What To Do in the East Village

April 1, 2024

What To Do in The East Village

For six years I called the East Village home. I first moved to the neighborhood in late 2011, about nine months after I had arrived in New York City from San Francisco. I didn’t know much about the neighborhood at the time but I would go on to fall in love with the dynamic, eclectic scene that had some of the best food and best people watching I’ve enjoyed in my 13+ years in the city.

Today I have finally curated my guide to the East Village to share. 

This post is in partnership with Expedia. Thank you so much for your support of the brands I love working with!

What to Do in the East Village

The East Village and its neighboring Alphabet City neighborhood are quite large in comparison to some other neighborhoods in the city and it seems to be one of the areas of the city that is truly always changing. Of course there are some long-standing institutions that remain, but the nature of this neighborhood feels very transient with lots of young residents and a proximity not too far from NYU. 

Post Pandemic there has been an explosion of new bars, restaurants and shops in this area and I recently spend 24 hours back in my old neighborhood to reacquaint myself with old favorites and newer spots I’d yet to try.

Where Is East Village?

The East Village is located on the East Side of Lower Manhattan and is roughly defined as the area east of the Bowery and Third Avenue, between 14th Street on the north side and Houston Street on the south side. The East Village contains three subsections: Alphabet City, in reference to the single-letter-named avenues that are located to the east of First Avenue; Little Ukraine, near Second Avenue and 6th and 7th Streets; and the Bowery, located around the street of the same name.

22 Things To Do in the East Village

Shop for Vintage Clothing

The East Village and Lower East Side probably have the most remaining vintage stores in Manhattan so if you like to spend your weekends hunting the racks to see what you find, you’ll find a variety of good vintage clothing stores in the neighborhood to keep you searching for the thrill of the find.

Dine at The Wren

I love this spot so much I hosted my birthday party here for three years of my six years living nearby. It’s such a good do-it-all-spot. It’s great for brunch, for afternoon day drinking, for dinner and for nighttime socializing. 

Go Dancing

There is no shortage of dive bars in the East Village and much of my 20s was spent dancing away at casual spots that have great dance floors and DJs such as Niagara, Whiskey Town and Bowery Electric. It makes me so happy each of these places has survived and continues to welcome people into the wee hours of the night to this day.

The newest comer in the neighborhood is Joyface on Avenue C in Alphabet City which is known for welcoming celebrities including the likes of Gigi Hadid and Taylor Swift from time to time.

The Bowery Hotel

Eat, Drink and Stay at The Bowery Hotel

The Bowery Hotel is one of the best East Village Hotels. It was one of my favorite haunts for dinner and cocktails when I lived three blocks away. The on property restaurant Gemma and the hidden back bar have always been great spots to take visitors and I love the solid food and reliable cocktails they serve up. Over the years I’ve also spotted many a celebrity here so it has always been a fun one to visit. 

It also happened to be the hotel my parents stayed at when they came to visit me when I lived a few blocks away. I’ve always wanted to stay there so recently I decided to revisit my old neighborhood and reacquaint myself with all its newness – as well as some old favorites – and do a staycation at this property. 

I cashed in some of the OneKeyCash I had accrued from recent bookings on Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com and booked at room at The Bowery on Hotels.com when I saw a good rate for a weekday. It was so fun to finally experience staying there as a guest and the location truly couldn’t be more perfect for exploring the East Village. 

Another hotel in the area if you’re keen to stay in the neighborhood is The Standard East Village.

The location of both of these hotels is ideal to explore not only the East Village but also nearby Soho, the Lower East Side and Union Square.

What To Do in The East Village

Taste test at Librae Bakery

Located just off of Cooper Union, this bakery has been all the rage since it opened and for good reason. They excel at Middle Eastern inspired sweet and savory pastries. The citrus curd babka is not to be missed the foccicias are also great.

Go on a Ghost Tour

Years ago I gave my brother and sister in law a Ghost Tour walking tour as a sort of joke gift and then all three of us ended up really enjoying it! There’s loads of spooky stories at various sites throughout the East Village. And we loved hearing about the myths and legends from an engaging guide. We did this in October at dark which also made for a fun and memorable experience but I’m sure it would be fun any time of year!

You can book the Ghost Tour experience on Expedia.com.

Visit Tomkins Square Park

A charming small park on the East Side that is where the East Village and Alphabet City meet. With a playground for children and plenty of paths and park benches, it is the perfect weekend park to enjoy your bagel or breakfast sandwich you’ve picked up nearby.

