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East Village
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tomás Fano

The best things to do in the East Village, NYC

As the birthplace of punk, check out all the badass things to do in the East Village, NYC right now

By David Goldberg and Time Out New York contributors
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Generations of artists from the bohemians to punk-rockers have come of age thanks to all the kick-ass things to do in the East Village. NYC has no shortage of badass destinations, but this nabe excels with its wide-range of jukebox playing dives with excellent happy hours, killer tattoo shops and vintage clothing stores galore. So, where should you start? We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive rundown of the best things to do in the ’hood right now.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the East Village in NYC

Things to do in the East Village, NYC

ggeastvillage25
Photograph: Tia Ryan

1. Museum of the American Gangster

Museums East Village

Bars that call themselves speakeasies might be a popular trend in this city, but learn about the seedy, underground crime that made the phenomenon a reality back in the 1920s during Prohibition. This museum, which is housed in a real former speakeasy at 80 St. Mark's Place, exhibits photographs and illustrations of many of the most famous gangsters of the 20th century as well as the weapons used by mafia members and stories about the lives and heists of these criminals.

Death & Company
Photograph: Beth Levendis

2. Death & Company

Bars Cocktail bars East Village

The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. The barkeeps here are consistently among the city's best, turning out inventive and classic drinks such as the Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff made with floral pisco, St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano.

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Ukrainian Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Ukrainian Museum

3. The Ukrainian Museum

Museums History East Village

Founded in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, this East Village gem features one of the largest collections of Ukrainian art and archival material in the U.S. The museum presents regular gallery talks, concerts and film screenings, as well as traditional folk-art workshops.

4. Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Theater Performing arts space East Village

This 30-year-old community arts center, deep in the heart of the East Village, is known for its long history of raucous poetry slams, jam sessions and anything-goes open mikes.

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5. Tompkins Square Park

Attractions Public spaces East Village

What was once a hotbed of crime and drugs has transformed in the past decade into the crown jewel of the East Village. The 10.5-acre green space underwent a $2.1 million renovation in the ’90s, and the result is a cleaner, greener park—one that's especially dog-friendly, with fenced-off areas for pooches big and small, and three bone-shaped doggy swimming pools. The park also contains several monuments, including an elm tree that serves as a memorial to Hare Krishnas.

Photograph: Yelp

6. Anthology Film Archives

Movie theaters Independent East Village

This red-brick building feels a bit like a fortress—and in a sense, it is one, protecting the legacy of NYC’s fiercest experimenters. Anthology is committed to screening the world’s most adventurous fare, from 16mm found-footage works to digital video dreams. It also houses a gallery and film museum.

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Black Ant
Photograph: Filip Wolak

7. The Black Ant

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Mexican East Village

Remember when your so-called friends dared you to eat a bug in preschool? Reconnect with your inner daredevil and consume tacos and guacamole dusted with grasshoppers, worms and the namesake ant at this Mexican eatery specializing in tribal delicacies. Trust us, the grub is not hard to swallow.

8. Drom

Music East Village

Formerly the dance club Opaline, this space now houses a bar and lounge. Relax in the candlelit front room, or take in live music—sounds range from bossa nova to Romany—in the back area. Raki (an anise-flavored spirit) is on hand, along with tapas and meze.

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9. Caravan of Dreams

Restaurants Vegan East Village

Vegetarians, vegans and raw-foodists, unite! This longtime East Village hangout offers both regular meat-free dishes and “live foods” made from uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Naturally, there are loads of salads and some macrobiotically balanced quinoa-and-seaweed combos.

MOTHER OF PEARL imperial bulldog cocktail
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

10. Mother of Pearl

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars East Village

Get the taste and feel of the beach, minus the sand and surf, at this postmodern Polynesian tiki bar that is known for its Instagrammable Shark Eye cocktail (mixed with passion fruit, lemon, curaçao, bourbon, rye and tiki bitters). It’s served in a shark glass and doused with “blood.” Cue the Jaws theme music.

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Veselka
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

11. Veselka

Restaurants Contemporary European East Village

A throwback to the artsy East Village of decades past, this 24-hour Ukrainian diner is famous for such authentic savory grub as borscht, kielbasa and pierogi. House-made treats like blintzes, rugelach, poppy-seed bread and wheatberry pudding will send your sweet tooth (or toothless sweetie) to heaven.

12. Turntable Lab

Shopping Music and entertainment East Village

Consider yourself vinyl-curious? You’ll feel comfortable flicking through LPs at this nonjudgemental shop at which the owners proudly provide excellent recommendations for amateur record collectors. Check the store’s social pages for news on album-release concerts. Last time we went, we saw indie band the Shacks and drank free beer! 

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The Blind Barber
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

13. The Blind Barber

Bars Lounges East Village

Ella owner Joshua Boyd has teamed up with Adam Kirsch and Jeff Laub (a former manager at Ted Gibson Salon) to open this dual-purpose hair salon and lounge. In the front, an old-timey barbershop provides cuts and shaves for men; a back area is decorated with couches and a bar that serves thematically appropriate cocktails, like the Sweeney Todd (Jameson, lemon juice, honey syrup, grenadineand egg white). If you're hungry, nearby Italian restaurant Gnocco will deliver its Roman-style pizza.

Find more things to do in the East Village

Looking for great restaurants nearby?

Hanoi House
Photograph: Courtesy Hanoi House

Hanoi House

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Vietnamese East Village

Hanoi House from Stephen Starr alums Ben Lowell and Sara Leveen is a perennial favorite with its nod to traditional Vietnamese dishes with some cheffy touches, from a 16-hour broth for the classic beef pho to the filet mignon in the shaking beef. Dining outdoors is not uncommon in Vietnam, and we’re happy to have this option here.

Mister Paradise
Photograph: Courtesy Mister Paradise/Spilled Milk Cocktails

Mister Paradise

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars East Village

While the space is gorgeous, and the cocktails are complex (Party Lobster: blanco tequila, mezcal, Campari, watermelon, lime, fermented habanero and garlic) it is all entirely amusing and accessible—and available to go these days.

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Baar Baar
Photograph: Courtesy Baar Baar

Baar Baar

Restaurants Indian East Village

We love some fun kitsch you can find at Indian restaurants in the East Village but for the Instagrammable shots, we’ll leave it to the spots on First Avenue and Sixth Street. At Baar Baar, you’ll find plenty of outdoor seats to enjoy modern-yet-authentic takes on Indian food served in a fun atmosphere.

Mokyo
Photograph: Courtesy Mokyo

Mokyo

Restaurants East Village

The new-ish restaurant from the team behind the East Village favorite Thursday Kitchen is just as intriguing (save room for a Pop Rock dessert) as its original outpost. Here, tapas are influenced by chef Kyungmin Kay Hyun’s travels to Spain and South America as well as her Korean heritage.

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Kindred
Photograph: Courtesy Kindred/Archer Lewis

Kindred

Restaurants East Village

With the opening of Kindred, the team behind Ruffian now has a larger stage for its smartly curated selection of natural wines. There, the small plates of pastas, salads and bar snacks are complemented by an impressive roster of orange wines from Italy and Slovenia.

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