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Washington Square Park

Dominated by a triumphal arch, this beautiful park has a tradition of celebrating nonconformity.

TravelCurious Tip

Bring some peanuts for the cheeky squirrels

Washington Square Park has seen many incarnations: as a marsh, a cemetery, a parade ground, a square for executions, a gathering spot for avant-garde artists. Yet for all its shape-shifting, its importance to the Greenwich Village community has remained undimmed.


Set among period brownstone houses and New York University buildings, it is a small park, but one with a long and colourful history. No less than Henry James himself wrote the the Square displayed a “riper, richer, more honorable look – the look of having had something of a social history.”


The Square acquired its artistic, progressive atmosphere over the course of the 20th Century. Labor unions began to march there, and in the 50s and 60s the Beat generation and the hippies made the park their sanctuary. Today it remains a symbol for non-conformity; a favourite haunt for NYU students, street performers, and speed-chess pros alike.


A walk in the park

The park is dominated by the iconic Stanford White Arch. Reaching 72ft and made of pure white Dover marble it was built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. Inspired by Roman models as well as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, it combines allegorical figures, laurel wreaths and decorative motifs with a modern simplicity. In 1916 the artist Marcel Duchamp climbed to the top of the arch and declared the park to be the ‘Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square”


Yes we can

On September 27 2007, Presidential candidate Barack Obama held a rally at Washington Square. 20,000 people registered for the event, and the crowds overflowed past the security cordon. This surge of support carried him into office.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in New York
Fifth Avenue
The world's most prestigious (and expensive) shopping street.
Greenwich Village
The bohemian capital of the world - and these days one of America's priciest neighbourhoods.
Jefferson Market Library
The Village’s most eclectic and eccentric building, site of the 'Trial of the Century' in 1906.
SoHo
South of Houston Street is a historic district famed for its artistic atmosphere and cast-iron façades.
E. V. Haughwout Building
Created in 1856, this cast-iron landmark is home to the first passenger elevator.
Rockefeller Center Observation Deck
This high vantage point gives an incredible vista of the Big Apple.

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Little Italy, Soho and Chinatown
The different neighbourhoods of New York each have something to give the curious traveller. Go with your personal guide to see four of its most vibrant districts to see many of New York’s off the beaten path sights.
      
  • Enjoy avant-garde  Greenwich Village
  • Experience the artistic soul of Soho
  • See the impact of immigrants in Little Italy and Chinatown 
The Village
 

 Simply known as “The Village” and much loved by native New Yorkers, Greenwich has been, and still is home to America’s bohemian scene. You will start at Washington Square Park, a buzzing city hangout, where you will discover cobblestoned mews and 19th century brownstone carriage houses. You will glimpse some of New York’s rarest sights, for example, the home where John Wilkes Booth spoke openly of his plan to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Pass by such landmarks as the Jefferson Market Library and Bleecker Street, as well as where Hemingway, Edgar Poe, Jackson Pollack lived and worked. 

 Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown

You will proceed to explore New York City’s vibrant neighbourhoods of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown. You will venture through Soho where you will learn about its transformation from its' humble beginnings as a centre for the rag trade industry, eventually becoming an extravagant artist community. You will see Soho's unique collection of cast iron buildings such as the Haughwout Building, home to the first safety elevator, and the Old Police Headquarters— the 1909 Beaux-Arts building.
 
While walking the narrow cobblestone streets in the heart of Little Italy, you will learn about Mafia hangouts, the most famous of which is Ravenite Club. You will pop into the oldest cheese shop in NYC and the first NYC pizzeria, as well as exploring Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Journey through NYC’s Chinatown, walk along Canal and Motts Streets, the former Five Points District, and the Old Opium Den, where you will hear stories of Chinese immigrants who came to Manhattan to build a future of their own. Your expert local guide will also tell you all about the violent gangs that sprang up around them, fighting for dominance. 
Greenwich Village Walking Tour
Greenwich Village is New York City’s most storied neighborhood. It has been home to the famous and infamous; and it still is! See the locations and hear the stories that for decades have attracted locals and visitors alike to this fascinating area.

The Village
 

 Simply known as “The Village” and much loved by native New Yorkers, Greenwich has been, and still is home to America’s bohemian scene. You will start at Washington Square Park, a buzzing city hangout, where you will discover cobblestoned mews and 19th century brownstone carriage houses. You will glimpse some of New York’s rarest sights, for example, the home where John Wilkes Booth spoke openly of his plan to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Pass by such landmarks as the Jefferson Market Library and Bleecker Street, as well as where Hemingway, Edgar Poe, Jackson Pollack lived and worked. 

Highlights of the tour include a stroll through charming Abingdon Square and a walk along Bleecker Street, immortalized by Simon & Garfunkel in their song of the same title; and a visit to one of The Village’s hidden gems, the garden of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, a 200-year old Episcopal congregation. The Washington Arch and Lower Fifth Avenue, with its historic NeoGothic-styled churches are part of the tour too, as well as the eclectic Jefferson Market Library. Learn why West 10th Street and West 4th Street intersect!

Greenwich Village is a quirky mix of quiet streets and charming townhouses, some dating to the 1820s. You will see one of the last remaining wood-frame houses in The Village, as well as the narrowest house in New York City. You will visit a Village area that was once a thriving neighborhood of Italian immigrants. Its anchor, the 1928 Italian Renaissance-styled Church of Our Lady of Pompeii is still an active part of the community.

You will walk along a quiet lane named for an underground brook before we see the house where Louisa May Alcott lived, and where she may have written part of Little Women. The tour ends at Washington Square Park, where you get to see a spectacular view of One Fifth Avenue and the monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi, known as the George Washington of Italy.
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