From Lucie exterior

Get Cake at From Lucie

Lucie gained fame for her fresh-flower adorned cakes during the pandemic. And then she raised money for a storefront that founds its home on East 10th Street. You can now go in for the day’s offering of delicious baked goods and her Instagram-famous mini cakes. I picked up a mini carrot cake and it may have just been one of the best treats I’ve ever had in New York so don’t miss a visit to this spot.

Get Coffee at Mud Coffee

Some of my favorite iced coffee in the city, this hole in the wall place has long been on my list of Best Coffee in NYC. They also have space in the back where they are serving brunch.

Have Brunch at Post

Tucked away on 3rd street is a white-washed and sunny little outpost called, aptly, Post where they are serving up biscuit breakfast sandwiches and other fare. On nice weather days be sure to ask to be seated on their back patio.

Go on a Food Tour

As you can tell, the East Village has no shortage of good food and experiencing it with a knowledgable guide can be a great way to enjoy some of its best bites.

You can book a Food Tour on Expedia.com.

Try the Viral Croissants at Lafayette

Some are too sweet for my liking but the chocolate one is indeed very delicious. Try and go on a week day morning to avoid any weekend queues. The sit down food here is worth skipping. But definitely go in for one of the rotating flavors of their circular croissants.

What To Do in The East Village

Eat Mexican food at Bad Hombre 

Most Mexican restaurants wouldn’t garner being called chic but this one is. A small menu awaits and they are serving up solid guacamole and chips and some delicious ribs if you can believe it. I found this place expensive but good. 

Have a Spa Day at Great Jones Spa

The Great Jones Spa space is a surprise when you realize there is an entire water lounge awaiting you in a spacious alcove surrounded by treatment rooms at this often voted best day spa in the city. I find it too crowded for my liking on weekends but it is a gem on a week day.

Shop at John Derian

Established back in 1989, the original John Derian can be found on East 2nd. This home store is one of the best places to find a little treasure while shopping in New York City.

Have dinner at Lil’ Frankies

Forever a top ten favorite meal of mine in New York City. I miss the days where I could order Lil’ Frankies to my apartment. But alas, at least once a year I still make a pilgrimage to this old school joint.

The lemon pasta, the baked eggplant and the mini meatball pasta are all divine as are all of the wood-fired pizzas. Be sure to book in advance.

Have Breakfast at Cafe Mogador

Easily one of the best breakfasts in the city, this place is an institution on St. Marks Place and serves up delicious Moroccan dishes all day long. But their breakfast plate with fresh pita was always my favorite.

Stroll St. Marks Place

St. Marks Place is the stretch of 8th street between 3rd Avenue and Avenue A. It is well known in history for its bohemian roots and while the stretch looks rather worse for the wear these days and is home mostly to run-down looking chains, you can find a few remaining gems if you look. 

What To Do in The East Village

Go on a date at Hilot

This sexy bar on Avenue C will have you ring a bell in order to enter and once behind the door you’ll be welcomed to a cool, dark vibe that’s perfect for a date. Their menu is full of well-timed pop culture named cocktails and it’s got a friendly staff. You can make reservations here, too. 

Enjoy Pierogis at Veselka

Veselka is one of the most famous food addresses in all of New York City for good reason. Since 1954 this beloved Ukrainian restaurant has been serving up food from the same location in the heart of the East Village. Its no frills but great fare.

Have a pint at McSorley’s

Established in 1854 – McSorley’s is known to be New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. Having lived a few homes down from here I can vouch for the fact that it is a fun spot to grab a pint and marvel at the old interiors and sawdust covered floors. You can choose from a light draft or a dark draft on tap and that’s about it so don’t head here hoping to have a bespoke cocktail mixed up.

Just be sure to have cash on hand as it remains cash only. 

Order Takeout

Staying in the area and want to enjoy some of the best takeout? My old standbys when living in the neighborhood for six years were Thai Terminal and Taqueria Diana. Both of whom are still kicking and delivering comfort food all around the neighborhood.

. . .

Have you spent time in the East Village of New York City? Have I convinced you to if not? My recent Staycation made me remember all the reasons I used to love it. And I can’t wait to go back again soon as I still have a few new spots that have opened I am eager to try.

Do you have any favorites you love in the East Village? I’d love to hear about them in the Comments below!

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