Manhattan’s Downtown vs. Upper East Side

An interior view of the architecture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you’re moving to Manhattan, one of the biggest questions to consider is which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family. Today we are going to be comparing two popular Manhattan areas: Downtown and the Upper East Side, as well as ask some important questions that will help you in deciding which is the best fit for you in this particular phase of your life. While only a few miles separate the neighborhoods geographically, there is a world of difference! Each offers amazing amenities when it comes to culture, restaurants, and public parks, and we’ve highlighted a sampling of those below.

While it’s impossible to put a single label on an entire neighborhood, if we had to break down the difference between Downtown and the Upper East Side into one, it would be: Downtown is known to be cool and trendy, and Uptown is classy and timeless.

The Neighborhood Culture

If you’re a resident of Glenwood’s Downtown apartment buildings, chances are you will be frequenting hip, smaller museums such as the New Museum, Museum of Chinese in America, and the Tenement Museum. Much like the downtown neighborhood itself, these give a taste of the different heritages that once populated the area (and still do, to a certain extent.)

Upper East Siders can expect grand museums which feature classical and famous works of art and history, such as the MET, the Frick, and the Guggenheim…some of which you could never possibly appreciate in one visit alone.

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Moving to Manhattan’s East Side?

Start your apartment search by exploring Glenwood's luxury buildings in the area today.

Public Parks

Many Downtown residents have the advantage of being close to the West Side Highway, which includes walking, jogging, and bike paths, as well as plenty of green space and playgrounds with summertime splash pads for adults and children alike to enjoy.

Central Park is the big green draw of living on the Upper East Side–from the free public Conservatory Gardens located at 105th Street and 5th Avenue to the Jackie K. Onassis Reservoir looping around the park (with stunning views of the NYC skyline), Central Park boasts plenty of reasons for a visit in addition to recreational activities.

A breakfast table at The Carlyle Hotel in NYC with fresh fruit and coffee.
Photo Credit: The Carlyle Hotel

Your Choice of Restaurants

While there will of course be chains that run both downtown and uptown (Starbucks, anyone?), Downtown residents are privy to trendy eating establishments such as Locanda Verde for brunch and hole-in-the-wall (but oh-so-happening) Smith and Mills for cocktails.

Upper East Siders have ritzy mainstays such as Nello for dinner (pretty much the spot to see and be seen), and Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel for pricey glasses of champagne and live music with $100+ cover charges, depending on who’s playing.

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Luxury Glenwood Buildings

So, what neighborhood will it be? Whether you want to be in the hustle and bustle of Downtown, or reside in the iconic Upper East Side, Glenwood offers a variety of top notch apartment buildings in both areas. For prospect residents of the Upper East Side, our featured buildings include The Andover, Hampton Court, The Marlowe, and The Stratford.  Surround yourself with a pleasant  mixture of urban convenience with a definite small-town feel – right in Manhattan. Glenwood’s Barclay Tower, Liberty Plaza, and Tribeca Bridge Tower are near exciting mixtures of restaurants, shops, financial institutions, museums, galleries, film centers, music venues and more!

Things to Consider

Now that we’ve given you a snapshot of each neighborhood and a sampling of its offerings (sampling is the key word here: both of these neighborhoods have enough hustle and bustle to have their own unique blog!), we want to share a few key questions when considering which neighborhood is right for you.

1. How far of a daily commute will I have to work or school? What will be my main means of transportation?

This question is perhaps the most important, because if you live on the Upper East Side and work Downtown, you could be looking at a 45 minute commute door to door, each way (and that’s assuming there are no train delays or road closures). If you are the type of person who enjoys settling into the subway and reading a book or listening to a podcast, this could be an ideal situation for you. However, if you dislike being squished like a sardine in a subway car, equally dislike morning and evening bumper to bumper traffic while sitting in the back of an Uber, and the idea of biking the length of the island of Manhattan every day, twice a day, gives you the shudders…well. It’s probably best you live and work in the same neighborhood.

2. If I have kids, will they be going to public or private school?

If you’re in a phase of life in which you have children, do your homework on the schools the building is zoned for before signing a lease. Or if you are planning for them to attend a private school, think about how long of a commute they will have (and depending on their age, how long of a commute this will additionally give you, your partner, or your nanny.)

3. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of work?

While working hours may take up a good chunk of our weekdays, it’s important to consider how you best enjoy spending your night and weekend hours, too. If being in nature is important to you, you would probably benefit from being walking distance from Central Park on the Upper East Side. However, if you enjoy going to hip and happening bars and meeting up with friends and meeting new people, living Downtown close to the action might be more preferable. If you’re a member of the MET and look forward to attending lectures and tours and openings of new galleries in your free time, the Upper East Side may make more sense. If you enjoy checking out trendy new boutiques and brunching at hot spots, Downtown could be a better fit.

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Manhattan’s West Side vs. East Side

Believe it or not, there are quite a few differences between the West and East Sides of Manhattan! From family-style mom and pop shops to vibrant nightlife, which neighborhood best suits your lifestyle?

Before you commit to a neighborhood, take a little time to analyze which would be a better fit for your current lifestyle. And remember, if your lifestyle changes in the next year or more, you can always find a new apartment in a new neighborhood! Glenwood has luxury buildings located throughout Manhattan, and we’re certain you’ll find your perfect fit. Take a look at our buildings with available units and see for yourself!

Whether you live Downtown or Uptown, share your favorite thing about your neighborhood with us on Facebook and Twitter!