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
Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor4 August 2021

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.

See a show at Smalls Jazz Club

Pub, Restaurant, Pub Grub, American, $$$
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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

Bar, Gay Bar, LGBTQ Bar, American, $$$
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The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan New York City, USA
© 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

Cafe, Italian, $$$
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New York City, view in summer of Caffe Reggio in MacDougal Street in the center of Greenwich Village (West Village), Manhattan, New York City, USA
© Michael Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Cafe, American
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The Uncommons, 230 Thompson Street, New York, NY. exterior storefront of a boardgame, gaming cafe in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.. Image shot 11/2019. Exact date unknown.
© 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

Restaurant, American, Contemporary
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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.

Browse Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books

Bookstore
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Unoppressive Non-imperialist Bargain Books, 34 Carmine St, New York, NY. exterior storefront of a bookstore in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.. Image shot 06/2018. Exact date unknown.
© Robert K. Chin – Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo

This petite, renegade bookstore has existed at 34 Carmine Street for more than 25 years. Owner Jim Drougas scoops up “remainders” (overstocked titles sold by publishers) he deems important and likely to have a positive impact on readers and the world. Although Drougas doesn’t consider himself an ideologue, his stock does suggest a certain sensibility. You won’t find Ayn Rand on the shelves at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, but you will find William Shakespeare, Allen Ginsberg and Sufi poet Rumi.

Catch a film at the IFC Center

Movie Theater, Theater
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IFC Waverly Theatre, in Greenwich Village, New York, USA.
© Citizen of the Planet / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Bar, American, $$$
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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.

Spend an evening at the Fat Cat

Bar, Pub Grub
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This huge subterranean venue on Christopher Street is the kind of place where you lose track of time. Sip coffee, house-made sodas, beer, hard cider and wine, while you challenge friends and fellow patrons to a game of ping-pong, shuffleboard, darts or foosball. A small lounge area with worn-in couches is an ideal perching spot for nightly live music. Fat Cat hosts up to three bands per night, followed by a jazz jam session that lasts until 4am.

Stroll around Washington Square Park

Park
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New York City - August 15, 2020:  People relaxing on a Summer afternoon scene at Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
© 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.
These recommendations were updated on August 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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