Union Square

Culture / Landmark / Outdoor Activity / Park / Shopping Area / Square
Union Square With its famous chess tables dotting 14th Street and its alternative artistic vibe, Union Square has been one of Manhattan's defining cultural landmarks since the 1800s when it was the site for union rallies. New York United States 40.735133 -73.991139
3.89 25
Union Square - Culture | Landmark | Outdoor Activity | Park | Shopping Area | Square in New York.
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Party Earth Review With its famous chess tables dotting 14th Street and its alternative artistic vibe, Union Square has been one of Manhattan’s defining cultural landmarks since the 1800s when it was the site for union rallies. Now a favorite... ... read full review

  • Subway:

    4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R: 14th Street-Union Square

  • Phone:

    212-460-1200

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    Perimeter 24/7, park daily 6am–midnight

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot

Party Earth Union Square Review

The Scene

With its famous chess tables dotting 14th Street and its alternative artistic vibe, Union Square has been one of Manhattan's defining cultural landmarks since the 1800s when it was the site for union rallies.

With its famous chess tables dotting 14th Street and its alternative artistic vibe, Union Square has been one of Manhattan’s defining cultural landmarks since the 1800s when it was the site for union rallies.

Now a favorite with NYU students and local lunching workers, the park offers plenty of conversation pieces and people-watching in the form of rotating art exhibits, historical statues, and a motley crowd that includes everyone from elderly chess players to punkish skateboarders.

Concrete steps around the perimeter lead up to the park’s elevated center and its patches of green and weaving paths, while at plaza level, tourists and strollers stop to watch street performers and drummers, peruse the wares of street vendors, or contemplate the enigmatic public artwork “Metronome,” a building-size art installation at the south end of the park.

Four times a week, the popular Greenmarket draws a bustling crowd of young professionals and residents eager to snatch up fresh produce and baked goods from local suppliers.

From the neighborhood dog run and morning yoga classes to live music and book signings, Union Square offers visitors a wide array of sights and activities to keep them occupied for a few hours – not to mention plenty of area bars and restaurants, such as Lillie's, to duck into for a little refreshment.

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Tip from Emma:

This may be the best place to grab regional organic and fresh produce in the city. It’s worth a trip for the tomatoes alone!

  • Crowd

    Local hipsters, skateboarders, young professionals, NYU students, alternative types, artists, musicians, jugglers, and older chess players, all ages.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Chess tables on the 14th Street side. Local art vendors, historical statues, art exhibits, jugglers, and street performers.

    Greenmarket featuring local produce, foods, and baked goods Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 8am–6pm.

    Activities in collaboration with local businesses include Sunshine Yoga, LIVE music events, and literary events. Many restaurants, bars, and retail stores bordering the park. Several theaters in the area featuring Off-Broadway shows. Free Wi-Fi.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Bars and restaurants include eateries like Au Bon Pain (10 Union Square East) and Chipotle (864 Broadway), restaurants like Havana Central (22 East 17th Street) and Basta Pasta (3 West 17th Street), upscale dining like Tocqueville (1 East 15th Street) and Union Square Café (21 East 16th Street), and casual bars like Heartland Brewery (35 Union Square West).

    Street vendors and food carts.

  • Prices

    Vary by venue/activity.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Anything goes.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Weekend afternoons for a bustling, energetic crowd, or Greenmarket days.

  • Close By

    The W Hotel (201 Park Avenue South) just above the park is a great place to relax with a breezy cocktail at their Living Room Lounge or to splurge on a fancy dinner at Olives.

