Greenwich Village


Photo: Thomas Rafael

Stepping into the West Village feels like you've stepped into a whole different world. The tree-lined streets wind and meander an an old-fashioned charming way, utterly unlike the formal grid that the rest of the city rests on. The West Village - also known as Greenwich Village, or simply, the Village, is more upscale than the neighboring East Village, and feels miles removed from the towering corporate world of much of the rest of Manhattan. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was home to bohemian intellectuals, writers, and artists, as well as nonconformists and political activists, all of whom found the inexpensive rent and the central location desirable. Today, although the West Village maintains an elegant, timeless feeling, it is now totally gentrified and the elegant townhouses are no longer cheap real estate! The writers and actors who live here now are of the celebrity variety, rather than the struggling hopefuls. The Village is also home to many professors and students at the local universities - New York University, the New School, and Parsons School of Design, all prestigious universities full of passionate plans.

Washington Square Park is considered the heart of the Village - its arch is famous from appearing in countless movies, and it maintains a constant flow of humanity, managing to be simultaneously peaceful and chaotic. Cobblestone streets lead away from the square, to blocks filled with a dizzying array of ethnic eateries, hip boutiques, and everything imaginable in-between. Every now and then, a big-box chain store or bank pops into the midst of the bakeries and bars and boutiques, but overall, there is a delightfully eclectic, independent-mindedness to the neighborhood.

When visiting the West Village, be sure you have lots of time on your hands - preferably a warm afternoon. You're certain to stumble upon dozens of interesting little shops, and you'll enjoy the relative quiet pace that can be found here. When you've walked enough, having delighted in stumbling upon hidden gardens and coutyards, be sure to take some time to sit at an outdoor cafe - it's a wonderful place for people-watching.

Molly O'Neill