A relatively quiet escape from the hustle of Manhattan,
Greenwich Village offers an eclectic to-do list
for travelers who want to slow down — or stay on-the-go.
Tucked away from the honking horns and crowded sidewalks of midtown Manhattan sits Greenwich Village, a downtown neighborhood that spans west of Broadway to the Hudson River.
Although only a quick subway ride from bustling Grand Central station, Greenwich Village (known simply as “the Village” to locals) seems almost like a different city entirely, its streets lined with ivy-covered houses and candlelit restaurants.
While many New York City tourists don’t venture beyond the likes of Times Square and the Empire State building, this quaint neighborhood in lower Manhattan has something for everyone and offers a quiet haven in the midst of the city that never sleeps.
Photo: The Strand Bookstore. The New York Times.
For brunch lovers: Westville
Serving comforts such as hot dogs and challah French toast, this aptly named restaurant opened in 2003 to provide simple and tasteful foods at a good price. Since then, it has expanded with locations in East Village, Chelsea and Hudson, but the original tiny spot on West Tenth Street is a great place to start the day on a weekend. Market sides like honey Dijon-covered Brussels sprouts pair well with sumptuous sandwiches or fresh fish dishes, and the butterscotch pudding is a splendid finish.
For the avid reader: Strand Bookstore and Jefferson Market Library
The Strand tradition began in 1927, when 25-year-old Ben Bass opened up shop on Fourth Avenue’s “Book Row,” a span of six blocks with 48 stores catering to literary lovers. The store was moved to its current location on 12th Street and Broadway in 1957 and has served as a beloved part of Greenwich Village ever since. Today, the store houses more than 2 million used and rare books. Passersby can be seen gathering around its $1 book carts outside the store, but there’s plenty to discover inside as well.
At the corner of West Tenth Street and Avenue of the Americas is Jefferson Market Library, a castle-like brick building with a pointed clock tower and storied past. Completed in 1877, it was originally used as a courthouse, and its basement served as a holding place for those awaiting trial or jail time. Its winding staircases and stained glass windows serve as stunning examples of Victorian Gothic architecture and make it a great place to sit and read. The library holds a collection of rare books on the history of New York City as well as an archive with photographs of the building’s history.
For outdoor enthusiasts: Washington Square Park
With chess tables, a dog park, a large fountain, tribes of acrobats and a grand piano that sits in the middle of a path, what happens at this park on a given day is anyone’s guess. Highly priced red brick houses, known as “The Row,” line the north side of the park, and an imposing white arch pays tribute to George Washington. Regarded as a cultural hub in Greenwich Village, the park is a great place to bring a lunch, take a stroll or to simply plant yourself on a bench and people-watch.
For the sweet tooth: Magnolia Bakery and Big Gay Ice Cream
On a quiet corner of Bleecker Street sits the original Magnolia Bakery (photo by Rachel Ross Thompson), a small shop that dates back to 1966. Behind its lace curtains are crowds of eager customers awaiting freshly baked cupcakes, as Carrie and Miranda did in “Sex and the City.” But its best offering may be the banana pudding, a rich, creamy treat with sliced bananas and vanilla wafers mixed in.
If soft-serve is more your style, head to Big Gay Ice Cream, a colorful parlor started by two New York residents eager for a change of pace. After launching an ice cream truck in 2009, the soft serve was so popular that they opened up a brick-and-mortar shop in East Village and later expanded to West Village. Sweet-savvy New Yorkers aren’t the only ones taking note. In 2012, USA Today ranked Big Gay Ice Cream as the top ice cream parlor in the United States. The Salty Pimp, a decadent combination of vanilla ice cream and sea salt swirled with caramel and dipped in chocolate, does not disappoint.
For the athletically-inclined: Hudson River Greenway
Meander down West Tenth Street and you’ll hit the Hudson River and a bike path that runs beside it. For picturesque views across the water to Hoboken, rent a bike at Waterfront Bicycle Shop on West Street or simply lace up your sneakers and jog or walk. The path stretches up through Chelsea and past Pier 66 and up to the Upper West Side and beyond. The scenery is particularly lovely at sunrise and sunset, an ideal time for a bit of exercise.
For craft beer connoisseurs: Peculier Pub
Drawing its name from “Old Peculier,” an English beer, this pub established itself as New York’s first beer bar over 30 years ago. Gathering specialties from around the world, the dive-esque space now offers over 350 bottled options and 27 beers on draught. With an eclectic young crowd, the people-watching is nearly as enticing as the brews.