Union Square User Reviews

Average rating:
Evenings in Union Square
Garima S. Jul 31, 2013
I got a Summer internship in the City near Union Square. So, I come to 14-St Union Square everyday from all the way in Queens. It's a long journey, but worth it when your last stop is Union Square. Here, everyday is a new day. You can experience everything in a bit, from Hare Krishna Hare Rama singing folks to crazy stunt men riding on skateboards to guitarists and bands playing all kinds of music to relaxing at the stairs watching the crowd, feeling a part of the crowd. If you are looking forward to a fun evening, finding what NYC offers in the summer, then this place could be a good start.
Crazy Outfits, Street Performers, and Everything Else You Expect Out of New York!
Timothy D. Jun 23, 2013
Want to see a man dressed in every shade of the rainbow talk to himself while dancing to the music in his head? Or perhaps would you like to see a street performer jump over five 9 year olds lined up next to each other for a crowd of enthusiastic on lookers? No matter if you are looking to buy some well hand-crafted jewelry, or just play a game of chess with someone you have just met, Union Square is the place for you. Found on 14th street (off the 4,5 and 6 line), Union Square is the place the tourist are not told about. It is a gem held tightly in the palm of all New Yorkers. It is here where you will find some of the futures' best musicians, singers, poets, artist, dancers, and all other types of artistic mediums. It is located smack in the middle of several great spots such as Forever 21, DSW, Barnes and Noble, the Strand, and a cornucopia of bars and restaurants for your choosing. If you truly want to feel the pulse of this city I suggest you take a trip to Union Square. It is where the heart of Manhattan lives.
YOUNG HIP AND RELATABLE!
Melvin B. Jun 4, 2013
Growing up I was never really allowed to explore New York city, I lived in Brooklyn and thats all I knew. When i started college I decided to dive straight into the New York scene and one place that seemed to be popular around my age group was Union Square. I finally decided to go and check it out, as soon as I stepped out of the train station I was floored by everything going on. I felt like one of those tourist who are so amazed by the bright lights of Time Square. There were street performers everywhere I turned and a group of high school kids offering free hugs. I fell in love instantly, New York is known for its not so friendly environment yet this place was so welcoming and enjoyable. Everyone sat around the steps of the park with their own individual groups and even though everyone didn't know each other it just felt like a huge hangout. Union square is definitely one of those places you would want to hang out from morning to midnight.
A Wonderful Place for Street Photography
Tina N. May 18, 2013
I love photography, especially street photography, and taking candids. The Union Square area and park present wonderful opportunites for photography and so much more. Your able to reach this area located around 14th Street by subway. The area is always bustling with lots of people and activity. There are vendors selling all types of goods and artwork in the park. There is a wonderful farmers market several days a week that has a wide variety of goods from vegetable, flowers, wine, cookies, meats, etc... There is usually some type of entertainment in the park to watch. I have seen dancers, singers, skateboarders, etc.... There are many benches in this park and some shaded areas too. Makes it nice for relaxation and people watching. Union Square Park is surrounded by streets filled with restaurants, clothing and shoe shops, and bars. Definitely a place to check out when in NYC.
The Park For Real New Yorkers
Johnny H. Apr 30, 2013
Union Square is without a doubt the greatest hangout spot in Manhattan, if not New York City as a whole. It's spacious, green, and almost completely devoid of tourists. Its fantastic location puts it in the middle of several great spots in the area such as Barnes and Noble, the Strand, and more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at (not that you would, because for the most part they're all amazing). The Union Square Greenmarket takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday between 8 and 6, and it's easily accessible by several subway lines. Events of all shapes and sizes take place in Union Square very frequently, and they really is something for everyone, no matter when you decide to go visit. Between the shopping, sightseeing, eating and drinking opportunities available in the surrounding area, there really is no better way to describe Union Square than to call it the central hub of the Chelsea and East Village areas, along with many others. It's the perfect place to start or end your day, and there's always something to do. My recommendation would be to visit the Square to experience it for yourself, whether you're a New Yorker or just visiting, because there's no way to put into words the fantastic feeling you get from stepping into Union Square, knowing that in that moment, your options are essentially limitless.
New York Without the Tourists
Nicole N. Apr 16, 2013
My absolute favorite place to hangout, it isn't populated with tourists which is such a nice break from Central Park. There are always people selling art or local/organic foods, performing, or raising awareness for a cause. The surrounding area has a ton of great restaurants and shops as well as food carts. While standing in the square you can see a Barnes & Noble, a Forever 21, DSW, and a ton of smaller shops. There are always events happening here and it is just a great feel for what New York life is.
A Green Place Entirely for Relaxation
Regina B. Apr 6, 2013
