The West Village occupies a charming corner of Lower Manhattan, one dominated by elegant nineteenth-century townhomes, picturesque sett (frequently called cobblestone) streets, and the occasional narrow, Old World road that doesn’t conform to the city’s grid system. Here visitors will encounter popular New York attractions like the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art, living pieces of local history like the Stonewall Inn and Village Vanguard, and an assortment of chic boutiques, hip shops, and distinctive stores.
West Village Neighborhood History
The history of New York City’s many vibrant neighborhoods is never straightforward, and that’s certainly the case with the West Village. Throughout a good portion of the twentieth century, what we call today the West Village was considered a core part of Greenwich Village. The area reached perhaps the peak of its cultural influence during the 1950s and 1960s, when it became known the world over as a hotbed of artistic creativity and countercultural activity. Musicians as diverse as Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, and Albert Ayler lived and worked in the neighborhood, while writers like Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, and Jack Kerouac were regulars here, too.
By the 1980s, real estate development had so altered the character of the northwestern portion of Greenwich Village that the stretch west of 6th Avenue between roughly 14th Street (to the north) and Clarkson Street (to the south) was given its own name: West Village. Today, the West Village is home to some of the most expensive addresses found anywhere in the United States, and remains popular with visitors from all over the world.
Exploring the West Village
The West Village is a terrific walking neighborhood, the sort of place where it can be a real treat to pick a direction and just go, stopping at whatever stores, attractions, and other sights strike your fancy along the way. However, if that’s not your style—or you just don’t have the time—fear not, there’s plenty of destination-based exploring to be enjoyed here, too.
Right near the border of the West Village and its northern neighbor, the Meatpacking District, you’ll find the southern jumping-off point of the High Line. This 1.5-mile-long public park, constructed on a disused New York Central Railroad viaduct, has become one of New York City’s most popular attractions over the course of the past decade. Its mixture of breathtaking viewing platforms, evocative art installations, local vegetation, and scenic pathways make for a must-see experience.
Just a few short steps from the entrance to the High Line is the Whitney Museum of American Art. Legendary architect Renzo Piano designed the Whitney’s new home, which opened in 2015. The Whitney is renowned for its cutting-edge exhibits, including most notably its long-running Biennial show, but its 25,000-item permanent collection is no slouch either.
The West Village is bordered to the north by the Meatpacking District, the south by Hudson Square and SoHo, the east by Greenwich Village, and to the west by the Hudson River.
West Village Dining
In keeping with its transformation during the past few decades, the West Village has become a popular destination for foodies seeking that buzz-worthy plate at a trendy restaurant. No matter whether you’re in the mood for cozy Italian comfort food, inventive sushi rolls, or something that screams classic American, you’ll have your pick of delicious meals and then some in the West Village.
If you’re looking for a helping hand as you strive to decide just where to go and what to eat, you might be excited to learn that a number of guided food tours cater to visitors with an interest in the West Village food scene. Some of these tours are even available as attractions on several popular New York City sightseeing passes.
For lovers of literature—or those simply in search of a good pint and quality pub fare in a historic setting—the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street (just one block west of Bleecker) is a can’t-miss stop. This venerable pub is famous both as one of the oldest bars in all New York City and for being a favorite of writers like Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, and Jane Jacobs.
West Village Shopping
The centerpiece of West Village’s well-regarded shopping scene would without a doubt have to be Bleecker Street. Bleecker Street, which runs all the way from the West Village through Greenwich Village, the campus of New York University, and NoHo to the Bowery, is one of New York City’s most famous streets. In the West Village it’s where you’ll find many of the neighborhood’s hottest stores and retailers.
Many New Yorkers will go as far as to claim that at present the West Village’s selection of shopping rivals that of any Manhattan neighborhood. That’s because of how many fabulous boutiques, designers, and high-end brands call the area home. Local favorites would have to include Anine Bing, the eponymous designer whose Bohemian-inspired casual clothing has been a hit with women across the world; Il Bisonte, the Florence-based, Italian leather goods store whose only New York store is located here; and LoveShackFancy, the flower-forward fashion label whose whimsical brick-and-mortar shop has to be seen to be believed.
Explore the West Village Like a Local
- Several West Village attractions are both lively contemporary establishments and important historical sites. These include the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and a National Historic Landmark; and the Village Vanguard, a fabled jazz club where greats like John Coltrane once gigged that’s still going strong today.
- From live music to food trucks and beyond, there’s almost always something special taking place along the High Line. For a complete rundown on what might be occurring when you’re planning to be in town, be sure and visit the High Line’s official website for an up-to-date calendar of events.
- Several popular TV shows either took place in and around West Village, or at least filmed notable scenes in the neighborhood. Most prominent among these would have to be Sex and the City, and On Location Tours operates a popular guided tours that’ll take you to hotspots from the show that include main character Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone apartment building, some of her favorite stores, restaurants, and more.