New York City has roughly 280 neighborhoods, some tiny (Koreatown), others stretching for 50 blocks (Upper West Side). Disagreements about neighborhood boundaries abound, but in a city as eminently walkable as New York, neighborhoods run together. Head downtown to wander around Nolita and Soho with our guide on to where to eat, drink, shop, and sleep. Bon voyage!
Where To Go
Museum of Chinese in America
Just north of Chinatown, at the southern end of Soho, it this museum dedicated to Chinese American history, culture, and experiences in the US. Exhibitions might showcase Chinese opera costumes, look at racism against Asian in the US, or present thousands of wonderful vintage photos documenting Chinese American heritage. Check the calendar for readings, drawing classes, and kids' events. $12
The Drawing Center
All manner of drawings from global artists are exhibited here in a mid-19th century cast iron loft building with handsome Corinthian columns. Work ranges from the contemporary, like He Xiangyu's trippy Palate Wonder, to an Albrecht Dürer woodcut from 1521. Free admission
Leslie Lohman Museum of Art
In another well-columned mid-19th-century building in western Soho is this small museum dedicated to art by LGBTQI+ artists. Video and sound installations, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and photos fill two exhibition spaces. Suggested donation: $10
Jeffrey Deitch Galleries
Adjacent galleries showcasing vibrant shows like Tokyo Pop Underground—Japanese contemporary art from the '60s to the present— and Alake Shilling's The Hippest Trip in America, inspired by the American TV show Soul Train. Free admission
Where To Eat
Look beyond Americanized standbys and go for dishes with flavors that are fully realized. Classic-meets-comfort in the laab, featuring fried, not ground, chicken; or turkey- and mushroom-stuffed cabbage with a fragrant broth. Breakfast runs all day, so indulge in the Thai tea French toast; or for that matter, the beverage carte, which is yet another sample of this team's resourcefulness. Lunch and dinner daily
Dinner here might kick off with perfect, sashimi-grade tuna accompanied by woodsy black trumpet mushrooms and elevated by a smooth and tart mirin-soy sauce. Your meal may then hit a crescendo, thanks to dramatically plated fried arroz negro scattered with tender squid and hazelnut-studded romesco. A soft and custard-y panna cotta decked out with vinegar, honey and smoked sea salt brings this enticing series of events to an exalted end. Dinner only Mon-Fri; weekends lunch + dinner
Locals know to stick to such faithful and deeply satisfying dishes as nasi lemak, which is a delightful combo of coconut rice, pickled veggies, crispy anchovies, curried chicken and hard-boiled egg. Mee siam spotlights noodles stir-fried with tofu and shrimp in a chili sauce that puts all other versions to shame, while coconut batter-fried jumbo prawns are nothing short of wow! Lunch and dinner daily
Your plate here might unveil Asian ingredients cleverly weaved into classic Italian flavors—think of a rice cake lasagna with savory sausage, cabbage and tomato sauce. Small plates, like fried pizzette topped with shiso-sunflower pesto, squash shavings and chili oil, are ideal for sharing. Following their beverage program, desserts like Yakult soft-serve with roasted strawberries and chicken-skin streusel flaunt an equally inventive twist. Dinner only Mon-Fri; weekends lunch + dinner
Where To Take A Break
Elizabeth Street Garden
This small community sculpture garden began life as a concrete schoolyard. In 1991, an antiques dealer leased the space and began planting it and showcasing his wares outdoors. Today the garden is lush, a quiet, green oasis in Nolita. Sit in the shade or sun, on benches or chairs, and enjoy a rare slice of tranquility in downtown Manhattan, NB: The garden is volunteer-run and open only when it's at least 45°F/7°C. No bathroom.
A small playground with climbing equipment, sprinklers, and a handful of benches and tables. NB: No bathroom.
This paved triangle just south of Spring St. 6 station has a dozen benches, many in the shade, and is a good spot to give your legs a short break. NB: No bathroom
Climbing equipment, swings (baby and kid), and basketball courts make this a favorite of neighborhood kids. There are a handful of benches and tables, decent shade, and a fairly clean bathroom. A small, clean pool is open in July and August.
