks the site of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s home and studio, where he lived, worked, and tragically died at only 27 years old.
- Speaking of Great Jones Street, lit lovers visiting NoHo won’t want to miss the chance to snap a photo of themselves near the door at 31 Great Jones Street—that is, the (otherwise nondescript) door that served as the cover art for the first edition of Don DeLillo’s 1973 novel Great Jones Street.
- Tours of the Merchant’s House Museum are self-guided. For those so interested, special guided tours of the house are available at noon on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Advance reservations are required for guided tours.