Madison Square Park

Your guide to the best places to eat, shop and pamper yourself around midtown's revitalized green patch

Park life

At the heart of its eponymous area, Madison Square Park has been central to the neighborhood’s revitalization. Strolling amid the lush lawns and well-kept flower beds, it’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago, this was a neglected, unwelcoming place. The playground bustles with children, dogs gambol in the tidy run, and office workers snatch some sun or gaze at the world-class public art. The renovation of the park and its reinvention as a space for relaxation and culture have been key in changing people’s perception of the surrounding streets from a colorless commercial district to an enticing place to live.

It was certainly a desirable address in the late 19th century. Churchill’s grandfather, Leonard Jerome, built a magnificent mansion at Madison Avenue and 26th Street (since demolished), and high-society novelist Edith Wharton lived nearby. Developing into a thriving business center, it gained such ground-breaking architecture as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower—the city’s tallest structure when it was built in 1909—and the Flatiron Building. Now, many handsome former industrial edifices are morphing into slick residential properties (although, thankfully, a 2001 preservation order protects the character of the ten-block historic district around the park).

Those who move into the freshly minted apartments have all the elements of an enviable lifestyle on their doorstep. The neighborhood is especially rich in restaurants. Danny Meyer has launched five eateries here since the success of his iconic Union Square Cafe, including Shake Shack, his classy take on a park concession stand. But he’s not the only famous tastemaker on the block—Jeffrey Zakarian’s Country and Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles are also nearby. Providing a gritty counterpoint, Koreatown’s jam-packed strip is a buzzing, 24-hour spot for authentic barbecue and, recently, exotic spa treatments.

Residents don’t have to travel far to furnish their pads, as Broadway brims with home-design stores, and food shopping is a pleasure in the Union Square Greenmarket. As well as the roster of events in the park itself, the locale is dotted with excellent music venues and under-the-tour-bus-radar museums, including the expanded Morgan Library. It’s also worth taking the time to appreciate the architectural gems that are overshadowed by showier neighbors, such as the beautifully restored neoclassical Appellate Division courthouse on the east side of the square. Wander into the shady courtyard of the Gothic-style Church of the Transfiguration on 29th Street, which offers a lunchtime concert series, and you can almost believe you’re in an English market town. Then stroll around the corner for a bite at one of the city’s best eateries and be glad you’re not.

Your guide to Madison Square Park:

Food & drink
Arts & entertainment
Mad. world
Health & beauty
Body and Seoul