New York University

West Village, Chelsea & Meatpacking District

In 1831 Albert Gallatin, formerly Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson, founded an intimate center of higher learning open to all students, regardless of race or class background. He’d scarcely recognize the place today, as it’s swelled to a student population of around 50,000, with more than 16,000 employees, and schools and colleges at six Manhattan locations.

It just keeps growing, too – to the dismay of landmark activists and business owners, who have seen buildings rapidly bought out by the academic giant (or destroyed through careless planning, such as with the historic Province­town Playhouse) and replaced with ugly dormitories or administrative offices. Still, some of its crevices are charming, such as the leafy courtyard at its School of Law, or impressively modern, like the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, where top-notch dance, theater, music, spoken-word and other performances wow audiences at the 850-seat theater.

NYU’s academic offerings are highly regarded and wide-ranging, especially its film, theater, writing, medical and law programs. For a unique experience that will put you on the fast track to meeting locals, sign up for a weekend or one-day class – from American history to photography – offered by the School of Professional Studies and Continuing Education, and open to all.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby West Village, Chelsea & Meatpacking District attractions

1. Washington Square Park

0.13 MILES

This former potter’s field and square for public executions is now the unofficial town square of Greenwich Village, hosting lounging NYU students, tuba…

2. Merchant's House Museum

0.24 MILES

Built in 1832 and purchased by merchant Seabury Tredwell three years later, this red-brick mansion remains the most authentic Federal house in town. It's…

3. Cooper Union Building

0.28 MILES

The large brownstone Cooper Union is a private college offering degrees in architecture, fine arts and engineering; it was founded by glue millionaire…

4. Astor Place

0.28 MILES

Even with the Alamo, an iconic piece of public art more often referred to as 'The Cube,' restored after several years absence, this is not the Astor Place…

5. Grace Church

0.28 MILES

This Gothic Revival Episcopal church, designed in 1843 by James Renwick Jr, was made of marble quarried by prisoners at ‘Sing Sing,’ the state…

6. 41 Cooper Square

0.29 MILES

This state-of-the-art academic building, which opened in 2009, was designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne. One of the more eye-catching…

7. Salmagundi Club

0.33 MILES

Far removed from the flashy Chelsea gallery scene, the Salmagundi Club features several gallery spaces focusing on representational American art set in a…

8. New York Earth Room

0.33 MILES

Since 1980 the oddity of the New York Earth Room, the work of artist Walter De Maria, has been wooing the curious with something not easily found in the…