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Get to know the West Village

Stop a lifelong New Yorker on, say, Christopher Street and Sixth Avenue and ask for directions to Morton Street or Abingdon Square, and they may be stumped even though both are just a few blocks away. The idiosyncratic street plan is part of the charm of this neighborhood, which is part of larger Greenwich Village and off to the side of Manhattan’s grid. Beautifully restored 19th-century rowhouses line many streets to form a, well, village within the city. Much of the neighborhood’s distinct character has survived thanks to the Greenwich Village Historic District; a pioneering effort when it was established in 1969, the district became a model for others throughout the city and country. The West Village is not, however, preserved under glass; restaurants, shops, and newer additions like the High Line and the Whitney Museum draw New Yorkers to this corner of the city.
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History & Culture

Like central Greenwich Village to its east, this part of Manhattan followed a similar path from being farmland to a 19th-century residential neighborhood away from the bustle of downtown and eventually an area with a decidedly bohemian edge. Its 19th-century past is visible in stately rowhouses, most in brick, and some streets that remain cobblestone to this day. Even occasional street names recall this period: When cholera or other outbreaks hit the Financial District, banks would temporarily move their operations to Bank Street. For much of the 20th century, the West Village would be associated with the writers and artists who called it home — Willa Cather, e.e. cummings, and Jack Kerouac among them. This legacy lives on in institutions like the Cherry Lane Theatre (on Commerce Street), the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and, more recently, the new location of the Whitney Museum, which opened in 2015.

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Dine & Shop

Among the appeals of the West Village are the many small boutiques and cafes on its quiet side streets: Turn a corner and you may find a cozy restaurant with a half dozen tables and a young chef at the helm. There are still, however, several notable concentrations of commercial life. Bookstores, designer shops, and one of the neighborhood’s newer attractions — Magnolia Bakery — can be found on Bleecker Street. Christopher Street was long synonymous with NYC’s gay and lesbian community. While there is now competition on that front from businesses in Chelsea, Clinton, and other neighborhoods, many bars and restaurants catering to LGBTQ customers can still be found on Christopher Street and nearby. At the northern end of the West Village, the formerly gritty Meatpacking District is now filled every night of the week with drinkers and diners, while shoppers flock to its boutiques by day.