This post is a guide of things to do in SoHo, a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, including a brief history, how to get here, a self-guided tour, restaurant recommendations We also recommend that you join us for one of our daily guided SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour or take our GPS-enabled audio tour of SoHo.
The SoHo district of NYC is located in Lower Manhattan, just north of City Hall and the Financial District and just south of Greenwich Village. It’s border streets are roughly Canal Street in the south, 6th Ave in the west, Crosby Street in the East, and of course, Houston Street in the north.
By Subway: The first stop on this tour is closest to the C train Spring Street station. We recommend using this link for directions to the start of the tour. Other trains that take you into central SoHo are the 6 to Spring Street; N/R to Prince Street or B/D/F/M to Broadway-Lafayette. For the southern boundary of SoHo take the J/Z, N/Q/R, or A/C to Canal Street.
Below is our self-guided tour of SoHo. Please also consider taking our GPS-enabled audio tour of SoHo, which goes more in-depth into the neighborhood.
Click here for a larger version of this map. Click here for a downloadable PDF of this tour
(A) SoHo Square (site of former Richmond Hill)
In 1760, a British major, Abraham Mortimer, who owned a 26-acre estate that encompassed parts of what is now SoHo, including the land around Spring Street and 6th Avenue, built a mansion and called it Richmond Hill.
In 1776, the colonists declared war with General George Washington in charge. Briefly that year, Washington took over Richmond Hill mansion to use as his headquarters. After the Revolutionary War, Mortimer and his fellow Brits were no longer welcome in America and the mansion became home to America’s first Vice President John Adams and his wife, Abigail.
In 1791, the mansion was purchased by Aaron Burr, America’s third vice-president. During the last year of his vice-presidency, 1804, Burr entered into a duel with his political foe, Alexander Hamilton, whom he fatally shot.
(B) Dominique Ansel Bakery at 189 Spring Street
This is the birthplace of the world-famous Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Created in in 2013, this unique pastry innovation is trademarked by its creator, Dominique Ansel and pastry fans around the world have made it the most virally talked about dessert item in history. If you want to try one, you’ll have to get there early, since they sell out fast! They are open from Mondays to Saturdays from 8 am to 7 pm and Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm.
(C) 188-190 Spring Street Federal Houses (1899)
These are two of the remaining row houses on Spring Street that date to the late 1800s. Though much of these houses have been altered, they retain their original 19th-century features including the original gable roofs, the typical height of three and a half floors tall, and a small amount of Flemish bond brickwork typical of the era.
Although they are not landmarked buildings, they have managed to avoid the fate of so many un-landmark yet historic houses in New York City.
(D) Vesuvio Playground corner of Thompson and Spring Streets
This well-kept and pleasant playground ground is notable not for any particular event, but for the history behind its name. Formerly known simply as the Thompson Street Playground for the street it is on (which was named after a Revolutionary War General William Thompson), it was renamed in the late 1990s to honor the owner of the nearby popular Vesuvio Bakery, Anthony Dapolito. He was very active on the Community Board and dedicated time to ensuring that the playground received funding to keep it in good condition and get upgrades when needed.
(E) Ben’s Pizza corner of Thompson and Spring Streets
Opened in 1977, Ben’s appeared in several scenes in the movie Men in Black 2 starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as well as in an episode of Sex in the City.
In 2003 Men in Black 3 began filming in SoHo, but the 26 trucks and trailers that occupied the narrow streets were not welcomed by the neighborhood. The presence of Smith’s trailer, (a double-decker 1,150 square-foot luxury trailer housing everything from a movie room to a bar) pushed locals over the edge, especially since Smith was also renting an apartment just a few blocks away.
The Mayor’s Office of Film who issues filming permits ordered that the trailer be relocated to a private lot.
(F) Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua 155 Sullivan Street
This church is situated within what is currently slated to become the South Village Historic District, which includes streets in both SoHo and Greenwich Village and whose history includes the stories of thousands of Italian immigrants who settled in the area in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The parish of St. Anthony of Padua is the second Italian parish founded in the United States and the oldest in New York.
