The Upper East Side vs. The Upper West Side
Manhattan may be one island, but each and every neighborhood in New York City has its own distinct characteristics. Take, for example, the Upper East Side vs. the Upper West Side: there are significant differences between the two neighborhoods, even though both border beautiful rivers and iconic Central Park.
If you’ve been considering moving to a new luxury apartment in New York City, you may be wondering why some renters choose the Upper East Side and others the Upper West Side; to help you determine which neighborhood best suits your New York City lifestyle, we’ve developed The Upper East Side vs The Upper West Side: An Essential Comparison Guide.
Living in Manhattan: the Upper East Side vs. the Upper West Side
The main differences between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side can be sorted by the most important features of living in New York City, including:
- Transportation or Public Transit
- Shopping and Fashion
- Restaurants and Food Markets
- Recreation (Museums and Theatres)
- What to Do in Central Park
Your Guide to the Upper East Side of Manhattan
Located between Central Park, East 59th Street, the East River and East 96th Street, and home to Museum Mile, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan’s Upper East Side is an exclusive residential neighborhood with upscale boutiques, storefronts and eateries scattered among luxury townhouses and apartment buildings.
The UES is famed as the film setting for Gossip Girl and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and the City, and is inhabited mainly by older residents and families with children. It is the most affluent neighborhood in all of New York City.
Looking for a Luxury Rental on the Upper East Side?Take a Virtual Tour of Our Upper East Side Luxury Apartments
Your Guide to the Upper West Side of Manhattan
New York City’s Upper West Side neighborhood is situated between Central Park and the Hudson River, and West 59th Street and West 110th Street. Like its east-side counterpart, the UWS is an affluent, mostly residential area known as one of Manhattan’s cultural and intellectual hubs. With its thriving nightlife, Juilliard School of Music campus and proximity to Columbia University, the neighborhood is popular with professionals in their 20s and 30s, many of whom use easily accessible public transportation options to commute to work in midtown or downtown.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan is home to the Time Warner Center and Shops at Columbus Circle, as well as Lincoln Center, with the Metropolitan Opera, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, Alice Tully Hall and David Geffen Hall, The Beacon Theater, the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium.
Looking for a Luxury Rental on the Upper West Side?Take a Virtual Tour of our Upper West Side Luxury Apartments
The Upper East Side and Upper West Side: A Side-by-Side Comparison
If you’re comparing transportation to and from Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Upper East Side, you won’t find too stark a difference, as both beautiful, low-crime, mostly residential neighborhoods are ideal for walkers, bikers and public transit riders.
(There’s also an app for long-term parking on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, or anywhere in New York City — if you plan on keeping your car).
Historically, one key difference between the Upper East Side and Upper West Side was that the Upper East Side had one subway line (the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 line) while the Upper West Side had two (the Eighth Avenue A/C/E and B/D lines; and the Seventh Avenue 1/2/3 line). However, with the completion of the Second Avenue Subway, New York City’s first major expansion project in more than a half century, the Q train now connects the Upper East Side to Midtown Midtown, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn — increasing commuting options and decreasing congestion on the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6.
For those living in or visiting the Upper East Side for its innumerable arts experiences, the new Second Avenue line is a befitting conduit, featuring the largest permanent art installation in New York State.
The availability of two subway lines to and from the Upper East Side and Upper West Side means easy access to your office in Midtown or Downtown from nearly anywhere in your neighborhood.
The Upper East Side and Upper West Side are quintessential New York City family neighborhoods, without a significant difference in educational opportunities.
New York City’s private schools are primarily conveniently located on the Upper East Side, and there are a number of others headquartered on the Upper West Side.
If you’re looking to enroll your children in public school, you’re also in luck: on the Upper East Side there are at least five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school with a perfect 10 rating from GreatSchools, while the Upper West Side has at least five elementary schools, at least five middle schools and three high schools with a rating of 9 or 10.
Shopping and Fashion
Shopping (and window shopping) options abound on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side.
