Bordering the nearby neighborhoods of Chelsea and SoHo, Greenwich Village is a New York neighborhood filled with an abundance of hidden history, inviting travelers to walk through the iconic Washington Square Arch, enjoy a cup of coffee from a variety of local coffee shops, and dive into a world of bohemia, rebellion, and revolutionary self-expression.
From the secret meetings of the Arch Conspirators to the birth of early punk music, explore these ten historic locations to make the most out of your time spent walking through the Village.
If you're in the mood for an audio tour while you're walking, browse available tours nearby!
Washington Square Park
Home of the famous Washington Square Arch, the park is an enchanting, energetic space during every season. Washington Square Park is a great place to enjoy a picnic outdoors, listen to local musicians performing, and feel the energy of the city.
Quick history: New Yorkers have reveled in all the park has to offer for decades. During the early 1900s, poet Gertrude Drick and French artist Marcel Duchamp were part of a small group known as the “Arch Conspirators,” who used the arch’s internal staircase (not currently accessible to the public, so please don’t try this while you’re visiting!) to get to the top of the structure and enjoy the view of the city while drinking tea and discussing various creative and intellectual topics. They declared the area the “Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square.” This name was a testament to the groups of open-minded, imaginative, and revolutionary individuals and communities that would make Greenwich Village their home for years to come.
The park is supported by the Washington Square Park Conservancy, and the Conservancy often has fun events in the park scheduled throughout the year. As you're planning your trip to New York, see if any upcoming programs spark your curiosity and coincide with your stay.
Washington Square Park is also the start point of our on-demand audio walking tour, Punks + Poets, which takes you on a journey through the history of early punk music, revealing hidden stories of poets, photographers, painters and performers who defined punk. You can take the tour here, and if you feel inspired to add some punk to your playlist, we've got you covered. You can check out our curated Spotify playlist, featuring songs by artists mentioned on the audio tour.
If you’re wandering through Washington Square Park in the morning, you might not be ready to sip cheap wine at an illicit party atop the arch like the mysterious Arch Conspirators, but you can get your morning coffee from local coffee shops like Third Rail Coffee at 240 Sullivan Street, right next to the site of the historic Provincetown Playhouse (133 MacDougal St), which some refer to as the birthplace of modern drama.
Many of the works staged at the playhouse during the 1900s and in the years since were written by now-famous playwrights: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edward Albee, Djuna Barnes, David Mamet, and Bette Davis. Unfortunately, the Playhouse came to an end in 2008 when New York University demolished most of the historic building in order to build out their law school. Nearly all of what you see of the building today is not part of the original space.
Edward Hopper Studio
Having faced a similar fate, the Edward Hopper Studio (1 Washington Square N) today houses the NYU Silver School of Social Work, but preserved inside the institution’s walls are the studio and artifacts of painter Edward Hopper, who lived and worked here for over 50 years until his death in 1967.
Hopper’s work as a printmaker, watercolorist, and most especially as an oil painter has gone down in history for its artistic depictions of New England solitude, but his most famous artwork, Nighthawks, was inspired by restaurant-goers in Greenwich Village. Hopper and his wife Jo lived here in the studio, Hopper often choosing to paint watercolors on the roof of the building and drawing inspiration from the architecture of the city. Hopper insisted on spending his final days in this very building, despite its somewhat joyless interior -- having few and plain belongings was very much in keeping with his aesthetic, both personally and creatively.
Emma Lazarus House
Hopper was far from being the only creative living in Greenwich Village. Do these words sound familiar? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send those, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These are the final lines of the poem The New Colossus, written by Jewish-American poet Emma Lazarus. If you recognize these words, it’s because they’re famously inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty!
Lazarus grew up in New York City during the fast-changing second half of the 1800s. For a time, she lived at 18 W. 10th Street, writing progressive works. In them, she advocated for the scores of Jewish refugees who were flocking to the city from Eastern Europe to escape persecution.
Narrowest House in the Village
As you’re walking through the neighborhood, keep an eye out for 75 ½ Bedford… it’s easy to miss thanks to its slim exterior, tucked away like the spine of a book. Everyone agrees this building is the narrowest house in Greenwich Village, with some people arguing the narrowest in all of Manhattan!
