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    East Village: music, gangsters and ancient history

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    Joel Fulleda

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    "Genuine" neighborhood of New York, theEast Village it is one of the most artistic areas of the Big Apple, full of graffiti, trendy clubs, vintage shops, temples of music. This is where the american punk rock and it is always here that a legend of music, Madonna, took the first steps.

    Music, but not only. The East Village was also a hotbed of poets, bohemian artists, directors and actors belonging to the avant-garde current, characters who in one way or another celebrated its beauty and uniqueness by telling its peculiarities in films, paintings, stories. Unusual mix of tradition and modernity, lively nightlife and clubs in which to listen to all kinds of music, this neighborhood deserves to be visited. Calmly.


    • Where is it and how to get there
    • What to do and see
      • Tompkins Square Park
      • St. Mark’s Place
      • 80 Theater
      • Museum of the American Gangster
      • St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery
      • Grace Church
      • Little Ukraine
    • Offbeat shopping
      • Trash and Vaudeville
      • Search and Destroy
      • Obscura Antiques & Oddities
      • Strand bookstore
    • Ideas for a musical itinerary
    • Where to eat
      • Gem Spa
      • William Barnacle Tavern
      • McSorley's Old Ale House
    • Accomodation

    Where is it and how to get there

    Astor Place Station

    Located in Downtown Manhattan, the East Village borders celebrated New York neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, NoHo and the Lower East Side. The liveliest and most interesting area is between Tompkins Square Park and the Bowery, the road that marks the border with NoHo. The east zone is also known as Alphabet City for the name of the avenues, all identified with letters of the alphabet and no longer with numbers.

    To reach the area, consider that the best stops are also suitable for getting to NoHo:

    • Astor Place (Green Line 4 and 6)
    • 3 Avenue (Gray Line L)

    I remind you to read our guide on how to use the subway in New York.

    What to do and see

    Tompkins Square Park

    One of the many green lungs of New York, this park is located in the heart of the East Village and is not only a place to relax, stroll or let the children play, but also a location that hosts, on an ongoing basis, everyone's events. the types.

    From music festivals (such as the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, a tribute to the saxophonist of the same name who lived right here, in Avenue B.) al Wigstock Festival, an appointment in which the participants dress in clothes of the opposite sex, up to the August appointment that celebrates the riot against the police in 1988, carried out by residents, journalists, punks. To date, this is one of the most "active" parks in terms of public demonstrations, marches in support of the environment and civil rights.

    • Where: E 10th St., East Village, New York City

    St. Mark’s Place

    The stretch of road between Third Avenue and Avenue A, St. Mark's Place takes its name from its neighbor St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bovery and it is one of the most cultural and busy places in the East Village. Also full of clothing shops, markets (traditional and antiques), historic buildings and clubs that have made the history of New York, this place transmits strength, a link with tradition, but also modernity and a revolutionary touch that makes it a sort of “Spiritual place” where everyone can regenerate, rediscover and relive the atmosphere of yesteryear.

    Strengths of St. Mark's Place are, among others, the Hamilton-Holly House, an ancient residence from the mid-800th century that hosted Alexander Hamilton, the first New York Cooking School, founded here in 1876, the first Jewish-Christian church in America, the 57 Club, a space dedicated to artistic performances and exhibitions in which artists of the caliber of Keith Haring have passed, and theHoliday Cocktail Lounge, at number 75 of the street, which has seen the passage of personalities such as Allen Ginsberg e Frank Sinatra.

    Finally, at numbers 96 and 98, it will be possible to recognize the buildings that formed the background of the album Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, the same setting was also used by Keith Richards e Mick Jagger nel video di Waiting on a Friend dei Rolling Stones.

    • Where: tra Third Avenue e Avenue A, East Village, New York City.

    80 Theater

    Historic theater of the East Village, whose history begins during the Prohibition period, here artists and performers of all kinds have had space, da Thelonious Monk a John Coltrane, da Frank Sinatra a Billy Crystal.

    Later also became a nightclub, the theater continued to promote the arts in all its forms by showing vintage films, programming theatrical plays, holding concerts and performances by big names such as Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Kitty Carlisle. Therefore, an evening here dedicated to vintage and history is not to be missed.

    • Where: 80 St. Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City.

    Museum of the American Gangster

    Site in the same building as 80 Theater, this museum is a little gem of the East Village. Just two rooms, but very rich in history. Opened in 2010, the museum is located inside what was once a clandestine alcohol shop usually frequented by notorious members of the American mafia such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and John Gotti.

