Welcome to one of the NYC neighborhoods with the highest concentration of VIPs! L'Upper East Side, the "rectangle" of Uptown Manhattan east of Central Park (which separates it from the western side, Upper West Side), is one of the most pleasant neighborhoods to explore, strolling among elegant buildings, chic shop windows and vintage cafes, and above all enjoying the Museum Mile, a stretch of the famous Fifth Avenue where there are some of the most important museums in the world, including the Met and the Guggenheim Museum.
The neighborhood, bordered to the west by Central Park and to the east by the river East River, it is so large that it also encompasses the districts of Yorkville and Lenox Hill; exploring it thoroughly by visiting all the attractions is an out-of-reach task, so focus on a selection of places of interest. Here are the main things to see and do to pack a itinerario nell’Upper East Side.
- How to reach us
- To see
- Museum Mile
- Roosevelt Island Tramway
- Emanu-El Synagogue
- Gracie Mansion
- Attractions on the East side of Central Park
- Upper East Side: where to eat between restaurants and cafes
How to reach us
As the neighborhood is very large, it is good to identify the area with the main places of interest and this is certainly that of Museum Mile close to Central Park; the main stops are along Lexington Avenue, 3 blocks away, and allow you to progressively get off at the intersections with streets 59, 63, 68, 77, 86, 92, 96, 103 and 110. To move more easily, I refer you to our guide on how to use the subway in New York.
Museum lovers could spend even more than a week on the Upper East Side and perhaps still have something to see. The list to choose from is in fact very large:
- Frick Collection: the collection of Henry Clay Frick, industrialist and promoter of the arts who has collected over time masterpieces from all over the world, from Titian to Goya, from Rembrandt to Turner. A museum like this in any other American city would probably be one of the top attractions and art lovers can't give it up unless reluctantly. You can learn more about this collection by reading our article dedicated to the Frick Collection.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: the largest museum in New York, a real spearhead of the city as well as of the whole United States, with an impressive collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt (including the Temple of Dendur), and extraordinary examples of art European, Islamic, American, Ancient Greek and Roman. The dimensions are so vast that visiting it without a minimum of preparation could be a strategic mistake, so we have written a detailed guide to the Met in New York.
- Neue Galerie: housed in a beautiful estate from the early twentieth century, this small but fascinating museum dedicated to German art is a real gem, just think that there are works by Paul Klee, Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. The first Friday of the month from 18 to 20 pm admission is free, it is worth taking advantage of it even if, due to its small size, it is easily crowded.
- Guggenheim museum: the bizarre spiral shape conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright is already a spectacle in itself and immediately betrays the spirit of this great museum dedicated to contemporary art opened in 1939. It is a must not only for lovers of the genre and to testify to it there are long lines at the entrance. To better organize a visit, I refer you to our guide to the Guggenheim Museum.
- National Academy Museum and School: this ancient association was founded in 1825 by a group of artists to promote the arts through both exhibitions and educational activities. Today the museum, housed in a Beaux-Arts-style building, boasts a remarkable collection of works of art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as a particular section entirely dedicated to the portraits of artists (there are over 1000) that were requested. as a condition for becoming a member of the association.
- Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum: housed in a splendid villa dating back to 1901, this is the only museum in America to trace the development of design starting from historical evidence up to the contemporary era. Here you will find decorations, wood carvings, metal objects, ceramics, costumes, musical instruments, furniture and many other examples useful to demonstrate how the very concept of design has changed over time.
- The Jewish Museum: in this museum there are thousands of objects dating back to Jewish history, culture and tradition, as well as many works of modern and contemporary art. It is also interesting to admire the building that houses it, the Felix M. Warburg House, a neo-Gothic style building dating back to 1908.
- Museum of the City of New York: those wishing to learn more about the history of New York will find in this museum housed in a building built in Georgian style a vast number of collections (there are over 1 million exhibits) and a series of interesting temporary exhibitions and very neat.
- The Museum of the Neighborhood: museum dedicated to Latin American and Caribbean art with many Puerto Rican works on display; unless you are passionate about the genre it is difficult for you to get into it.
As you have seen, the number of museums to choose from is considerable, however, generally speaking, if you are in visit New York for the first time and culture is among your first interests, you will be hard pressed to include 2 of them in your itinerary of attractions, and your choice will probably fall on the most famous: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, which will compete with a another nearby museum: the MoMa.
Roosevelt Island Tramway
Let's leave the cultural-themed attractions for a moment, undoubtedly the main ones on the Upper East Side, and let's move on to another area for which New York is famous all over the world: that of panoramic views.