Father Fagan Park
Nicely-shaded stretch of concrete at the western edge of Soho with plenty of benches. NB: No bathroom
Spring Street Park
A block south of Father Fagan park is this very similar triangle with plenty of shade and benches. NB: No bathroom
Felix Roasting Co.
A very pretty and spacious café with 60 seats indoors and roughly 30 outside. The interior is lovely and feminine, done up mostly in teal and pink (velvet sofas and poufs, a terrazzo floor, hand-painted wallpaper with a flowering Arabica plant pattern).
Bluestone Lane Bowery Café
Ample seating, sunlight, and a very tall fiddle-leaf fig make this a solid pace to get some caffeine and rest your feet.
Where To Shop
Soho is New York's shopping mecca, with block after block filled with shops. All the big names are here, from ready to wear chains (Uniqlo, Madewell, Aritzia) to cult-favorites like Supreme, Maje, and Everlane and dozens of upscale designer boutiques.
Get lost in the stacks at this Nolita bookstore. Fiction and non-fiction new and older, tons of cookbooks, hefty art books, travel guides, and an array of magazines, many indie and imported, fill the shelves here.
You'll know the entrance to this French export by the queue of girls and women eager to try on Sezane's flowy dresses and blouses, boho in style but bobo in price. This is the brand's only store in the US and prices are marked up quite a bit from France, but that hasn't stemmed the steady flow of eager shoppers.
Upmarket womenswear—Jesse Kamm overalls, Ichi Antiquites sweaters—and home goods like candles from LA-based Le Feu De L'Eau and Saipua soap made in upstate New York.
Striped canvas drawstring pants, a red-and-white short-sleeve blockprint shirt, and a space-dye cardigan are among the offerings at this menswear store.
MoMA Design Store
A smaller version of the shop at the museum, the downtown outpost sells postcards and posters of the museum's paintings, tote bags, puzzles, stationery, and small design-y home goods like kettles and espresso cups.
Charming, nicely curated kids' shop selling all manner of contemporary books—RBG, NYC, and color board books—wooden toys, dolls, and unisex clothing with whimsical prints and in stripes and gingham. Much of the clothing is designed and made by owner Thuy Diep.
Where To Stay
Crosby Street Hotel
A hotel like Crosby Street is exactly what this city needs—a smallish, intimate, service-oriented, decidedly high-end offering. The contrast between the downtown grit of the cobblestone street outside and the plush sophistication of the hotel’s lobby is immediate, and striking. Where so many hotels skew minimalist, founder and interior designer Kit Kemp's rooms are bright, welcoming, and warm. Open the door to a room bursting with color—upholstered headboards in red, say, against red, blue, and green floral wallpaper, with blue pillows and bench. Armchairs and soft, couches you actually want to sink into are in all manner of patterns—floral, striped, houndstooth. Add in floor-to-ceiling windows that you can actually open (but that are entirely soundproof), a lovely garden, and marble baths, and it's a wonder anyone can pull themselves away from the sumptuous rooms. Ease your transition out of the hotel and into the streets of Soho with a languid breakfast on the secluded terrace. NB: To access the basement restroom, enter through the restaurant and go all the way downstairs.
The Nolitan Hotel
The 57 rooms here are sleek and contemporary with a touch of industrial roughness, mixing raw concrete and textured wood with smooth metal and glass and modernist-inspired furniture. Some have balconies, others have views of the Williamsburg Bridge from their corner windows, and though prices are reasonable for the neighborhood, with rooms under $300, all come with boutique-hotel must-haves like rain showers and bedside reading lamps. Quietly stylish and tastefully executed, the Nolitan makes the most of an excellent location, and offers not just bikes for getting around the neighborhood but skateboards as well, if that’s more your speed.
How To Get To Soho and Nolita
There are loads of Citibike docks in Soho and Nolita, and bike lanes on many of the streets.
Soho and Nolita are very well connected. The four main subway stations are: Prince St. (N, R, W); Broadway-Lafayette (B, D, F, M and connected to 6 at Bleecker St); Spring St. (6); and Spring St. (C, E), at the western edge of Soho.
Hero image: Spring Street. Photo by Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company