Union Square is a place for everyone, especially those with downtime between classes, work or events in NYC. The park itself is a breeding ground for lively, free activities and draws in crowds of all stereotypes and age groups. Associated with a rich history that helped shape the vibe of the city and the creative use of chess tables along its perimeters, Union Square has become a place to enjoy a falafel from the local food cart on a sunny afternoon lunch break or watch alternative artists perform original compositions and the old classics. The dedication of the park as a base for local produce and organic environments bring together the important cause of buying locally rather than purchasing exported products. One of my favorite annual events that has been hosted at Union Square in the past in Pillow Fight Day, a worldwide day where people literally bash one another with pillows. When at Union Square, the police close the four blocks around the park and let the feathers fly. If you're looking for a more substantial meal than those offered by street vendors, there are many, many restaurants in the park area - a personal favorite being Max Brenner, a delicious place offering entrees, desserts, and drinks of any specimen of chocolate. Additionally, if you fell in love with the area during a quick lunch break, there is plenty of nightlife to enjoy, especially in the off - Broadway theaters and the intimate space of the Joyce Theater, which brings in international and local dance companies for very affordable performances. So spend a minute basking in the sun or exploring the hustle and bustle of this hipster area, or make an evening of it by attending one of the many performance venues and grabbing drinks.
A Small Oasis in a Concrete Jungle
Isaiah N. Mar 20, 2013
One of the more under-appreciated spots in Manhattan to discover, Union Square boasts a great deal of greenery and relaxing spots where you can unwind from the hustle and bustle zooming by around it. Concrete paths wind through the trees and benches of the central island but Unions Square is more than just a walk in the park. The unmistakable steps of Unions Square constantly host a number of attractions, from break-dancing street performers to the annual Union Square Holiday Market, a treasure trove of small booths run by local sellers and artists specially set up for the holiday season. Also surrounded by some of the best retail spots in the city, including its massive Barnes and Noble and 14-auditorium movie theater, Union Square is a great are to do a few hours of window shopping or simply a relaxing afternoon of reading in the park. Definitely one of the less tourist-crowded areas, it's a perfect stop for both locals and tourists alike.
If you don't know what to do in NY, come here!
Sam D. Mar 1, 2013
Oftentimes when tourists come to New York, they visit all the big tourist sites, but neglect to experience the best of New York. Union Square is that best part. A truly unique atmosphere filled with great places to eat and fun things to do. Of particular note is the large Barnes and Nobles there, which can be a great place to spend an afternoon reading books and purchasing them. In terms of food, lots of diners and coffeehouses in the area. My favorite thing about Union Square is the street fairs, however, which are comprised of tons of booths with everything from jewelry to curiosity stores.
Produce and People
Giuseppe C. Feb 28, 2013
If I have a default “I’ll just hang out here today and see what happens” place in New York, it is definitely Union Square. As a transplant, I find that Union Square is almost exactly what I always thought New York was all about. It’s full of people -- young people, professional people, kids on skateboards, panhandlers, chess players, and just about every other iteration of people you could imagine. It’s surrounded by shops and restaurants, including a personal favorite of mine: a gargantuan Barnes and Noble. And it’s got a certain vibe about it that goes something like “here there be life, with all its quirky imperfections.” NYU students giving out “free hugs,” or seemingly homeless people playing guitar exist in Union Square among voracious shoppers and young professionals, giving it an incongruous, almost poetic quality. I like to sit on a bench here by the statue of Gandhi and just watch all of this happen. It makes me happy. If you’re not in the people watching mood, though, there’s more: including a fantastic outdoor organic farmer’s market offering up wonderful and diverse selections of cheeses and honeys and vegetables and just about anything else that the mindful consumer in you could imagine buying. I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t what brought me to Union Square in the first place, which I suppose would be the beginning of my overall feelings about the place -- I came for the produce, but I stayed for the people.
Really depends on the day!
Angela L. Jan 11, 2013
Your experience of Union Square really depends on the day you visit. (Well, okay, in the City, that's true of almost anywhere...cold and rainy days make everywhere look miserable.) During the winter season, it is a wonderful place to visit because a spiraling maze of little stalls and gift shops are set up. You can wander, literally, for hours, crushed against other shoppers, looking at intricate little knickknacks, hand-knit mittens and scarves and all kinds of organic or local food products. In the summer, the farmer market runs on alternative mornings, but by the afternoon it has usually cleared and there is not much to see. Every other morning there are some artists gathered selling paintings or photographs, but that can also be found in various other places randomly scattered throughout the city, so it's not that unique. The food trucks that line the Square in the afternoon change a little from day-to-day, and are always very tempting!
I always want to stay
Katie G. Dec 12, 2012
I am always by passing through Union Square for one reason or another, and I never get a chance to stay. But I always want to! Union Square has these great stores and shops and if I had an endless supply of money, I could stay there forever! It is always busy, but not in an "over-crowded" sense. It makes me love the city every time I pass through there because the people seem to be more pleasant, and I'm telling you, the shops are tempting!!! One day I will stay...
union square is awesome!!
Elyse H. Dec 11, 2012