If the most famous skyscrapers in the city allow you to admire the New York skyline from Downtown and Midtown, the Roosevelt Island aerial cableway will allow you, on the way up to Long Island City, to appreciate the splendid view of the East River, a view of the city that is decidedly less "mainstream" but really surprising and suggestive, if you don't believe it take a look at this video.
A few steps from the Central Park Zoo is one of the largest synagogues in the world, an expression of Reform Judaism, the dominant current in the United States of America. Entering ad Give it to Him (admission is free) you will be immediately struck by its monumental structure in neo-Romanesque style, the large rose window divided into 12 sections to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel and the refined decorations.
Attached to the synagogue there is also an interesting museum (Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica) where, in addition to the conservation of sacred objects and vestments, exhibitions dedicated to Jewish history, culture and identity are set up.
Located away from all the other attractions in the neighborhood, the Gracie Mansion It is in the Carl Schurz Park, a beautiful park with a pleasant riverfront on the East River. It is a historic villa, built in 1799, and used since the 40s as the official residence of the Mayor of New York.
Guided tours are available to visit the interior but they are not many throughout the week and it is necessary to book (all the info on the official website). To reach the villa the nearest metro stop is 86 Street (lines Q and R), a 10 minute walk away.
Attractions on the East side of Central Park
Bordering the neighborhood with the great park of New York, some places of interest found on the eastern edge of Central Park are considered by many to be an integral part of the Upper East Side (the Metropolitan Museum of Art itself is in effect inside the park). Here are the main attractions you will encounter as you travel up Fifth Avenue from south to north:
- William Tecumseh Sherman Monument: beautiful equestrian statue dedicated to an American Civil War general
- Central Park Zoo and Tisch Children's Zoo: two small well-kept zoological gardens, even if the animals present are not very many
- The Arsenal: this historic building between 1847 and 1851 served as a warehouse for the weapons of the New York State militia
- Delacorte Clock: a musical clock that plays a different rhyme at programmed intervals, here is the list of songs
- Waldo Hutchins Bench: Neoclassical-style memorial dedicated to a politician who was elected to both the New York State Assembly and Congress
- Mayor John Purroy Mitchel Memorial: another memorial, this time dedicated to the 95th mayor of New York
- Conservatory Garden: a splendid garden composed of 3 sections, each inspired by different styles (Spanish, French and English).
- Fort Clinton: an elevated viewpoint over the Harlem Meer pond used as a fort in 1814
- Duke Ellington Statue: statue dedicated to the great jazzman located in the northeastern corner of Central Park, which at this point ends up leaving room for Harlem. A real pilgrimage destination for New York jazz lovers.
I remind you that to know in detail the main attractions of the park you can refer to our article on what to see in Central Park.
Shopping in the busiest areas of the neighborhood (Madison Avenue for example) might not be a great idea, as there are quite expensive boutiques and designer outlets there.
Another area with many shops and big names is the one between Lexington and Third Avenue, along 86th Street. More for those looking for bargains, it can be pleasant for those who like to peek at some window displays. In addition to some general tips on where to shop in New York, here is a map of the main shops in the area:
Upper East Side: where to eat between restaurants and cafes
Being a neighborhood inhabited by VIPs and important personalities, there is no shortage of luxury restaurants and sophisticated cafés, for example the Sant ambroeus (Italian cuisine) and the Cafe Boulud (French, starred), suitable places to take a peek at high society but certainly not for those looking for informal restaurants or affordable prices.
However, there are many interesting alternatives:
- sweet tooths can go by Insomnia Cookies or from Two little red hens
- American cuisine at a good price in a nice 2-story venue with live music awaits you at Five Mile Stone
- those in search of the classic hamburger can fall back on the nearby and always reliable chain Shake Shack.
- Are you curious to taste one of the most famous hot dogs in the city? Two steps away there Papaya King.
If instead you feel in the mood for sushi or Japanese cuisine one of the most popular clubs of its kind in all of New York awaits you on York Avenue, almost on the border with the East River. Is called Tanoshi, it is a bit off-center compared to other places of interest but for lovers of the genre it is an almost obligatory stop and worth the trip. Book well in advance otherwise you risk being left with a dry mouth and, if you like, you can bring a drink from home (doesn't seem to be a problem?).
From personal experience I can say that staying on the Upper East Side is definitely a great choice; first of all to savor the pleasant atmosphere of the neighborhood, but also for the ease of connections, with subway stops well distributed along the nerve centers. The proximity to the museum complexes and Central Park constitutes a considerable surplus. If you want to sleep in this area, I refer you to my advice on how to find accommodation in the Upper East Side and, alternatively, I also point out below an overview of all the best areas to find accommodation in New York.
My tips on where to sleep in New York