Girls series writer and star Lena Dunham has managed to do the unthinkable. At just 27-years-old, she’s built a bridge between feminism and popular culture, appeared on last month’s cover of Vogue and is simultaneously worshipped by fashionable folk, geeky teens and hipsters alike, all while maintaining her distinctive humour and kookyness.
Although it’s dubbed ‘The Real Sex in the City’, there’s more to HBO’s Girls (every Monday, at 10pm on Sky Atlantic) than explicit sex scenes and bad fashion. It’s provocative in every sense, from the drugs, flabby bodies and abortions to the shotgun weddings, STDs and other shambolic f**k ups from each unlikable character along the way. It makes for painful, but emotionally sympathetic, viewing and does it all against a backdrop of trendy (and no-so-trendy) Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn locations. Here’s how to follow in the footsteps of Jessa, Shoshanna, Marnie and Hannah in the Big Apple…
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Warwick New York Hotel
In the series, Hannah’s parents stay at Warwick while visiting her in New York, where they also give her the news that they’ll not be supporting her financially anymore. In a fit of panic, Hannah surprises her parents in their hotel room to try and get them to change their minds. However, she passes out in the middle of her rant. As well as Girls being filmed here, the hotel has quite a star-studded history. The Warwick was built to host publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst’s Hollywood guests.
Find it at: 65 W. 54th St., 212-247-2700, Midtown West, Manhattan
Tom and Jerry’s, NoHo
It is here that we see troubled Jessa go to Tom and Jerry’s for a White Russian instead of meeting the girls at a nearby clinic. In reality, Tom and Jerry’s is a painfully hip NoHo hangout where the New York media elite wind down after a busy day at the office or discuss their next tech start up venture – whether you think this scene is poncey beyond belief or the best thing since drinking out of jam jars, there’s no denying that the cocktails are pretty darn good.
Find it at: 288 Elizabeth St., 212-260-5045, NoHo, Manhattan
Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers, Williamsburg
Hannah and her republican boyfriend Sandy (played by Donald Glover) play kiss and chase and have a snog in the aisles of this bookshop. “I’m so glad I ran into you in Grumpies,” says Sandy in the scene. “I’m so glad you accepted that thing that I claimed was a macchiato but was actually three kinds of syrup and soda water,” says Hannah. “I love how weird you are,” says Sandy. Spoonbill and Sugartown has become a permanent stop on a Girls pilgrimage to the Big Apple. Oh, and you can also buy books here.
Find it at: 218 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, spoonbillbooks.com
Bedford Avenue Subway, Williamsburg
After a drug-fuelled session at home, where Hannah and her ex-boyfriend turned gay roomie Elijah write their ideas down on the walls, the pair make their way to Greenhouse to watch AndrewAndrew DJ. On the way they get a spot of paranoia while heading into the Subway and wait until the crowds have passed before venturing onto the train. The same subway is also featured in a later scene with Shoshanna and Ray, after they go to a disastrous party at Hannah’s apartment. This is real Girls territory – there’s also plenty of shopping on Bedford Street to keep you amused when you get here.
Find it at: N 7th St Bedford and Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg
Cafe Grumpy, Greenpoint
Friends has Central Perk, Girl’s has Cafe Grumpy. Fittingly, eternal pessimist Ray works here serving coffee – and no, they didn’t name the chain after him. Hannah also works here for a period of time so she can pay back the rent money she owes Marnie. Ray’s top lines from this caffeine wonderland include when Marnie comes in to get her ex-boyfriend’s address from Ray “Too bad, I would ask for a blow job or something, but I don’t even want to hate f**k you. It’s that real. You shrink me up, I got balls right in my stomach.” And, when Hannah turns up for her trial shift wearing a white dress, in great wisdom Ray says, “You’re daring a homeless person to wipe their blood on your breasts.” Try five different branches of this mini chain around NYC.
Find it at: 193 Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint, cafegrumpy.com
The High Line, Manhattan
The one-mile stretch connecting three neighbourhoods along the west side of Manhattan is where Marnie and artist Booth Jonathan go after a gallery party. This disused railroad track is a staple tourist attraction along the west side of Manhattan. The former track once connected trains directly to factories and warehouses; carts could roll straight into the buildings. The area now hosts parties and events, and is a place where people can relax in the sun, enjoy a cup cake, take in views of the Hudson River or ponder over art installations.
Find it at: Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street, Chelsea
Vesuvio Playground, SoHo
It is here that Jessa loses the girls as she tries to drum up political action from the neighbourhood nannies. This little spot makes for a great place to people watch and get a taste of New York life. It’s got handball and basket ball courts and a mini pool too.
Find it at: Thompson Street nearPrince Street in SoHo, Manhatten
The Foundry, Queens
Jessa gets married here in the final episode of the first series. She tells the girls to come to “the most important party” of her life at The Foundry. The old factory is lit up with red fairy lights in the episode, and after Jessa and Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd) get married he shouts “alright everybody let’s f**king cork it out” and everyone starts awkwardly grinding and twerking to Pussy be Yankin, by Lady. In real life this historic building even hosts big events that are not on the telly. Although there are some cross overs – Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss actually tied the knot here. Fans of the show can organise anything from a rave to a Halloween party here or, much cheaper, just take some pictures from the outside.
Find it at: 42-38 9th St., 718-786-7776, Long Island City, thefoundry.info
Peter Luger Steak House
Self-destructive Jessa meets her uber conservative parents-in-law for the first time at this esteemed Brooklyn restaurant. This scene makes for cringe-worthy watching as Jessa tells them that she hates the restaurant, tells them about having to go to rehab and recalls a former heroin addiction. She then proceeds to scare them senseless “I never shot it, I only snorted it, that’s important,” says Jenna. Thomas-John’s mother says, “fabulous,” with a condescending look. This carnivore’s paradise is well worth a stop if you’re in the mood for steak, pot roast or prime ribs. But bring hard cash. They don’t accept cards.
Find it at: 178 Broadway in Williamsburg, peterluger.com
The apartment Hannah shares with Marnie in the first series is not quite the slum setting you would imagine. It’s in a pretty tree-lined redbrick street in Greenpoint. Once a rundown Polish neighbourhood, this northernmost Brooklyn area is on the up, and has been helped along by shows like Girls. It’s a great place to wander around and see scatterings of NYC’s industrial past. Inside the converted warehouses and lofty apartments you’ll find stunning views of Manhattan.
Find it at: India St, Greenpoint
In the season one finale, Hannah passes out on the subway after an argument with Adam at Jessa’s surprise wedding, after which he’s hit by a car. After not being allowed in the Ambulance, she gets on the subway, falls asleep and ends up at the last stop – the spectacularly kitsch Coney Island. She wanders around at dusk, barefoot on the sand and then sits down and eats some wedding cake. This big, brash and run down seaside spot is full of attractions from ferris wheels and roller coasters to hotdog stands and burger bars. The area dates back to the 19th century, when New York workers would come hear to get away from the sweltering industrial city in the summer. It’s become a hipster haunt in recently years, and events like the Mermaid Parade sees locals dress up as punk sea creatures to celebrate the ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside.
Find it at: Get the F subway train all the way from central New York. Get off at the last stop – Coney Island, coneyisland.com
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