In addition to its unusual architecture, 75 ½ Bedford has been home to several well-known guests. Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, movie star Cary Grant, stage actor John Barrymore, and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay all resided there at different times. St. Vincent Millay was one of the first female poets ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and allegedly described her time in the Village as a, quote, “very, very poor, and very, very merry” life.
If you’re looking for a place to eat as you explore, there are a bunch of local restaurants to check out like Urban Vegan Kitchen, which is just a few short blocks away from the narrowest house in the Village.
Cherry Lane Theater
We hope as you keep walking through Greenwich Village you’ll begin to realize just how much the past and present are deeply intertwined. Take for example the Cherry Lane Theater.
In 1817, 38 Commerce Street was just a farm silo. In 1836, however, that silo was replaced by first a brewery, then a tobacco warehouse, and after that a box factory. However, its most important transformation came in 1923, when a group of young, dynamic theatre artists like Evelyn Vaughn, William Rainey, Reginald Travers, Cleon Throckmorton, and Edna St. Vincent Millay transformed said box factory into a place called Cherry Land Playhouse, which is now known as the oldest continuously running off-Broadway theatre in New York City.
The Cherry Lane Playhouse would go on to host countless legendary theatre movements: Downtown Theatre, The Living Theatre, and Theatre of the Absurd, for example. Not to mention, it staged productions of legendary playwrights like Adward Albee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and more. In the nearly hundred years of its continuous operation, it has provided a stage to such legends as Barbra Streisand, James Earl Jones, Jesse Eisenberg, Vanessa Redgrave, and Cicely Tylson.
Electric Lady Studios
Speaking of local legends, stepping inside the halls of Electric Lady Studio is like setting foot upon a psychedelic spaceship -- at least, so say the scores of legendary musicians lucky enough to record there.
These studios were designed and built for a man who is today widely recognized the greatest electric guitarist of all time: Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix bought the building, once a defunct nightclub, in 1968. He hired 22-year-old architect John Storyk to design the place. Storyk did so with gusto, creating a unique, kaleidoscopic environment, one with the futuristic rounding of a spaceship, and colorful murals emblazoned upon the walls. It was very Hendrix, who was well known for marrying the bohemian styles of Woodstock, which he headlined, with those of the Black Power movement.
Electric Lady continues to live on as the home of records from artists like Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Erykah Badu, David Bowie, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, and more.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
There’s just as much music history outdoors as there is indoors. On the corner of Jones Street and West 4th, you’ll be standing in the exact spot where Bob Dylan shot his iconic album cover for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Today, this album cover shot is iconic, cementing the moment before Dylan blew up. He was just 22 at the time the album was released, but with songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” he quickly ricocheted to stardom. Today, he is widely regarded as a groundbreaking lyricist and singer, one who was unafraid to tackle political and at the time unconventional subject matter in his songs. In 2016, he was even controversially honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first ever awarded to a songwriter.
As mentioned before, Greenwich Village’s tree-lined streets are also home to a wide variety of coffee shops. Caffe Reggio, for example, has been around since 1927, and its founder, Domenico Parisi, was the one who introduced the cappuccino to New York. Stop by while you’re walking and enjoy a cappuccino, hot chocolate, or grab a bite to eat from their menu.
Kembrew McLeod’s book, The Downtown Pop Underground, emphasizes the importance of local cafes. “I think that the coffee house scene really started to emerge by the late 1950s as part of the folk music revival...a coffee shop was cheaper to run than a bar... and easy to set up, which is one reason why there were so many in and around the Washington Square area,” says McLeod.
When the folk music revival was at its peak, many artists would perform at night at underground coffee houses. Audiences at local cafes heard the earliest traces of the music that would eventually become known as punk.
Greenwich Village was not only a haven for artists but also a historic neighborhood for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Stonewall Riot was a groundbreaking act of protest set in motion by a routine police raid on the LGBTQ+ patrons of the Stonewall Inn. These protests are largely credited as the inciting incident of the movement for gay liberation. Years later, the queer community still looks back on this night at Stonewall as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. The Stonewall Inn National Monument opened in 2016 as testament to the sacrifices made in Greenwich Village by rioters that night in 1969.
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