    Documents from theera of prohibition such as newspapers, photographs, letters, as well as memorabilia belonging to criminals including John Dillinger's death mask, shells found at the crime scene of the Valentine's Day Massacre, a bullet from a shooting involving Pretty Boy Floyd. In addition, a visit to the museum can also be combined with a tour of the illegal alcoholic resale. The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 13pm to 18pm. The cost of the entrance ticket is $ 20.

    • Where: 80 St. Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City.

    St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery

    The second oldest church in all of New York, St. Mark's Church in-the-Bovery was built in the XNUMXth century and has been a place of worship ever since. However, very few know that this church is also one of the "unofficial" cultural centers of the East Village, as it offers interesting ideas related to poetry, dance and theater thanks to the partnerships undertaken with various artistic realities.

    Not only contemporary artists, but also milestones in American history have acted or performed here: from Isadora Duncan to Allen Ginsberg to Martha Graham. In the church, writing workshops and lectures are held on a regular basis on a weekly basis. "Oddities" aside, however, the church is also a very monument interesting from an architectural point of view, as it combines different styles such as Greek, Egyptian and the inevitable red bricks typical of American buildings of the late 800th century.

    • Where: 131 E 10th St., East Village, New York City.

    Grace Church

    Referred to as "one of New York City's major treasures," Grace Church is one splendid example of gothic architecture, whose construction began in 1843. Inside there are numerous decorations in marble, a material that was also used to replace the wood that made up the tall spiers and beautiful mosaic windows depicting scenes from the Bible and the Gospels.

    • Where: 421 E 11th St., East Village, New York City.

    Little Ukraine

    In the East Village, as in almost all the districts of New York, there is a small ethnic agglomeration linked to the population that first inhabited the area. Here the enclave in question is linked to the population of Ukrainian origin which, although it was very numerous at the beginning of the 900s, as well as for Little Italy today is almost no longer present (or in any case in a much smaller number), except for some typical places and shops.

    The area encompassing what is called Little Ukraine ranges from 6th to 7th St. between 1st and 3rd Avenue. This area deserves to be visited especially for one of its most beautiful gems: theUkrainian Museum. Open Wednesday to Sunday, this museum center exhibits only Ukrainian art and offers both permanent and seasonal exhibits, as well as interesting educational programs for adults and children.

    Furthermore, also inside, there is a beautiful shop that sells books, sheets, blankets, clothes and other objects, including handicrafts, from Ukraine. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 11.30am to 17pm, admission to the museum costs $ 8 for adults, $ 6 for over 65s, while children under 12 get in for free.

    • Where: 222 East Sixth Street, (tra la 2nd & 3rd Avenue), East Village, New York City.

    Offbeat shopping

    Those who love to go in search of shops with unlikely or at least eccentric items in this neighborhood will find something for their teeth. Here are some tips on this:

    Trash and Vaudeville

    It is the Mecca of punk, rocker, hippie, but not only. Specializing in underground and rebellious fashion, this historic shop, opened in the 70s, attracts not only ordinary people, but also artists and singers like the Ramones and Debbie Harry of Blondie. It goes without saying that excellent leather pants and jackets can be found here, but also studded belts, leopard-print jeans, biker boots, band t-shirts and even rock clothing for children.

    The shop is open from Monday to Thursday, from 12 to 20, on Friday from 11.30 to 20.30, on Saturday from 11.30 to 21 and on Sunday from 13 to 19.30.

    • Where: 96 East 7th Street, East Village, NYC.

    Search and Destroy

    Regarded as a punk-style shop, it is actually a real one vintage paradise with a wide choice of new and used clothes, strange and eclectic accessories, dark and non-dark jewels. A valuable advice is to go there, if possible, during the period of Halloween, when the owners go wild with wonders of all kinds and for all tastes. The shop is open from Monday to Sunday, from 13pm to 22pm.

    • Where: 25 St. Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City.

    Obscura Antiques & Oddities

    Everything that is strange, dark, bizarre from Obscura is there and if it is not there, they procure it. Entering this antiquities shop feels like being thrown into the world of black magic of Harry Potter, but in reality it is just a paradise of objects, antique dolls, flags, bone letter openers, souvenirs and other oddities from all over the world. The prices, then, are very democratic and perfect for all budgets. The store is open every day (Monday-Saturday from 12 to 20, Sunday from 12 to 19).

    • Where: 207 avenue A, East Village, New York City.

    PS: do you know that in New York there is a fascinating shop entirely dedicated to Harry Potter? Find out more by reading our article on the Harry Potter Store in New York.

