I've thought about waiting to create this post, because my knowledge of good bars and restaurants here barely scratches the surface of what these incredible n eighbourhoods have to offer. However, I have spent a good amount of time here, as I lived on the border of Chelsea and the West Village for 4 months. This was also in the middle of a global pandemic, so my knowledge is very limited. While I no longer live in the area, I return often to visit and try new places as the city opens back up. I'll continue to update this post as I explore more of the neighbourhood, so if you want to refer to it, say, a year from now on your next NYC trip, there should be more stuff on here.
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While I know less about the history of Chelsea (I know that it used to be a more industrial area with a large meat market) , the history of the West Village is very interesting and important to note. It is home to generations of activists, specifically in the LGBTQ+ community, who have fought tirelessly for their rights with demonstrations in Washington Square Park and around the neighbourhood. This is where Stonewall happened. It is a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community, and home to a thriving community of activists still to this day. While today it is full of trendy bars and restaurants, it is important to know the history and be respectful of it. You can still visit the Stonewall Inn today, which is still operating as a gay bar.
These neighbourhoods, being as central as they are, are very walkable and well-connected on public transport. You can find plenty of great hostels, Airbnbs and hotels in the area, depending on your budget and what you're looking for. Hotels down here can be quite expensive, but Airbnbs and hostels are usually comparable to other parts of the city. Citibikes are all over, and it's really easy to get around. Up in Chelsea it's more of a big city vibe, with plenty of artist lofts and art galleries, while the West Village has a cozier feel, with parks, brownstones and townhouses.
Things to Do
The High Line. One of my favourite things to do in this part of the city! Go for a walk on the High Line, a former railroad track elevated above the city. Great views, but go during off-peak hours since it can get a bit crowded.
Chelsea Piers. Really fun park and great place to hangout by the water. This is a great place to go for runs, bike rides, or a picnic on the water.
Washington Square Park. This iconic park is a must-see if you're in the area. Great spot to sit, read a book and people watch. Usually there's a lot going on on the weekends and it's pretty fun!
(Can you tell I've only lived here in a pandemic? Lol) Honestly though, I'd recommend just walking around and enjoying the architecture. This is a really nice part of the city, and just going for walks you'll find plenty to do and see.
Places to Eat
Again, barely scratching the surface here, but here are some of my favourites.
Chelsea Market. Cool food hall with tons of different stalls and different types of food. Can be kind of touristy, but super fun.
Jack's Wife Freda. Yummy vegan/vegetarian spot with locations all over the city. They describe their food as American/Mediterranean, and I'd say that's accurate. Casual and delicious spot, perfect for lunch.
Shuka. This Eastern Mediterranean dinner spot is a must. Such amazing quality food, get a bunch of dishes to share. Try the halloumi!!! *Make a res*.
Chama Mama. Traditional Georgian (the country) food in a cozy but modern setting. The food is incredible, I'd recommend going for brunch and getting the Khachapuri (especially if you're a lil hungover).
Jajaja. Also a chain throughout the city, this entirely plant-based Mexican restaurant is legitimately one of my favourite places to eat in the entire city. More casual, great for lunch. Get the cauliflower tacos.
Tea & Sympathy. Cozy, hole in the wall spot for traditional British food. I love their shepherd's pies and baked mac n cheese. They also have a shop next door with tons of British snacks and candy, so if you've spent a lot of time in the UK you'll find some nostalgic treats. Not necessary to make a res, but I'd recommend it if you can.
Lola Taverna. Traditional Greek food in a modern setting. I'm still waiting to get a reservation here, so I'll update you once I've eaten here!
Dante NYC. Same situation as Lola Taverna, Italian food in a cozy, romantic setting. I've heard amazing things, and can't wait to go!
Places to Drink
Again, since my time here was spent during a pandemic, I can't speak much to the nightlife. During the summer of 2020, there were lots of bars offering drinks to go and people hanging out in the streets all over the West Village. Honestly, just walk around and see what's up, the streets are always full of people and there are tons of bars. Same with 9th Avenue in Chelsea, plenty of great bars to stop at. Just walk around! Nonetheless, here are some of my favourites.
La Nacional. This bar is owned by the Spanish Benevolent Society, and you'll mostly find expat Spaniards here having a few Estrellas with their friends. I really miss Spain, so this is the next best thing. The menu is the same as any typical Spanish restaurant, except Manhattan prices. The drinks are well-priced though, and everyone is super kind.
Grand Banks. Super cool boat bar on the piers! Like, it's on an actual boat. Reservations book up well in advance, so if you'd like to be on the boat, make a res at least 2 weeks early.
The Grey Dog. Chill, neighbourhood cafe. They serve some good drinks, and it's a chill place to hangout.
Gottino Enoteca e Salumeria. Classy, cozy Italian wine bar in the village with little tapas and small plates.
Entwine. Cool, chill bar with good cocktails and a back patio.
You really can't visit the city without visiting these neighbourhoods. They are pretty iconic, and I'd highly recommend staying here if you're visiting NYC and looking to have a good time.