If you are like us a music fan, movie buff, pizza lover, pop culture afficionado or just an urban rat who loves to roam the streets, Bleecker Street is the street for you. Bleecker Street connects East Village and Bowery with West Village and ends at Abingdon Square. Today it is most famous for the Greenwich Village nightclub district, music venues and comedy clubs but it was once the epicentre for American bohemia and 60s music, and the street starts/ends at one of the icons of punk rock culture, CBGBs. Robert De Niro grew up on Bleecker St, 177A Bleecker Street is the location of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum and Iggy Pop has discussed dying on Bleecker Street in the song “Punk Rocker”. It is safe to say that Bleecker Street is the major artery in New York’s pop cultural pulse.
Where to start?
Our walk starts in the east and the Bowery district. Easiest way is to take the Subway B D F or M to Broadway-Lafayette St and then walk east on Houston St, then do a left on Bowery and you will have Bleecker Street on your left after 1 block.
Before you set off to the west down the street, cross Bowery to the east and visit the old site of CBGBs, the most infamous rock club in New York, and perhaps the world. CBGB OMFUG (Country, BlueGrass and Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers) club was opened in 1973. It soon became the melting pot for new wave and punk rock New York bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie and Talking Heads.
It was a small hole in the wall sweatbox of a club, and their toilet was infamous. The number of great bands that played that small venue is mindboggling. The Police played their first US gig there, Elvis Costello, Misfits, Television, Joan Jett and the Beastie Boys to name a few also played there. The venue closed on October 15th 2006 after Patti Smith had played the last show at CBGBs, it was a great loss to the music world. The venue today holds an upmarket Rock n Roll clothes shop by John Varvatos. Luckily, they have kept the wall decorations of old posters, flyers, and gob from countless punks.
Overthrow Boxing Club
A very cool façade and entrance to the Overthrow Boxing club at number 9 Bleecker Street with some fine murals next to the building. There are several nice old school Federal architecture houses between number 7 to 13 and 21 to 25 Bleecker Street. There used to be a mission at number 21 and 29 that provided a home for “fallen women”, attempting to reform prostitutes and unwed pregnant women around the turn of the 19th century. Look for the writing above the door at number 21 that bear the lettering “Florence Night Mission”.
Continuing east you cross Lafayette St, Broadway and Mercer Street before you get some rather large and imposing blocks on your right hand. This is the bottom end of New York University apartment blocks and the campus itself expands north towards Washington Square park. You are now entering the fabled Greenwich Village. La Guardia Place has some nice outdoor eateries on the left side of Bleecker. No 152 Bleecker Street is the former location of the Café Au Go Go, a Greenwich Village nightclub located in the basement of the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre building in the late 1960s.
The club featured many of the biggest names in music and entertainment between the opening in February 1964 until closing in December 1970. The Grateful Dead had their New York debut at the club and continued to play no less than 10 times in 1967 and 3 in 1969. Other music legends who played there were among many Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, Muddy Waters, Howlin` Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Cream, The Yardbirds and The Doors (what a club!). Further across Thompson and Sullivan St the number of pubs, bars and restaurants increase.
Where Bleecker crosses MacDougal Street you should take a short detour north up MacDougal street. The amount of old and famous watering holes, cafes, and clubs in the few blocks up to Washington Square park is the stuff of legends. At the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal at No 93 is the former site of the San Remo Café, the heart of the bohemian movement. This was the hangout of luminaries like William S. Burroughs, Miles Davis, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollock and Dylan Thomas just to name a few. Imagine!
Bob Dylan owned an apartment at No 94. Dylan also made his debut at famed Café Wha? At No 115, also famous for Jimi Hendrix playing some of his first gigs here. Other acts that played concerts at Café Wha? Includes Bruce Springsteen and The Velvet Underground. The Comedy Cellar at No 117 has featured every name in comedy and is still going strong. Café Reggio at No 119 has been a coffeehouse since 1927 and has been featured in many movies including The Godfather Part II. Left on West 3rd St is the famous jazz joint Blue Note.
Washington Square Park
We would suggest walking as far as Washington Square park, our favourite small park in New York. The south western corner is occupied by chess hustlers. Keep walking into the square in the middle of the park and look at the Washington Square Arch and the view through the arch up 5th Avenue. The arch has been used in movies and in the intro for the Friends sitcom series.
Continuing west on Bleecker Street we recommend a cup of espresso at Porto Rico Importing Co. they have been pushing the caffeine high since 1907. Crossing 6th Avenue, the street veers off in a more northernly direction into West Village. Sit down with your espresso at Father Demo Square, an Italian style piazza great for people watching.
Bleecker Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue with side streets is a small foodies paradise. A plethora of cool restaurants, delis, and takeaway joints. Drool at the Italian sweet goodness at Pasticceria Rocco. Murrays Mac and Cheese which does exactly what is says on the façade, serve delish mac and cheese. Faiccos Italian Specialties with their sandwiches filled with home made sausanges and other assorted artisan meats. Next door is Trattoria Pesce Pasta with great outdoor seating. And next door to that is another Murrays, namely Murrays Cheese Bar. And if you fancy some great oysters, do a right down Cornelia Street to Pearl Oyster bar. Further down Bleecker Street is the pizza institution of Johns of Bleecker Street, serving pizza to New York since 1929. And our favourite small hole in the wall pizza place is on the corner of 7th Avenue, Bleecker Street Pizza. Delish cheap pizza with some inside dining on respatex tables, if you cannot find a place, grab a takeaway slice and find a place to sit outside and enjoy one of the best slices of pie in New York.
Past 7th Avenue Bleecker Street changes content again and turns in to a shopper’s paradise. Lots of cool small independent upmarket clothes shops. At the intersection of Perry street, you can walk down the street to the east and see Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment entrance at Perry Street No 64 known from the hugely popular and very New York series Sex and the City. On the corner of Bleecker Street and West 11th lies the well-known Magnolia Bakery.
Thank you, Bleecker Street!
At 8th Avenue it is all over. Bleecker Street ends and turns into Hudson Street at Abingdon Square. No big fanfare or disco lights, it just ends just as abruptly as it started in Bowery. The distance is no more than 1,1 miles (less that 2 kilometres) but it is jam packed with all that makes New York tick. For us it is the ultimate New York street, combining popular culture, food, drinks and sights in a spectacular way. The best of all is when Bleecker Street ends you are only 3 blocks from another great area with some great sights, The Meatpacking District and one of the coolest walks in the world, The Highline.