Snuggled between the Hudson River and the Washington Square Park-adjacent campus of New York University, the West Village is one of Lower Manhattan’s true gems. This historic neighborhood, once an artistic hotbed that many considered the nation’s capital of bohemian culture, is today a charming cross-section of trendy shopping, fashionable dining, and luxury housing. Bleecker Street is the first place New York City shopping fanatics will want to head when visiting the West Village, as it’s lined with a whole host of designer boutiques and international-brand flagships you won’t want to miss.
Getting to Know the Neighborhood
The West Village is one of those corners of Manhattan where the island’s “street grid” disappears, with the result being the neighborhood is a cozy place marked by sett (often referred to as cobblestone) streets, nineteenth-century townhouses, and the occasional quite-narrow thoroughfare. In the early and mid-twentieth century, the area was widely considered part of Greenwich Village, and it became notable as a vibrant artistic community, home to bohemian radicals, avant-garde poets, and pioneering jazz musicians.
By the 1980s, the changing character of this vibrant area—increased real-estate development bringing gentrification, rising rents, and the like—saw the neighborhood given its own distinctive name. Today, West Village is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire United States, and its shopping second to none.
Popular West Village Shopping Destinations
Any discussion of the West Village’s contemporary shopping scene has to start with Bleecker Street. Running straight through the heart of the West Village, Bleecker Street today rivals several of New York City’s more famous commercial drags for its high concentration of chic boutiques, idiosyncratic indie storefronts, and hip shops helmed by cutting-edge designers.
It’s there you’ll encounter such popular brands as Anine Bing. The eponymous designer’s Bleecker boutique specializes in bohemian-inspired, women’s casual clothing, accessories, and shoes—though like many big-name designers, the prices aren’t always casual! Meanwhile, modern menswear purveyor Mack Wheldon’s new spot on Bleecker is 1,000 square feet of stylish socks, shorts, and of course, their famous boxers.
The first-ever, brick-and-mortar LoveShackFancy store in New York City is also on Bleecker Street. Founded by Rebecca Hessel Cohen, LoveShackFancy’s West Village location is an experience unto itself. There you’ll find the brand’s romantic floral-print dresses and soft-color sweaters set among watercolor wallpapers, Parisian-influenced spaces, and actual flowers.
Whether you need a new backpack, belt bag, handbag, wallet, purse, or briefcase, Il Bisonte has you covered. The elegant Italian leather goods store—first founded in Florence in 1970—is not only a West Village favorite, it proudly bills itself as one of the best-smelling stores around! And you won’t want to miss it, as it’s the only Il Bisonte-specific store found in all of New York City.
Other Ways to Enjoy West Village
Even if you head to West Village for the shopping, there’s plenty else here to keep you hanging around—or coming back for more! Since 2015, the Whitney Museum of American Art has been located at the neighborhood’s northern edge, in a striking, Renzo Piano-designed building one block from the Hudson River. With its 25,000-piece permanent collection featuring masterpieces by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Cindy Sherman, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol, it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.
Just steps from the Whitney Museum of American Art is where you can join up with the southern end of the High Line. The High Line, an approximately 1.5-mile public park that’s become one of New York City’s hottest attractions over the course of the past decade, makes for a great way to unwind after a busy afternoon of shopping in the West Village. Food vendors, art installations, and stunning views: the High Line has a bit of everything.
Though the West Village’s days as a counterculture mecca or artist’s haven are long gone, remnants of that rich history remain and are worth exploring. Attractions of particular note include Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay bar that is now a National Historic Landmark, and the Village Vanguard, a venerable jazz club that’s hosted such legendary musicians as Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and many, many more.