NYC’s Meatpacking District, sandwiched between Chelsea and the West Village on Manhattan’s west side, has experienced plenty of change on its way to fashionable status. Though small—just a handful of blocks bordered by Hudson, Gansevoort, West and 14th Streets—the area is rich in history and vibrant in personality, with shoppers, foodies and partygoers zipping across its cobblestone streets.
Its name comes from the hundreds of meat processors, butchers and packaging plants that inhabited the area in the early 1900s. With the rise in supermarkets and decline in consumers going directly to butchers for meat, the neighborhood fell on hard times, but the transition gave way to a burgeoning nightlife scene. Eventually major fashion designers found a home here, followed by some of the best restaurants, retailers and chicest New Yorkers and visitors.
Remnants of the industrial-era footprint can be seen in the cobblestone streets and architecture of the remaining warehouses and plants—few of which are still actively in use for their original intention, having been repurposed as storefronts, offices and homes. But there’s also plenty of current reasons to go, including outdoor green spaces, great eats, arts and fashion, and thriving markets. Read on to plan your time in the district.
Where to Stay
Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC is a chic, 186-room hotel situated in the heart of the area and a prime spot for exploring the lower west side of Manhattan—or even up to Midtown. As the first upscale hotel in the Meatpacking District, opened in 2004, the Gansevoort has established itself as a hangout for local creatives and businesspeople, especially in dining spaces such as the indoor-outdoor Chester bistro and the hotel’s Coffee + Cocktails lounge. The entire hotel, including rooms, common areas and bar spaces, recently underwent a renovation with new designs and furnishings including each room being equipped with a Google Nest Hub and fitness mirror.
The hotel is decorated with modern art, reflective of the creative community that is known to frequent the area. Select rooms and the rooftop bars (yes, there is more than one) offer unobstructed views of the Hudson River, as does the heated pool, which also allows for 360-degree views of Manhattan.
There’s a wide variety of dining options in the area, from high end to casual and encompassing all sorts of cuisines. The upscale RH Rooftop feels like a fancy living room, equipped with crystal chandeliers and luxury furniture from home outfitter Restoration Hardware. Offerings include a warm lobster roll, shrimp cocktail, burgers and truffle fries.
Pastis is a popular all-day bistro that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a corner of Paris. Highlights include oysters, steak frites, sticky toffee pudding and vanilla crème brûlée. Request a corner booth for a cozy, tucked-away experience.
For Asian fusion, Buddakan is a Meatpacking go-to. The dim lighting and moody music set the tone for an exhilarating food and cocktail adventure. Try the oxtail dumplings, one of their many variations of fried rice, some Peking duck rolls and pork buns—among the best in the City.
Catch is another neighborhood favorite, specializing in seafood and steak dishes. Go for any of their assortments of sushi, the grilled branzino or a filet mignon.
If want a smorgasbord of a meal or are dining out with folks who each crave something different, Chelsea Market is the way to go. Choose from some of the best tacos in NYC at No. 1 Los Tacos, freshly made mini doughnuts from Doughnuttery, Num Pang Vietnamese sandwiches (the pulled pork, catfish and brisket varieties are all worth trying) and so much more. The market also offers shopping, art displays and music.
Many infamous bars and clubs came and went through the Meatpacking District’s nightlife peak in the 1990s and 2000s. Although the area has much more going on than a club scene, there are still great opportunities for a two-step or a nightcap. Streetwear and lifestyle outlet Sneakers N Stuff created SNS Bar as an extension of their brand. The bar offers an eclectic mix of music and drinks—with happy hour every day from 9 to 11pm—and patrons who come dressed to be seen. For a more laid-back environment, head to Brass Monkey, a sprawling bar with an array of beers and a roof deck.
Many local and international designers and retailers have made a home in the Meatpacking District, making it a prime shopping destination in the City; in fact, there 40 or so clothing stores alone to choose from. For luxury shopping, check out Hermès and Rolex stores. Big names such as Christian Louboutin, Marni and Maison Margiela, sleepwear boutiques like Eberjey and NYC brands such as Intermix are all reasons why shoppers make their way to the area. Diane von Furstenberg has a store in the Meatpacking District, and DVF Studio Headquarters sits above it on Washington Street. Tech enthusiasts can find Apple, Google and Tesla showrooms in the neighborhood.
The High Line is an elevated park that stretches from Gansevoort Street up to West 33rd Street, at the edge of Hudson Yards. Built on an abandoned rail line, the High Line is full of well-maintained gardens, fountains and seating areas, some of it with direct views of the Hudson River.
A stone’s throw from the Gansevoort Street entrance of the High Line is the Whitney Museum of American Art, one of the top institutions in the US for 20th century and contemporary art. There is always an exciting exhibit to check out, whether drawing from the permanent collection—which has around 30 works from realist painter Edward Hopper—or showing new pieces by emerging artists. The Whitney also has a rooftop deck with stunning city views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
Off the West Side Highway on Pier 55 (at West 13th Street), you’ll see an unusual collection of giant grassy pods sticking up from the Hudson. This green oasis is Little Island, a public park that is the perfect setting for a picnic, relaxing and daydreaming by the water or, especially during warmer months, enjoying free programming including concerts and other performances. Be sure to check out their website for event info.