Created by American artist Walter De Maria in 1977, this 3,600-square-foot gallery space contains a 22-inch-deep layer of dirt, weighing approximately 280,000 pounds. The gallery is open to the public for free and though you cannot touch the display or walk on it, it will provide you with a peaceful, natural sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the street below. Learn more here.
(I) Anthony Arnoux House (1825) 139 Greene Street
In 1825, a two-story brick house was built for Anthony Arnoux, a tailor and apparel merchant. By 1850, Arnoux and his family moved out due to the neighborhood’s decline into a noisy commercial and entertainment district. After the Arnoux family left, the house was occupied by several businesses including a hat seller and a fur store.
In 1968 an art dealer bought the house and in turn sold it to a private investor who planned to restore the now almost 150-year-old house. But the cost and alteration restrictions of landmark buildings have slowed down the renovations, basically now at a total standstill.
(J) Etan Patz family home 113 Prince Street
In 1979, Etan Patz, who was six years old, vanished while walking from his home to the school bus stop in SoHo. His case has never been solved and his disappearance is a missing-child case that has haunted New York City for decades and also led to significant change in the way Americans view the safety of their children.
His disappearance attracted national attention and Etan’s picture was one of the first to appear on a milk carton in a campaign to help find missing children. In 2012, after 33 years since Etan’s disappearance, there was a breakthrough in the case and in May 2015, a suspect was put on trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial in Etan Patz’s case. In 2017, after a new trial, Pedro Gonzalez was found guilty of kidnapping and murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Thus, this case that haunted New Yorkers for decades was brought to a close but Etan’s tragedy forever changed for the better the way America’s law enforcement handled cases of missing children. The date of his disappearance, May 25th, is now National Missing Children’s Day.
(K) 109 Prince Street (1882)
This five-story corner building is both a New York City designated landmark building and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by a young and talented architect named Jarvis Morgan Slade. Sadly, he died at the age of 30 before his building was completed. Surrounded by taller cast-iron buildings 109 Prince has a unique look with its three facades. On the Green Street side, on the first column, you can see a plaque with the name of the foundry that cast the iron: Architectural Iron Works, Cheyney, and Hewlett. It is now a Ralph Lauren store.
(L) SoHo Center for Visual Arts & Trompe L’Oeil mural (1889) 112 Prince Street
As with other many other buildings in SoHo, artists began to move into the abandoned cast iron factories during the early 1970s. By 1975, the upper floors had become work/live lofts for artists, including Maya Lin, the noted sculptor of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. What is special about this building is its facade along Greene Street. Keeping with the cast-iron style of the building’s front façade, artist Richard Haas painted a giant trompe l’oeil (French for “trick the eye”) mural that gives the illusion of a cast iron façade although it is merely a plain brick wall.
(M) SoHo Building & Floating Subway Map 110 Greene Street
This building is actually two older buildings erected by the same owner, Charles “Broadway” Rouse, a noted New York City merchant. First came 125 Mercer (1908) and later the building at 110 Greene (1920). Years later these two buildings were joined to and became known as the SoHo Building. In 1986, Francoise Schein, a Belgian artist, created Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk, an 87-foot long work consisting of concrete rods embedded in the sidewalk. The map is more or less an accurate schematic of the subway as it was in 1986, but the Uptown end is pointing Downtown and vice versa.
(N) Apple Store 103 Prince Street. Housed inside an old two-floor post office, the Apple Store is a great place to hang out and relax. You can recharge your phone, use their free Wi-Fi on one of their dozens of laptops placed throughout the store, check out a free training session or musical performances by some top artists. Bathrooms and water fountains are on the first floor.
