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A Day in the East Village

New York City’s East Village is rich in history, culture, and pleasure. Here are our tips on how to get the most out of it.

Planning a trip to NYC can feel like a Herculean task. Manhattan may be an island, but it’s packed full with enough stuff to keep you walking far and wide all day long. That’s why setting a relaxed, and more importantly, walkable itinerary can make a world of difference. We’ve come up with a short list of must-sees in the East Village that’ll take you from dawn to dusk.

Breakfast

Kick off the day at Veselka, Second Avenue’s deceptively unpretentious Ukrainian 24-hour eatery. Besides a few staples coffee, eggs, burgers Veselka serves up traditional Eastern European specialties bigos, stuffed cabbage, pierogis, borscht. For a sit-down breakfast (served all day), we recommend the omelet, potato pancakes, and their award-winning blintzes.

Sightseeing

Take your coffee and blintz to go, and camp out in front of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. This Episcopal church is New York’s oldest site of continuous religious practice and has exhibited local artists’ work for two centuries, including two sculptures by Solon Borglum that guard the church entrance. Legend has it that the ghost of Petrus Stuyvesant, who lies buried in the vault below, still haunts the village.

For a glamorous slice of New York history, stroll southwest to the Merchant’s House Museum, the city’s only intact nineteenth-century family house. The intimate collection is comprised of 3,000 possessions of the Tredwell family, a wealthy, fashionable merchant family who resided there from 1835 to 1933.

If your historical interests are more contemporary, cut through Tompkins Square Park to the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, a volunteer-run museum that focuses on the art and activism that bloomed amid economic hardship, from the 1980s until today. Among its most recent and relevant acquisitions is a bicycle-powered generator used at the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Arts & Entertainment

New York trips require afternoon pick-me-ups, and the East Village is chock full of top-notch coffee. Ost Cafe follows the European coffee house tradition, and retains the elegance its Viennese forerunners. The hipster-y Bluebird Coffee Shop is more typically New York, and serves a mean grilled cheese at lunch. But if you’re just looking for the best cup of joe, the tiny Abraco is unbeatable.

Film aficionados can feed their souls at the Anthology Film Archives. The center is committed to preserving, exploring, and celebrating independent, experimental, and avant-garde cinema, and, to that end, it’s amassed an extensive collection of films, stills, audio, and much more. They also host scheduled screenings with recent shows including post-apocalyptic satire Gas-s-s-s (1970), and hostage musical Rock All Night (1957).

For bibliophiles, the Strand Book Store is perfect for picking up a good book for the ride home. Their tremendous main collection of 2.5 million books is open until 10:30pm, but if you make it by 6:00, you’ll have just enough time to browse their Rare Books Collection, which currently houses an exquisite 1909 edition of Shakespeare’s As You Like It with illustrations by Hugh Thomson.

To wrap up your day, drop by The Fat Black Pussycat. While the original bar on Minetta St. has long since been closed, the current iteration retains the folk glamour of its namesake. The eclectic decor is Victorian Dive Bar meets Moroccan Lounge meets Folk Tavern. The food is fairly standard, but the drinks are diverse, ranging from traditional pub beers, to international liquors, to wild house martinis, and all are well-priced.

After you’ve regained some strength, head back to your room at the Shelburne NYC, where you can relax and recharge so you can explore another of Manhattan’s unique villages.

(Image credits:Ê Igor Schwarzmann/flickr)

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