    Strand bookstore

    Almost 29 kilometers of new, used and rare books which, translated into numbers, contain a treasure made up of 2,5 million volumes. A veritable paradise for readers who can choose from Shakespearean rarities, finance volumes, philosophy books, hidden and practically unobtainable gems.

    Furthermore, in the library there is everything a passionate reader could wish for: from notebooks for notes to the inevitable cups to sip a good coffee while reading. The temple of literature is open from Monday to Sunday, from 9.30 to 22.30. For those interested in ancient books, the dedicated section is open every day starting at 18.15pm.

    • Where: corner 12th Street and Broadway, at 828 Broadway, East Village, New York City.

    Ideas for a musical itinerary

    Those who love music can follow an ad hoc itinerary, following legendary notes, integrating these stages with the many musical ideas already mentioned.

    First stop the home of George and Ira Gershwin, legendary composers, who lived as children at 91 2nd Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets. The building itself has no particular feature that makes it stand out from the others, but it is pure magic to think that two brilliant minds of music spent the early years of their childhood here.

    Continuing along the musical score, the second stop to be included in the tour is the Charlie Parker's home, located at 151 Avenue B. The famous saxophonist, who at the time occupied the ground floor apartment, lived in this Gothic-style terraced house from 1950 to 1954. Avenue B, which is located between 7th and 10th Streets along Tompkins Square Park, later took the name of its famous resident, thus calling itself Charlie Parker Place. Today, this building is part of the register of National Historic Places and Palaces.

    The third essential step is the fillmore east, local historian of Bill Graham, impresario of rock, which remained open and in business until 1971. Here real music legends such as Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, The Grateful Dead played and performed , Janis Joplin. Today the medieval-style building houses apartments and, therefore, cannot be visited, but it still deserves a stop (and a few shots), since it was one of the temples of the Big Apple's musical and nightlife. To find it, go to 2nd Avenue near East 6th Street.

    Finally, last but not the least excellent stop is the one that includes the original seat of the CBGB's, a very famous club where country, blues and bluegrass notes were initially played, but which over time also hosted punk rhythms. Groups like the Ramones and Television were practically at home in this club and, right here, talents such as Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and Blondie made their debut. Finally, it should be remembered that the very Italian Elio and Le Storie Tese also performed in this venue on the occasion of their 1998 American tour. The club has no longer been in business since 2006, but you can still admire it from the outside, by going to 315 of Bowery Street.

    Where to eat

    Gem Spa

    Even if on the surface it looks like just a newsstand, in reality Gem Spa it is also a shop for sweets of all kinds, milkshakes with a thousand flavors, but not only. Inaugurated in 1920, it is open 24 hours a day and is, according to local tradition, the place where it was born the real New York-style egg custard. Frequented by the exponents of the Beat Generation in the 50s, by hippies in the 60s, this place is definitely a must-have for anyone visiting the East Village. Not to be missed!

    • Where: 131 Second Avenue, tra l’East Village e il Lower East Side Historic District, New York City.

    William Barnacle Tavern

    Local historian of the East Village, here you can sip the best absinthe, prepared both in a bohemian and traditional way, as well as several other cocktails. Excellent for a different after dinner than usual, in the place originally opened during the Prohibition era he also worked as a waiter Frank Sinatra, before becoming a living legend.

    Much loved by gangsters like Al Capone and Hoffman, the tavern still has period furnishings, like the huge wall mirror that sits behind the counter. In addition to cocktails and soft environments, in the restaurant you can also visit the tunnels which, in the 20s, were used to make alcohol illegally. The visit alone costs 15 $ per person.

    • Where: 80 St. Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City.

    McSorley's Old Ale House

    Opened in 1854, it's another historic East Village venue. Initially it was a place frequented mainly by Irish workers, where cheese and crackers were served, as well as the inevitable house beer. Today you are still served withgreat beer (indeed, hundreds of different types of beer), accompanied by cold and hot dishes, sandwiches and the inevitable cheeses and crackers, as in the best traditions.

    • Where: 15 East 7th Street, East Village, New York City.


    There is a fair amount of hotels in the East Village, quite well distributed between the west side, not far from NoHo, close to the Bowery and its surroundings, and the eastern side, in the Alphabet City area, a little further far from the metro. For a complete list of facilities you can consult these 2 links:

    • East Village accommodation on Booking
    • East Village accommodation on Vrbo

    For an overview of the best neighborhoods to sleep in the city, I refer you to our dedicated guide, where you will also find some recommended facilities and some tips to save:

    Our tips for sleeping in New York

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