This square is amazing! There’s always something going on. I love the Whole Foods here. It’s an amazing place to grab lunch or some healthy snack, and the Metronome is a really cool art installation, if kinda existential!! A lot of NYU students choose this as their local, so there are some fancy bars on the square and a seafood restaurant that’s really amazing for date nights. The subway stop here also has lots of lines so meeting up here for journeys makes a lot of sense. The greenmarket also has really awesome stands!! Definitely go here!
Hang out here
Tara R. Dec 7, 2012
Union Square was a favorite of NYU students, myself included, and a perfect meeting-up point to jump on the subway. The green is sparse, but the wifi makes it a draw anyway, and when has lack of green space stopped a New Yorker? The Greenmarket goers can visit Whole Foods on the days the market isn’t set up, and the budget-inclined get Trader Joe’s. If you can handle corporate booksellers, the Barnes and Noble is actually a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Between the chess players and the skateboarders, Union Square is quirky and fun, even if no one quite gets what’s up with Metronome.
Union Square
Jaclyn W. Dec 4, 2012
I've been going to Union Square since I was in middle school and it never gets old. I loved it so much I even lived in the area for a while. What's there not to like? You have shopping in every direction from Trader Joe's to Whole Foods (for groceries) to a huge Forever 21, all of Fifth Avenue one block away and food trucks for miles. Stop by Mud Coffee or Coolhaus if you get the chance! They are awesome street grub examples. Also, the holiday market here is great because they bring in local food from the villages as well as from Brooklyn. The craftsmanship of some of the items such as jewelry or jams are unique and artsy. I love the green market down here. It's so cheap compared to the bodegas in the area! It also has unusual items like purple carrots and persimmons. There are ranges of people from skateboarders to tourists to chess players and Occupy Wall Street even featured one of their movements here for a long time. I heard drum circles all night from my apartment on 12th. The area is just awesome in general. The park has plenty of benches to sit on or stairs. It's easy to get to because both east and west side trains converge here as well as the L. It's a good meeting spot and it's fun to people watch. Union Square will always feel like home to me in the city.
Amazing
Sydnie S. Dec 2, 2012
I LOVE Union Square. I never know what to expect when coming into this area. There are always new shops and new restaurants that I want to try. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to do everything that I want here! This is definitely one of my favorite spots to visit when I come into the city. The nightlife is always happening and there are great shops located around the neighborhood. I've had some great cupcakes at The Spot and always enjoy the $1 Pizza stand. I recommend that you walk around this area with a group of friends because it can get a little sketchy late at night.
Funky, fresh
Chris K. Nov 26, 2012
Once on the seedy side of things, Union Square has become a serious center of New York City that still appeals to both its polished and grungy denizens. Major stores like the Shoe Mart and Century 21 can be found side-by-side next to neighborhood staples like Forbidden Planet and Halloween Adventure, just as the steps by the subway station are mobbed with both crust punks on skateboards and preppy NYU students enjoying outdoor lunches. During rush hour, the sheer amount of people can be more than a little overwhelming, but once you find your place among the crowds they're equally navigated. Also, let's be honest, who doesn't like the Heartland Brewery? A little touristed-out, yeah, but them burgers are dynamite.
Great Meeting Spot
Risa C. Nov 22, 2012
Though not a place I've ever headed to just to say "Hey let's hang out in Union Square!" it's a great location to meet up before heading to do other things. Home to rotating seasonal markets like the Holiday Market in the winter or farmers markets in the summer or pop up craft fairs, it's a great place to pass through, especially if your friends tend to be late and leave you waiting for extended periods of time. There are also quite a few stores in the area and it's central location is close to lots of shopping and restaurants. And if you like people watching, there are always quite a few characters strolling through, not to mention skaters practicing tricks on the steps.
Where it's at
David G. Sep 29, 2012
Go to Union Square! Union Square has it all. You can watch street performers, grab a drink at any number of the surrounding bars, there's shopping, movie theaters, performance art, museums, even medical care. On top of that there's incredible convenient transit access for Manhattan-ites, Brooklyn-ites, and Queens dwellers as well. Although the square itself has nothing to truly offer other than people watching and a great place to meet. It's an incredible place to meet up. PLEASE NOTE- one thing to be aware is that although I consider this place safe, I have had people try to pick pocket me here. Have fun and be safe!
Perfect location
Sara G. Sep 6, 2012
It's not like there is a bad location in Manhattan, but Union Square is a key spot. The subway is right there, and while this square feels much more intimate than Times Square, it's not small - there is tons going on here, day or night. Street performers, artists, skaters, families, nearby NYU students...every walk of life can be found here. There are some big chain stores that surround the square, as well as some touristy eating spots. However, there are also some very decent bars and interesting higher end restaurants as well. This is a great spot to meet up with people in the city, especially if one party is coming from midtown and the other from Brooklyn. Get here early, have a drink, and people watch.
Good spot for people watching
Sridevi R. Aug 8, 2012
Union Square is cool because even though it is such a touristy spot, it really is a beautiful spot to just hang out and people watch. There's tons of people selling handmade jewelry and other trinkets, in addition to a bunch of yummy food trucks/carts. Make sure you find the Wafles & Dinges cart! It's usually around here.. the one with nutella is to die for!!
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