Located in lower Manhattan, the East Village is a young, eclectic neighborhood that you shouldn’t miss. Hip coffee shops, hole in the wall bars and great food are nestled in a neighborhood that really comes alive when the sun goes down. Before visiting, it can be useful learning about the history of the East Village and what you can do and see here, as well as transportation options.
1. History of the East Village
The area that became the East Village was originally a sprawling farmland owned by Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant. In the early 19th century, later generations of the family sold off parcels of land to recent immigrants. For a time, the area was poor and prone to labor unrest. That all changed in the 1960’s, when artists, musicians and students began moving to the neighborhood. A fresh music scene also took hold during this time, and soon bands like Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground were getting their start in the East Village. Today, the East Village is bounded by 14th Street to the north, Houston to the south, and Broadway and the East River to the west and east. The neighborhood still retains that bohemian spirit and is dotted with small theaters, coffee shops and quaint restaurants.
2. Atmosphere & Lifestyle
The East Village has stayed true to its bohemian roots as a hip artist enclave. That description doesn’t do this part of New York justice though, because it has since attracted many new residents as it’s gentrified. Avenue A and Avenue B have some of the best bars and nightlife in Lower Manhattan, with Avenue B having a large concentration of small live music venues. Tompkins Square Park often attracts farmers’ markets and other neighborhood gatherings, and is always great for a stroll. As you move further west, you’ll reach the outskirts of NYU, which draws many of the East Village’s residents. Around Astor Place, you’ll find some great cheap eats and college bars. Further north is Union Square and a bustling commercial center of tech hubs and office buildings.
3. Things to See
The East Village is perhaps one of the most “walkable” parts of Manhattan and truly has a neighborhood feel. As you stroll from one tree-lined street to the next, the densely packed brick apartment buildings recall an older time when the East Village was a true melting pot of recent immigrants. Stop for drinks at Death and Co., a saloon that prepares great craft cocktails. If you’re in the mood for a laugh, the UCB East hosts live shows by the renowned sketch troupe. They’ve launched more than a few careers. When you get out, stop by Crif Dogs. It’s certainly not fine dining, but this cramped East Village haunt makes some of the best (and most eclectic) hot dogs in the city.
The East Village is very easy to access by subway, making it possible to explore the area in the space of a day. You can reach the East Village using the 4, 5 or 6 trains, as well as the N, Q or R. All of these trains run north to south. The L train runs west to east along 14th Street. Reaching the East Village is not very difficult as many New York subway lines run through the Union Square station, one of the city’s largest hubs. Once you get to the East Village, stay above ground! This is a part of New York that that’s best walked and you’ll miss the full flavor of the neighborhood if you’re rushing to catch a train.
Check out the East Village the next time you’re in New York. If grabbing a coffee at a little independent café then taking a stroll through tree-lined neighborhoods sounds like fun, you’re in the right place. Once the sun goes down, get ready for some of the best nightlife in the city.