(O) “Ghost” Building 102 Prince Street
This is where Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, and Whoopi Goldberg filmed the 1990 movie Ghost. As of April 2015, the three bedroom/three and a half bathroom loft is up for sale with an asking price of $10.5 million. That’s 30 times what Demi Moore earned for her performance in the file. Think of it this way: the apartment cost is $2,370 per square foot. Moore was paid $350,000. She earned the value of just one of the apartment’s bedrooms.
(P) Fanelli Café 94 Prince Street
The ownership of the land on which Fanelli stands can be traced back to 1644 when was part of farmland belonging to Nicholas Bayard (referred to above in the History section). By 1797 Prince Street was laid out as was Greene Street and Mercer Streets. The Bayard family sold the land in 1845. From 1847 until 1920, the building at 94 Prince Street changed owners often, but whatever business was housed in the building, alcohol, and food were always served there – even during Prohibition which made the making and selling of alcohol illegal from 1920-1933. When in 1920 the Fanelli family purchased the business at 94 Prince, it was a saloon called the Prince Café. They changed the name to Fanelli’s Café and during Prohibition, it was a ‘speakeasy’ (an illegal bar).
(Q) The Little Singer Building (1904) 561-3 Broadway
This 12-story Beaux Arts style building was designed by renowned architect Ernest Flagg, whose buildings can be found all over New York City. The building was the first headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company and thus called The Singer Building. As the company grew, Flagg was commissioned to build a significantly larger headquarters in the financial district. That 41-story building became known as The Singer Building and from 1908-1909 was the tallest building in the world. It was demolished in 1986 and considered one of the great lost buildings of New York City. Its smaller sibling in SoHo was referred to as the “little” Singer Building. The Little Singer displays Flagg’s innovative design as he combined various materials such as large glass window panes, terracotta panels, wrought-iron balconies and cast-iron ornamentation that give the building its intricate and distinctive look. The building is now residential and commercial co-op space.
(R) First Tiffany & Company Store(1854) 550 Broadway
In 1837, Charles Tiffany and his partner John Young opened a store across from City Hall that sold “fancy goods” such as costume jewelry. Ten years later the business had become so successful that it began to sell real jewelry, silverware, watches, clocks and much more. As business thrived, Tiffany & Young, as the store was called, moved further north at to 271 Broadway. Meanwhile, Charles Tiffany pursued a number of side ventures and investments and in 1853 he bought out his partner and the company became known as Tiffany & Co. The company moved again to the much larger 550 Broadway and continued to grow into a company of grand stature amongst the wealthy. When the building at 550 Broadway was erected in 1854, a nine-foot statue of Atlas holding a big clock was placed over the entrance. Atlas has followed the store when it moved again to Union Square and eventually settling at its current location at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
(S) Bishop’s Crook Lamppost in front of 515 Broadway
Look up at the street light (or lamppost) in front of the H&M store and you will notice its ornate style, known as a “Bishop’s Crook”. In 1900, New York City began replacing its gas lights with electric light and by 1934 there were 76 different styles placed throughout the city. Over time, older and more aesthetically pleasing lampposts were replaced by modern, bland designs which were both stylistically appropriate to the era, energy efficient and produced more effective lighting for the city’s streets. After New York began designating certain neighborhoods as ‘historic districts’, the modern lampposts were replaced with reproductions of the original style oflamppost that was typical of that neighborhood. SoHo has many reproductions adding to the charm of the district. This lamppost you are looking at is an original, installed around 1936, and is a protected landmark.
(T) King of Greene Street (1873) 72-76 Greene Street
Originally a warehouse belonging to the dry goods dealer Gardner Colby Company, this impressive structure is considered to be the finest example of French Renaissance design in SoHo and earned the nickname “King of Greene Street.” It was designed by Isaac F. Duckworth, a master of cast iron architecture with several striking buildings in SoHo and also nearby in neighboring TriBeCa, another historic district. What makes the King remarkable is its ornate, three-dimensional façade. You can see the other half of this “royal family”, the Queen of Greene Street (1873) at 28-30 Greene Street, yet another masterpiece by Duckworth.
