The Meatpacking District may be one of New York‘s coolest neighbourhoods, but its name reveals a shadow of its rougher origins. A century ago, Meatpacking was teeming with tenements, crammed with packing plants and grisly round the edges, thanks to the area’s many slaughterhouses.
But these days, you’d never know it. Home to many of the borough’s coolest clubs, most exclusive eateries, and priciest designer boutiques, Meatpacking attracts quite the jet-set crowd. The opening of the now-iconic High Line in 2009 and the renovated Whitney Museum of American Art in 2015 have further cemented this petite’s neighbourhood’s elevated status. Visit these 10 locations to discover Meatpacking’s unique energy (Pro-tip: unless you’re a highly practiced fashionista, those cobblestones will murder your sky-high heels).
The High Line
The High Line beautifully symbolises the Meatpacking District’s renaissance. Once an elevated railway track, this most unconventional of public parks has transformed the ex-industrial site into a beautifully green expanse. With verdant walkways spanning a mile and a half, the walk is crowded on sunny days, but offers some incomparable views of the downtown skyline.
Founded in 1931, and a long-time resident of the Upper East Side, The Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to the Meatpacking District in 2015. Designed by starchitect Renzo Piano, the new, nine-storey building includes much more space for masterworks by Jackson Pollock, Louise Bourgeois, Mark Rothko and numerous others, while its outside viewing platforms provide breathtaking urban panoramas.
Ground Zero Museum Workshop
For a moving and intimate homage to the victims and survivors of 9/11, Meatpacking’s Ground Zero Museum Workshop definitely merits a visit. Built in collaboration with FDNY members, 9/11 families, and others touched by the tragedy, the museum is small but packs powerful emotional weight thanks to its collection of artefacts recovered from the Twin Towers, never-before-seen images, and first-hand accounts from rescue workers and those who assisted in clean-up and recovery efforts.
Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC
No doubt about it: the Meatpacking District’s got style. Credited by many with helping to kick-start its buzz, the eternally trendy Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC opened here in 2004, and it’s still attracting beautiful people more than a decade later. Book a stay at the design hotel – its guestrooms are populated with large-scale artworks and bright pops of colour – to fully immerse yourself in the neighbourhood scene. Otherwise, an evening spent at the relaxed rooftop bar, Zerzura at Plunge, should suffice.
Just north of 15th Street and therefore technically in Chelsea, Chelsea Market is still just steps from Meatpacking’s outer edge — and, given its status as a bona fide foodie playground, should be on the must-do list for anyone with a growling stomach. The historic indoor food hall encourages heavy grazing, thanks to shops like Cull & Pistol (come for the oysters), Creamline (a must for artisan dairy), Corkbuzz (run by Master Sommelier Laura Maniec), and a little restaurant called Morimoto.
Jeffrey New York
Jeffrey New York has retained cult status among the fashion set since opening in 1999. Packed with Bergdorf-calibre brands and a shoe department to make coveters weep, Jeffrey nevertheless distinguishes itself with its brand of downtown cool, as evidenced by the DJs who provide shoppers with a thumping backbeat and the friendly staff who take a personal approach to their customer service. Once you’re laden with bags and light of wallet, you can skip along to the many other designer boutiques in the surrounding blocks.
Meatpacking’s not short on destination restaurants, either. La Sirena is a particular favourite; the palatial restaurant — operated by celebrity chef Mario Batali and business partner Joe Bastianich — has imbued the neighbourhood with kinetic Italian hospitality. You can linger in the tapas bar, where the food veers towards the Iberian Peninsula, or line your stomach with dishes like stinging nettle cavatelli with lamb ragu in the main dining room.
La Sirena is a must for the gastronauts, but if you’re hungering for scene, Bagatelle exerts an almost magnetic attraction for A-listers and see-and-be-seen types. The best time to visit? Weekend brunch, when the French food is accompanied by endless glasses of rosé and a nightclub-style soundtrack.
Speaking of nightclubs: in a neighbourhood as nightlife-oriented as Meatpacking, how do you choose where to spend your evening? If dancing and deep house are what you seek, then make Cielo your destination for all-night partying. Famous for its roster of big-name, international DJs as well as its cosy dance floor — and strict door policy — this club is one of the few spots where New Yorkers really let their hair down.
Le Bain at the Standard Hotel
And then there’s Le Bain. The Standard Hotel’s penthouse club — with its stunning views of the High Line, Hudson, and beyond — is famous for its dance floor plunge pool that’s frequently filled with frolicking, skimpily attired swimmers. During the summer, head up to the roof, which has the feel of a pool party thanks to stacks of towels and kitschy Astroturf. Few other nightlife spots feel quite as exciting — or as New York — as this.
Written by Claire Bullen
Image credits: The Gansevoort © The Gansevoort, The High Line © iStock: Lya_Cattel