Downtown NYC: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Treasures of Greenwich Village

Downtown NYC: Aerial shot of Greenwich Village.
Aerial shot of Greenwich Village. Photo credit: Max Ostrozhinskiy.

This piece on downtown NYC is part of the PlacePass Hometown series, where we feature the hometowns of our employees. Natalia from the PlacePass marketing team calls NYC home. 

It’s hard to think of a more perfect place for an afternoon stroll in downtown NYC than Greenwich Village. A paragon of cosmopolitan diversity, the Village truly has something for everyone. It was here that the national gay-rights movement got its start in the 1960s, owing to the courageous patrons of the Stonewall Inn.

In the Village you’ll also find sights dating from Revolutionary times and the hallowed stomping grounds of some of America’s pre-eminent writers and artists. Amidst it all, you’ll find countless cafes, restaurants, and bars, and some of the most vibrant street life anywhere in downtown NYC. Check out our guide to making the most of your visit to the Village!

1. Downtown NYC: Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park as the sun sets over downtown NYC.
Washington Square Park as the sun sets over downtown NYC. Photo credit: Nicholas Santasier

Start your walk at Washington Square Park, long the focal point of Greenwich Village life. The area served as a gallows during the Revolutionary War and afterwards, as a burial ground for some 15,000 people, most of them poor and unidentified.

From 1829-1833, elaborate brick houses, which came to be known as “The Row,” were built along the park’s northern edge. The rich and well-to-do moved in here, while poor immigrants lived in tenements on the park’s southern edge. Artists and bohemians later came to populate the southern section, building a highly creative community. Today, the park is filled with chess players, kids, street musicians, and street-food vendors.

2. Downtown NYC: Jefferson Market Library

Downtown NYC: A closeup of a few homes in Greenwich Village.
A closeup of homes in Greenwich Village. Photo credit: Sara Morais.

Turn right on Ave. of the Americas/6th Ave., and cross W 9th St. to the north. Just up on your left, between W 9th and 10th St., is the Jefferson Market Library. This architectural landmark served as both a women’s prison and a courthouse before being converted to a public library. The garden is lovely in good weather.

 

3. Downtown NYC: Patchin Place

Downtown NYC: Patchin Place in Greenwich Village.
Patchin Place in Greenwich Village. Photo credit: Beyond My Ken

Just north of the library, make a sharp left on W 10th St. Across the street from the library is the small gated alley called Patchin Place. Look for a street sign high up on the alley’s wall. Marlon Brando, e.e. cummings, and Djuna Barnes all called this alley home at one time or another. It’s still the site of private residences.

 

 

 4.  Downtown NYC: Stonewall Inn

Downtown NYC: A picture of Stonewall Inn in 1969.
A picture of Stonewall Inn in 1969. Photo credit: Diana Davies, copyright owned by New York Public Library.

Continue southwest on W 10th St. to 7th Ave. S, and turn left. Walk south to the logic-defying intersection of Christopher St. and 7th Ave. S. The modern gay-rights movement started just east of this intersection at 51-53 Christopher St., when gay patrons of the Stonewall Inn stood up to police who attempted to break up their party.

The original establishment has closed, but you can still toast to the protesters at a new bar of the same name at the same address. On the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, New York’s first gay-pride parade marched up 6th Ave. from Christopher St. to Central Park.

 

 

5. Downtown NYC: Chumley’s

Turn left on Bedford St., and head southeast. One block down, at 86 Bedford St., between Grove and Barrow St., you’ll pass Chumley’s, a former speakeasy and literary hangout that retains its secret feel. Renovated back in 2007, the new Chumley’s keeps the memory of the old one alive with photos of the writers who used to drink there on its walls. Here, you walk in the footsteps of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Salinger.

6. Downtown NYC: 75½ Bedford St.

Downtown NYC: 75 1/2 Bedford Street in New York City.
75 1/2 Bedford Street in New York City. Photo credit: Sphilbrick

Continue walking southeast on Bedford St. across Commerce St. Just past that intersection is 75½ Bedford St., the former home of writer Edna St. Vincent Millay and, later, anthropologist Margaret Mead. Measuring just 9½ ft. across, this is the Village’s narrowest building.

 

 

7. Downtown NYC: The night is young

Downtown NYC with the Freedom Tower pictured, as seen from the water. Photo credit: Unsplash

From here, wandering possibilities abound. If you return to 6th Ave. and walk north to the W 4th St. Basketball Courts, you’ll find some serious pick-up basketball being played almost every afternoon.

Or, head east on W 3rd St. to the heart of the NYU shopping and nightlife areas. Go south on MacDougal St. for a wide selection of restaurants and entertainment venues, or continue east on W 3rd St. to Thompson St. for boutique shopping and more quaint eateries. Feeling bold? Challenge someone to chess in the park and try to establish yourself as chess grandmaster of Greenwich Village!

Check out a tour of downtown NYC’s Greenwich Village with PlacePass!

Ready to explore more of the Northeast? Check out our blog post on Boston.

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