(U) 80 Wooster Street (1895)
Some say that the beginnings of the 20th-century ‘rags to riches’ story of SoHo began in 1967. And it happened here at 80 Wooster Street. The seven-story Renaissance-style building designed by Gilbert Schellenger was erected in 1895 and was used as a warehouse and light industry. From 1931 to 1967, it was occupied by the Miller Paper Company. It was around this time that artists began occupying lofts in SoHo, and artist George Maciunas bought the building and founded the Fluxus Group with Yoko Ono and other artists. Maciunas had envisioned a SoHo filled with artists who would participate in the communal (or cooperative) purchase of buildings, with entire floors costing $8,000 each. The building came to be called the Fluxhouse Cooperative II, where artists owned the building together. The communal spirit of the Fluxhouse eventually dissipated and like so many buildings in SoHo, the building eventually became private co-op apartments. In 2013, the cost to buy a two-bedroom in the formerly communal living space was just over $2 million dollars. That’s a 25,000 % increase in just 46 years!
(V) Gunther Building (1871) 469-465 Broome Street
This stunning six-story white cast iron building was designed by Griffith Thomas and was a warehouse for the fur dealer William H. Gunther. It is especially sophisticated compared to some of its neighboring buildings. You can see the Gunther name emblazoned in an arch over the corner entrance. The building currently houses an art gallery and artists’ studios.
(W) The Silk Exchange Building (1895) 487 Broadway corner of Broome Street
In 1894, wealthy developer John T. Williams financed, designed and even served as his own contractor on this long and narrow limestone 12-story building. This sliver of a building, with its intricate terra cotta ornamentation on the upper floors, came to be known as the ‘slice of wedding cake’ building. Three entrances—on Broadway, Broome and Mercer provided convenient access to tenants and clients alike and upon completion, the building quickly filled with tenants, many of them in the silk industry. The high number of silk merchants resulted in the building earning the name The Silk Exchange Building. Over time the Silk industry moved out of the neighborhood and companies like Roebuck Manufacturing and the Newman Clock Company rented space in the building. In 1985, the building was converted into 25 residential units.
(X) Haughwout Building (1857) corner of Broadway and Broome Street
This early cast iron era building was designed by architect John Gaynor and housed the Haughwout (pronounced “how-wot”) Emporium, a world famous manufacturer and seller of fine china, exquisite porcelain, chandeliers and more. President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln purchased custom-made plates and flatware for the White House. The building also has a place in the history of innovation as it was the first building in the world to feature a hydraulic passenger elevator designed and installed by Elijah Armstrong Otis. Many structures around the world have elevators that were installed by the Otis Elevator Company including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and the first World Trade Center towers. Next time you are in an elevator look at the threshold, you may just see the name OTIS.
(Y) Heath Ledger’s former home 421 Broome Street
In 2008, actor Heath Ledger, star of many movies (most notably Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight) was found dead in a fourth-floor apartment in this building. Ledger, who was just 28 years old, died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. Within a few hours of the news of his death became public, media, mourners, and fans gathered outside the building leaving flowers. The attractive building was designed by Griffith Thomas who also designed the Gunther Building above. While Ledger was living in the building he rented his apartment for $23,000 a month. In 2010, the entire building was sold for $15 million in a foreclosure auction and converted into condominiums each occupying an entire floor ranging in price from $3.9 million for a simple apartment to $20 million for the triplex penthouse. Ledger’s former apartment is worth $5 million.
