Looking for a night out in New York? The East Village is the place to head if you want to party, eat well and enjoy the finest bands
Like millions of people, I believe New York City is one of the best cities in the world. It might even, dare I say it, be the best of them all. It's continually evolving, and no-go areas of one decade ritually become the must-go areas of the next, but one area that has long been synonymous with good music, bars and food is Manhattan's East Village.
Sandwiched between Union Square to the north and Chinatown to the south, the East Village is home to an eclectic mix of residents but is most popular among students, music fans and young professionals, and is the place to go for packed bars at the weekend.
During the day there's a host of things to do, but one of the quickest way to get a feel for the area is to head to Union Square. Sitting down by the steps here allows visitors the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere without the need to spend those hard-earned dollars just yet, and the crowd is more than varied. A mix of students, public speakers, rallies, protests and madmen descend onto Union Square day and night, and if you're not up for debate just yet then there's no better place to grab a cheap coffee and watch the skateboarders and BMX riders pull off impressive stunts.
You can't be in New York long before getting hungry, and that's when it really pays to be in the East Village. If New York has a multinational cuisine, then the East Village is the international food hall of the world, and the square formed by East 14th Street to the north, East Houghton to the south and anything east of Broadway will most certainly leave your mouth watering.
One of New York's best-loved activities is to enjoy a brunch on a weekend, when most restaurants will throw in free (and bottomless) glasses of buck's fizz (or mimosas, as they're known across the pond). A short walk along Second Avenue will lead you to plenty of brunch spots. As brunching is such a popular pastime, you may want to book in advance - and if so you could do a hell of a lot worse than reserving yourself a seat at Giano, on 7th Street (+1 212 673 7200; www.gianonyc.com), where you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings, while the breakfast (for which the word 'delightful' was invented) will not break the bank.
An eclectic mix of styles, cultures and traditions, there is no doubt that the East Village caters for all, but I'd be lying if I said my favourite thing in the Village wasn't the bars. Despite the love I have for my adopted hometown of London, the nights out in New York are simply second to none.
For a foolproof night out, take a saunter up First or Second Avenue between 14th Street and East Houston (being sure to check down the connecting streets). This is the area to find a bar with your ideal jukebox, beers that range from the freshly-imported to the dirt-cheap, some awesome happy hours and even - if you manage to find the infamous Mason Dixon bar (+1212 260 4100) - a mechanical rodeo ride!
With the infamous punk venue CBGBs having shut down, the true home for good live acts in the East Village is now the Bowery Ballroom on Delancey Street. Look out for fliers around the Village giving info about bands on on any given night. Of course, those hoping to keep things spontaneous will not have a problem finding live music in the East Village. After all, this is the district that is all things to all people!