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

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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.
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E. V. Haughwout Building
Created in 1856, this cast-iron landmark is home to the first passenger elevator.
John Gotti
John Gotti was an American gangster and boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Known as ‘the Teflon Don’, he was caught by the NYPD at the Ravenite Club in 1992.
New York Mobsters
Get Acquainted with local mobsters like Lucky Luciano, Joe Masseria and Meyer Lansky.

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Little Italy, Greenwich Village, Soho, and Chinatown
The different neighbourhoods of New York each have something to give the curious traveller. Visit four of its most vibrant districts to see many of New York’s off the beaten path sights with your private guide. On your private tour, you will:  

  • Enjoy the comfort of a private guide, walking with you throughout, while giving you the history of these famous and disparate neighbourhoods. 
  • Begin your tour in the avant-garde Greenwich Village, and see where the ‘Friends’ flat allegedly was, and see the Washington Arch.
  • Learn about the Stonewall Riots, and see the Monument dedicated to it.
  • Visit the artistic soul of New York City in Soho, filled with galleries and art museums.
  • See the impact of immigration in Little Italy and Chinatown, and learn how each neighbourhood came to be a local diaspora.
Simply known as “The Village” and much loved by native New Yorkers, Greenwich Village has been and still is home to America’s Bohemian scene. While in the area, you will see where the ‘Friends’ flat was located, explore Washington Square Park, a buzzing city hangout, and see beautiful architecture, including 19th-century brownstone carriage houses. See some unusual spots, the home where John Wilkes Booth spoke openly of his plan to murder President Abraham Lincoln. On your way out of the neighbourhood, you may see Jefferson Market Library and Bleecker Street, as well as where Hemingway, Edgar Poe, Jackson Pollack lived and worked. 

You will venture through vibrant Soho, where your guide will tell you about its transformation from its' humble beginnings as a centre for the rag trade industry, eventually becoming an extravagant artist community. 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.
From there, 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. Pop into the oldest cheese shop in NYC and the first NYC pizzeria, and explore 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. Your tour will finish in the area, where your guide will happily direct you to any number of eateries where you can rest and recharge before continuing to explore at your leisure. 
Greenwich Village Walking Tour
Greenwich Village is New York City’s most storied neighbourhood. 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, immortalised 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 Neo Gothic-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 neighbourhood 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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