(Z) Former Police Headquarters (1909) 240 Centre Street
When the former Police Headquarters was built in 1909, the neighborhood was a bustling Little Italy filled with poor immigrants and crowded tenement buildings, many of which still line the streets surrounding the formidable huge Beaux-Arts building. The design was meant to both to give the police officers a sense of authority while intimidating the local petty criminals and mafia mobsters of Little Italy. Ironically, according to popular folklore, during Prohibition, some police officers built a tunnel under Centre Street to nearby O’Neill’s Tavern for an illegal drink! In 1973, the New York Police Department relocated its headquarters to 1 Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan where it remains today. The building was unoccupied for ten years during which a series of proposals were considered: a hotel, cultural center, museum, etc. Finally, in 1983, the city accepted the proposal of a real estate developer to turn the building into luxury condominiums. At the time, SoHo prices were sky-rocketing as it was one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in. The new apartments feature high ceilings and one of them even has a vaulted ceiling living room in what was once a basketball court for the officers’ recreational use.
It was converted into luxury co-op apartments in 1988. Supermodels Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista all bought lofts here. Tennis star Steffi Graf and actress Winona Ryder are also said to have lived here. Although technically beyond the boundaries of SoHo, the building was close enough to enjoy the hipness and trendiness of SoHo. In the 1990s, The New York Times began to refer to the area as NoLita (North of Little Italy).
SoHo stands for South of Houston Street. The acronym was coined by Chester Rapkin, a city planning commissioner who published a report in the 1960s and called “The South Houston Industrial Area” and used this new term to describe the area whose boundaries are Houston Street on the north and Canal Street in the south; 6th Avenue on the west and Crosby Street on the east.
The land encompassing modern-day SoHo was marsh and forest land until Dutch Settlers established farms in the area in the 1640s. An early Dutch map, the Manatus Map of 1639, shows plantations, roads, and structures in this area. A large portion of the land was owned during the 1660s by Augustus Herrman and when he died, his brother-in-law, Nicholas Bayard, inherited the property, making him the largest landowner in Manhattan. (Bayard Street in Chinatown is named after Bayard). By the late 1700s, large farms were being sold and subdivided in response to the growing population and urbanization of the City.
In the early 1800s, Broadway was paved and wealthier residents of the city began to build homes in the area to escape the increasingly crowded lower part of Manhattan. By the 1850s and 60s, many fashionable hotels such as the famous St. Nicholas and premier department stores such as Tiffany’s, Lord & Taylor and Brooks Brothers had opened up. Theaters and casinos sprang up along Broadway and the area became a hub of nightlife. The smaller side streets such as Mercer and Prince became lined with expensive brothels catering to the well-to-do gentleman, making SoHo the city’s first red-light district.
In the 1870s and 1880s, the streets to the east and west of Broadway underwent dramatic change when industry came to town. This explosion of commercial activity prompted wealthy residents to flee the area and move further north of Manhattan. Where wealth goes, fancy department stores followed. The elegant department stores of Broadway relocated to the newer “Ladies’ Mile” in what is now the Flatiron District. (You may be interested in our Flatiron District Self Guided Tour).
Industrial growth also prompted the wide-spread use of cast iron to erect new factories in the district. Approximately 250 cast iron buildings stand in New York City and the majority of them are in SoHo. It is these cast-iron buildings that give SoHo its distinct and stunning appearance. Cast iron was an American architectural innovation and was cheaper to use for facades of buildings than stone or brick. Cast iron is also pliable and easily molded so architects and builders could create intricately designed patterns in the Classical French and Italian style while saving money. In fact, many of the stone columns you will see on the ground level of cast-iron buildings are in fact cast iron painted to resemble stone.
Another advantage of cast iron that led to major changes in how buildings were made (and ultimately altered who and what resided in the neighborhood) was its strength which allowed for window frames to be taller allowing for more sunlight into the interior of the buildings. This was ideal for factories and industrial companies which benefitted from this free source of lighting. It was the advent of steel as a major construction material that brought an end to the cast iron era.
