The embodiment of New York City’s affluence, the Upper East Side is a luxurious residential neighborhood where many of Manhattan’s wealthiest individuals live. Visitors to New York City have long flocked to the Upper East Side for its high-end shopping, acclaimed restaurants, world-class museums, and convenient access to Central Park. A full, well-rounded trip to New York City almost always involves some time spent exploring all the Upper East Side has to offer.
Upper East Side Neighborhood History
The Upper East Side of Manhattan has a long history of being an especially prestigious New York City neighborhood. The development of Central Park in the middle to late nineteenth century increased the appeal of the adjacent area, leading some monied New Yorkers to build their mansions and elegant townhomes along Fifth Avenue facing the park, while the construction of the Third Avenue Elevated and Second Avenue Elevated railways increased transportation options in the neighborhood, thus allowing for the relative diversification of residents living here.
The subsequent discontinuation of these lines and the demolition of their elevated tracks allowed for more high-end housing to be built in the neighborhood, and that remains to this day the hallmark of the Upper East Side brand. Famous families such as the Rockefellers, Kennedys, and Roosevelts have lived here over the years, and the list of celebrities, artists, rock stars, CEOS, and more who call the Upper East Side home is as impressive as it is extensive.
Exploring the Upper East Side
One of New York City’s greatest attributes is Museum Mile, and this fabulous attraction is located on the Upper East Side. This remarkable stretch of Fifth Avenue, running from roughly 82nd Street to 110th Street, includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, El Museo del Barrio, and the Africa Center (formerly known as the Museum for African Art).
The Upper East Side is bordered to the west by Central Park, another one of New York City’s most popular attractions. This legendary public green space occupies nearly 900 acres of prime Manhattan real estate, containing such favorite destinations as the Central Park Zoo, Wollman Rink, The Ramble, Conservatory Garden, Bethesda Terrace, Belvedere Castle, and so much more.
Many visitors to the Upper East Side decide that the best way to experience the neighborhood’s plentiful charms is by joining a guided walking or biking tour. There are guided tours available that take you through or around the Upper East Side, while numerous guided walking and biking tours depart from Central Park, too.
The Upper East Side is located between Central Park and the East River, north of Midtown Manhattan and south of East Harlem. Locals often subdivide the Upper East Side into smaller, micro-neighborhoods like Carnegie Hill, Lenox Hill, and Yorkville.
Upper East Side Dining
Given its reputation for wealth and luxury, it’s not exactly surprising that the Upper East Side is full of well-regarded places to eat, including some of New York City’s most critically acclaimed (and most expensive!) restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for cozy Italian joints, chic cafés, fast-casual sandwich places, stylish wine bars, or cheerful gastropubs, you’ll find a quality cross-section of cuisines to choose from on the Upper East Side.
If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable New York dining experience, though, you can’t do much better than a meal at one of the Upper East Side’s renowned establishments like Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s Michelin star-winning French restaurant; Café Carlyle, the cabaret club where celebrities have been known to sit in with the jazz band; or Sushi Noz, considered by many to be the best sushi restaurant in all of New York City.
Upper East Side Shopping
When it comes to the Upper East Side’s shopping scene, upscale is the first word that springs to mind. There are some terrific places to shop here, but they aren’t necessarily for the budget-conscious. And big-name brands rule the day, too, as prominent retailers with New York City flagship stores in the neighborhood include Bloomingdale’s, Ralph Lauren, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Hermès, and Givenchy, just to name a few.
Other popular chains with branches in the Upper East Side are Nike, Chanel, Nordstrom, and Anthropologie. If you’re looking for luxury designer boutiques, head straight for Madison Avenue. The thirty-block stretch of Madison Avenue between roughly 56th Street and 86th Street is home to well over 100 runway-ready showrooms.
Explore the Upper East Side Like a Local
- Gracie Mansion, a beautiful mansion overlooking the East River near 88th Street in the Yorkville sub-neighborhood of the Upper East Side, is the historic home of the mayor of New York City. Gracie Mansion dates to 1799, and is regularly open to the public today for guided tours, art exhibits, special programming, occasional live events, and more.
- Regardless of the season, Central Park is always hosting special events. Live theater productions, ice skating extravaganzas, guided nature walks, you name it, it’s happening here throughout the year. Be sure to check out the Central Park Conservancy official website in advance of your visit to see what might be taking place when you’re scheduled to be in town.