The Top Things to Do in the West Village, New York City

Washington Square Park is one of the best people-watching spots in New York City
Washington Square Park is one of the best people-watching spots in New York City | © Viktoryia Vinnikava / Alamy Stock Photo

Wellness Editor

New York City’s rebel spirit is alive and well in the West Village, a section of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood that’s known for its activism, bohemianism and art. From the pub that was the site of the Stonewall Uprising, to the legendary Smalls Jazz Club, these things to do are all bookable through Culture Trip.

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See a show at Smalls Jazz Club

When Smalls opened in a tiny bare-bones space in 1994, it was a BYOB club offering $10 shows that stretched until daybreak. These days, it stands out among the jazz clubs populating Greenwich Village for its speakeasy atmosphere and live recordings. Hunker down with a dirty martini and watch shows from some of America’s top talents – previous billings include a reunion of the band Planet Jazz, and the Amy Winehouse collaborator, saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith.

Drink at the landmark Stonewall Inn pub

© Tracey Whitefoot / Alamy Stock Photo

The West Village has a long history of human rights advocacy. In 1969, the Stonewall Inn was the site of the Stonewall Riots, a clash between bar patrons and the New York Police Department. Having ignited a global LGBTQ rights movement, the bar is now a National Historic Landmark. Outside the inn’s door, you’ll find Christopher Park, home of George Segal’s Gay Liberation Monument, which depicts two same-sex couples in white-coated bronze.

Have an Italian lunch at Caffe Reggio

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This stylish Italian café has an almighty claim to fame: it was the first place in America to serve a cappuccino. Having opened in 1927, Caffe Reggio still serves nonna-style comfort food, including penne pasta with pesto, velvety ricotta cheesecake and melt-in-your-mouth cannoli, plus a wine and coffee list that would make its ancestors proud. With European-inspired sidewalk seating and homey interior, this historic spot allows you to explore the culinary offerings of Italy without leaving New York.

Play board games at the Uncommons

© Robert K. Chin – Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo

With one of the biggest selections of board games on the East Coast, the Uncommons is part bar, part cafe and part game studio. Sink a beer or a coffee while playing a game of Monopoly, chess or backgammon, or challenge your group to something unfamiliar (Tiny Epic Galaxies, anyone?). The team at the Uncommons collects rare board games from independent designers that will absorb your attention for an entire afternoon.

Tuck into fried chicken at Sticky’s Finger Joint

At Sticky’s Finger Joint, the fried and grilled chicken tenders come with a twist, with inventive flavors such as salted caramel with pretzel salt, and the spicy Vampire Killer. The menu also contains six spins on fries, including the sweet s’more fries topped with marshmallow sauce, chocolate sauce, crushed graham crackers and mini marshmallows. Sticky’s late-night hours and nostalgic dishes make it a go-to when you need a midnight nibble.

Catch a film at the IFC Center

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The IFC Center is where New York’s film buffs go to catch foreign, indie and documentary films, and a smattering of cult classics. The theater runs a monthly program selected by LGBTQ guest curators, and each November hosts DOC NYC, the country’s largest and most celebrated documentary festival. Keep an eye out for upcoming live Q&As with industry folk, and don’t forget to try the popcorn – it’s organic and smothered in melted natural butter.

Watch stand-up at the Comedy Cellar

The entrance corridor of Comedy Cellar is lined with photos of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and virtually everyone who’s ever had a comedy special on Netflix. The club is known for hosting impromptu performances from world-famous comics, who come to practice new material in the intimate setting of this tiny basement. Tickets (which are affordable but come with a two-order minimum) are always in high demand, so book ahead.

Stroll around Washington Square Park

© Littleny / Alamy Stock Photo

In a former incarnation, Washington Square Park served as a burial ground for yellow fever victims after the American Revolutionary War. But then in 1870, after the Department of Public Parks landscaped the space, and it became a beloved public space for New Yorkers. It remains the best people-watching spot in the city, with NYU students, street performers and champion chess players converging here. Grab a bite from one of the food trucks and soak up the West Village life.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

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