Not only did cast iron disappear, so did the higher quality industry. From the 1910s to 1950s, SoHo’s beautiful buildings housed cheap, wholesale textile companies known as the “rag trade”. Many factories illegally employed minors and immigrants for little pay to work in horrendous conditions known as ‘sweatshops’. Numerous fires broke out in these factories and SoHo gained the nickname “Hell’s Hundred Acres.” Eventually, even these factories shut down and moved elsewhere in the city and SoHo became an abandoned industrial wasteland.
By the late 1960s unknown artists just starting their careers, cheap rents, huge spaces, and great light, made these former factories attractive. Some of the first artists to move into SoHo were Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and Carl Andre. Other up and coming artists flocked to SoHo like Andy Warhol, Jean- Michel Basquiat and street artist Keith Haring and this the urban wasteland became a hip, avant-garde destination. It’s estimated that by SoHo was home to about 2,000 artists by the early 1970s and by 1973 there were 33 art galleries.
The area had become so run-down and empty that city officials began discussions of construction a lower Manhattan expressway that came to be known as the LOMEX project. LOMEX would have ripped through much of the heart of lower Manhattan and the historic buildings of SoHo would be demolished to make way for new housing construction. Fortunately, some city officials realized that there was were still small industries that housed in the buildings of SoHo and employed many low-income and minority workers at a time when jobs were hard to come by in New York City. At the same time historic preservationists began to petition for SoHo to be designated as a protected historic district and in 1973, the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District was created. You can tell which streets are included in the district as they have brown street signs rather than the normal green signs. SoHo’s significance in history has also been recognized nationally as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.
By the mid-1970s the enormous size of the lofts and the charm of the narrow streets paved with Belgium blocks and lined with gorgeous buildings invited real estate developers to buy up buildings and rent prices sky-rocketed. Artists were priced out of the neighborhood and left for areas like Williamsburg in Brooklyn. By the mid-1980s, designer boutiques, chic restaurants, and art galleries opened and SoHo remains a fashion and art capital of the world.
This is thebirthplace of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Launched in 2013, this unique pastry innovation is trademarked by Ansel and pastry fans around the world have made it the most virally talked about dessert item in history. Almost immediately after the Cronut’s debut, a Craigslist-based black-market economy of Cronut™ scalpers began selling these $5 pastries for between $20 and $40 each! That’s just how good they are. There’s a catch though to participate in the Cronut™ craze: you’ll have to wait in line which starts to form as early as 1 hour prior to the shop’s opening (8 am Mon-Sat and 9 am Sunday). Arrive prior to 7:30 am on a weekday. Note: you can only purchase 2 Cronut™ pastries per person.
Lombardi’s 32 Spring Street at corner of Mott Street
The perfect way to finish your tour of SoHo is to east at America’s very first pizzeria. In 1897 an Italian immigrant reinvented a Napolitano staple food, a basic tomatoand bread sandwich into an open-faced baked dough with tomatoes and eventually cheese. Lombardi’s serves only pies and is CASH ONLY. Highly recommended by all the guides at Free Tours By Foot.
This inexpensive small shop sells delicious Mediterranean and Turkish food using organic ingredients. The simple menu includes falafel and pita bread platters, a meatball sandwich with a Turkish twist, quinoa salad, and bean soup.
A true SoHo original, Dean & Deluca opened in 1977 at the corner of Prince and Greene streets when the neighborhood was still an edgy artist and warehouse district. Celebrities and locals flocked there and so they expanded to a huge space in its current location. They sell sandwiches, salads, pastries, fresh fruits and is also a grocery store selling imported foods from all over the world. Be a part of SoHo’s history and popinto D&Ds.
Several companies offer tours of SoHo. Most offer tours that include SoHo as one part of a two or three neighborhood tour. Some companies offer shopping and food tours of SoHo as well. We list our pay-what-you-wish tours below along with a few other options. We also suggest that you consider taking our GPS-enabled audio tour of SoHo.
SoHo and Nolita Shopping Tour – This guided shopping day is for the sophisticated shopper interested in high-quality products from independent merchants, New York artists, and designers, many who produce garments and one-of-a-kind items locally.