It was a lovely Saturday morning in late April when we started on a walk through some of the quieter districts of Manhattan. It turned out to be even nicer than we had expected.
We followed the High Line south through the district of Chelsea into Greenwich Village – The Bohemian capital of America, home to the Beat generation and the counterculture movement of the 1950s and ’60s. From here we made our way to the parks at Washington Square, Union Square and Madison Square. At the latter we finished with admiration at the iconic Flatiron building.
This is a great walk, only 5 km long, and you can spend as much time as you like on the way. And you should spend some time. There are not so many “sights”, it is more about getting into the atmosphere of an easy-going way of life, right in the middle of busy Manhattan. If you would like a relaxing walk in NYC, this is it.
The image below shows our route on this walk. Click to expand it. There is also a map at the bottom of the article showing all my New York walks. It is useful for more detailed studies.
The Village Walk (Click to expand)
The High Line
Imagine an abandoned railway line, elevated from the streets below it, running along the Hudson River. Next: Imagine the railway line turned into a public park with vegetation of different kinds and modern artwork as well. Now, that is what this is about. We went for a walk on the High Line.
Railway tracks – and a park
New York City is the place where they said: Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side; I said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side (Lou Reed)
The northern part of the line starts on West 34th Street in the Hell’s Kitchen district and stretches down to Gansevoort Street (south of 12th Street) in the Meatpacking District, between 10th and 12th Avenues. The length is 2,33 km. There are several access points to the line, some of them with elevators. The line itself is universally accessible, i.e. even for wheelchairs.
We took the stairs up on 28th street and walked south to 16th street. There were many people out on this beautiful weekend morning, no joggers. This is a park for a leisurely stroll but you will not be alone. Last year (2014) saw 4 million visitors.
The High Line is a new park, with the first phase opening as late as 2006. The last section dates back to 2014. My advice is to go and see, this is a wonderful part of Manhattan.
Chelsea Market entrance
Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market
There are a couple of markets next to the High Line worth digging into. The nearest (on our walk) was Chelsea Market, an indoor food hall with almost all sorts of fresh produce. It is not a market in the traditional sense, more a place to come for a snack and eat. The sea food section (not only freshly made sushi) was particularly tempting.
Inside the Gansevoort Market
Three blocks further south the Gansevoort Market offers something of the same but is considerably smaller. Like Chelsea Market, this is not the place you come to buy your carrots, but carrots may be an ingredient in the ready-made food for sale in the stalls set up inside. We went for a pizza slice and sat down for a while to enjoy this popular place.
I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. (John Lennon)
The Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village
By now we have left Chelsea and entered the neighbourhood of Greenwich Village. It is such a famed name for decades and to us first-timers it proved very fascinating. We had found a route along the streets running up to Washington Square with only one stop on the way, the Magnolia Bakery. The latter is famous from something called “Sex and the City”. That goes beyond my field of interest, but judging by the number of women staring into the bakery from the street outside it still has a name.
Anyway, I sat down in the small park opposite while my partner went inside. She returned with coffee and some very tasty cupcakes.
We were on Bleecker Street, a quiet street running through the Village.
But in my imagination this whole thing developed and I started mixing up old folk songs with the Beatles beat and taking them down to Greenwich Village and playing them for the people there. (Roger McGuinn)
Greenwich Village, the Sheridan Viewing Garden
We turned left on Christopher Street and then right towards Washington Place. Right here we entered first a farmers market and then other stalls running for almost the length of the street up the Washington Park.
We passed something called the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden. This was a fascinating little garden, fenced off for others than the keepers. The viewers are held at bay, outside the iron fence, but there were a few people inside. Intriguing. Why was this small square at the intersection of two streets off-limit to us? Read the history behind it here, but the case is that it is maintained by people in the neighbourhood.
Greenwich Village is a part of New York that seems very relaxed. There are no high-rises, it is mostly a residential area, the streets do not have too much traffic, and there are trees along the pavements and a series of small squares and parks. Really nice indeed.
Washington Square Park
Bubbles in Washington Square
Next to the huge New York University campus we entered this large park around Midday on a Saturday morning. It was full of all kinds of performers and spectators. The park is very attractive with a formal layout, and on this day all sorts of performers had occupied every corner of it. A teenager was playing his guitar, a senior jazz band were performing just a few metres away, a couple of ladies were feeding pigeons crawling all over their faces, a woman was making huge soap bubbles, a group of dog owners had a rally near the large arch.
We sat down, walked on and sat down again next to a guy who had rolled in a grand piano for a concert in the park. He became frustrated, because a group of young happy people were performing some kind of Chinese ritual just a few metres away. Loudly. As we left, the piano player started to pack his stuff.
Now, this was a wonderful park – and I imagine it would be so even without the performers and people gathering here.
I called this a walk, but we cheated and took the subway. Union Square is another nice square in central Manhattan. It has lawns, paths and sculptures.
In addition it has a playground setting it apart from some of the other Manhattan squares. If you don’t have any children with you, there is not really much to do. And that is the whole point with a park like this. Doing nothing.
So find yourself a bench and relax. Watch people, look up on the treetops, see if you can spot a squirrel or a bird. See if you can mentally block the noise from the streets around you.
The next, and final park in this article, is not far to the north. Just follow Broadway. Like us, you may want to use the subway instead.
Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building
NY cab at the Madison Square Park
The park itself is not in essence very different from the Union Square. In addition both squares, or parks, are surrounded by some nice examples of New York architecture. Beware that the Madison Square Garden is no longer located here.
What sets Madison Square Park apart is the odd looking building on the southern end. The Fuller Building as it was called in 1902 is kind of strangulated by Broadway and 5th Avenue. It is one of New York’s most iconic buildings and prominent on a lot of photographs. Google it.
21 floors high, with a remarkably triangular shape, it has lend name to an entire neighbourhood in New York. This is a must-see in your NYC stay.
If you are here on the right day, have a look at the Annex Antique Fair and Market just a block away (see the map below).
This described and mapped walk in the districts of Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Flatiron is 5 kilometres long.
This article is part of a series from a week-long visit to New York City. We planned our visit by pinpointing on a map all attractions we wanted to visit, skipped some and connected the rest with walking routes.
The result is illustrated on this map. At first sight it seems immensely overcrowded. Fortunately you may zoom in, click the markers, hide specific walks, and even expand the map into a new tab or window.
(1) Central Park
(2) Brooklyn to Manhattan
(3) Liberty Island, Ellis Island and the Financial District
(4) The High Line, Greenwich Village and Flatiron
In addition there is a special entry from New York’s own World Heritage Site, the Statue of Liberty.
Browse the enlarged images from places mentioned in this article by clicking one of the thumbnails below: