One of my favorite activities of late has been gallery hopping in Chelsea. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon in NYC if you love art and wandering—especially if you don’t want to pay museum admissions or fight museum crowds.
My mom was in town for the weekend, and after a delicious breakfast of tea, scones and bacon, we set off for Chelsea, ready to gallery hop our afternoon away.
Where is Chelsea?
If you’re an NYC neophyte, or just a tourist in NYC looking for something free or different to do, Chelsea is a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan from roughly 14th street to the south, 30-34th street to the north, the Hudson River to the west and 6th Avenue to the east. To the north of Chelsea, you’ll find Hell’s Kitchen. To the south, West Village.
Getting to Chelsea
Taking a subway to any of these stops will get you to Chelsea: N, Q, R, W to Union Sq. | F, L, V to Sixth Ave. | 1,2,3 to 14th St. | A, C, E, L to Eighth Ave.-14th St. | 1 to 18th St. | 1, F,V, R, W, C, E to 23rd St. | 1, R,W to 28th St.
I like to take the R, W to 23rd Street because I like to start my gallery hopping at the north of Chelsea.
How/Where to gallery hop in Chelsea
All of my gallery hopping has been spontaneous. I know the radius to explore, but I make no other plans. I like it that way—you never know what you’ll come across! Many galleries will be open; some will be between exhibitions; some will just be closed for the day.
Snake your way between 10th and 11th Avenues starting at 28th Street. I usually start running out of steam/galleries around 21st Street. Galleries are free to enter and the vast majority are open from Monday-Saturday. If you want a little more method to your madness, I tend to click through this website to see if there are any interesting artists I want to make a point to see.
I never used to be a fan of modern and contemporary art, which tends to populate the vast majority of art galleries. However, lately, I’ve really enjoyed the variety of art to discover upon entering each new gallery. Because of gallery hopping, I’ve discovered new favorite artists, thought-provoking exhibitions, and stunning works of art.
It’s one of the best, free ways to spend an afternoon in NYC, especially if you’ve found art remotely interesting in the past. Not all art is something I’d choose to hang in my apartment (if I could afford any of it), but all of it is a great conversation starter. Plus, you’ll seem super cultured if you tell your friends you spent an afternoon gallery hopping in Chelsea. ;)
What else is there to do in Chelsea?
If an afternoon of gallery hopping doesn’t exactly sound tantalizing, there is plenty to occupy your time in Chelsea.
Chelsea Market, an indoor market taking up an entire block on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th streets, is a popular spot for tasting international cuisines. It is crowded on weekends and during high season for tourists. On the lower level, you’ll find more grocery store-type shops while the main level houses food stalls ranging from crêpes, to currywurst, to stir-fry.
The High Line, a park built on an elevated, historic freight rail, runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, with many places to “hop on or off” throughout its length. It’s a perfect place to get a unique view of the city (from a unique park nonetheless) and you’ll enjoy seeing all the funky architecture popping up along the High Line as well as some clever street art.
Chelsea Flea Market, open every Saturday and Sunday (weather permitting) on 25th Street Between Broadway and 6th Avenue has over 135 vendors selling antique and vintage goods. It costs $1 to enter.
If you want to visit museums, check out the Rubin Museum on 17th Street and 7th Avenue (promoting the art and culture of the Himalayas) or the Whitney (displaying American art from the 20th and 21st centuries), technically in the Meatpacking District but at the south end of the High Line.
What I’ve found while gallery hopping in Chelsea:
Because all but one of my gallery hopping stops have been random, I like to think I’ve discovered some pretty cool works of art that might not necessarily be in museums. I need to get better at writing down the artists I’ve come across, but I hope these images inspire you to get out there and go gallery hopping the next time you’re in Chelsea!