While there are upper-echelon shopping hotspots in both neighborhoods, Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side are home to the most high-end fashion boutiques in New York City, including Chanel, Hermes, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Bergdorf Goodman, Brooks Brothers and Tiffany’s; Bloomingdales is also located on 3rd Avenue.
The Upper West Side is targeted more toward the mass market, with prime shopping opportunities on Columbus Avenue and at Columbus Circle, including J. Crew, Banana Republic, Michael Kors, Coach, BCGB, Theory, Club Monaco, Sephora and Swarovski.
Restaurants and Food Markets
Like shopping on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan, price and exclusivity represent the main differences between the food scenes in the two neighborhoods; both the UWS and UES contribute to New York City’s reputation as one of the dining capitals of the world.
The Upper West Side is best known for its coffee shops on every corner, countless bakeries, cozy bistros, gourmet grocers like Zabars, and family-friendly casual restaurants, with Amsterdam Avenue gaining a reputation for affordability without sacrificing quality. Pricier hot spots in this neighborhood include RedFarm and The Ribbon.
The Upper East Side does have smaller cafes, bistros and specialty bagel shops like H&H, and young students and families are everywhere east of Lexington Avenue; however, the food scene in this Manhattan neighborhood is more chic and trendy overall. With the right reservation, you can rub elbows with the who’s who of New York City’s rich and famous at The Polo Bar or Daniel.
Recreation (Museums and Theatre)
The arts are intrinsic to Upper East Side and Upper West Side living, with the Upper East Side specializing in the visual arts and day-time activities focused on history, design and culture, and the Upper West Side best known for its performing arts and nightlife.
The Upper East Side is home to an array of privately owned art galleries, antique stores and auction houses but is most recognized for Museum Mile, comprised of many of New York City’s most celebrated institutions with some of the finest collections in the world. At the southern end of the Mile is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the northern end is El Museo del Barrio, showcasing Latinx art and culture, and in between you’ll find The Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, Neue Galerie, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
The Upper West Side does have the Museum of Natural History, the American Folk Art Museum, the New-York Historical Society and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, but what most makes this residential hotspot renowned is its dance, music, film, opera and theatre, primarily held across the 30 indoor and outdoor facilities that comprise Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Among the nationally and internationally renowned performing arts organizations headquartered within this 16.3-acre complex of buildings are the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Juilliard School of Music.
What to Do in Central Park
“People are the pulse of New York City; Central Park lets them breathe” — and that’s why proximity to this urban oasis is so coveted among New York City residents.
Central Park is the perfect place for a picnic, a run, or a rock concert, and there are plenty of organized activities on the 843-acre property, as well as all around it.
There’s outdoor yoga, boating on the Lake, free swimming lessons in Lasker Pool, winter ice skating and sledding, holiday walking tours, Shakespeare in the Park and the Central Park Film Festival. There are 21 playgrounds in Central Park, each with its own theme and play structures; and there’ss a Wildlife Sanctuary, billion-gallon Reservoir with encircling running track, the Conservatory Garden, and The Obelisk, the oldest public monument in North America.
If you live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, you can walk to the five-acre Central Park Zoo, Wollman Rink or the Victoria Gardens amusement park. Also nearby are the Loeb Boathouse and Lakeside Restaurant, Conservatory Water, with its rideable radio- and wind-powered model boats, and the Harlem Meer, a prime locale for catch-and-release fishing.
Image courtesy of Steve Brown. Used by permission from The Public Theater.
On the Upper West Side, you’ll find the 1,872-seat open-air Delacorte Theater, as well as the Tennis Center, Heckscher Ballfields, Sheep Meadow and the world-famous Friedsman Carousel referenced by J.D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye, one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the United States, serving 250,000 riders every year.
The Upper East Side and Upper West Side: Which Neighborhood is Right for You?
Once you’ve decided whether you’d prefer to live east or west of Central Park, your next step is finding the apartment that will best fit your vision of New York City living.
We have luxury apartments for rent on the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, and we’d be happy to assist you in selecting your next Manhattan dream home.
So Which Neighborhood Will It Be?
The Upper East Side and Upper West Side: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions — from People Who Live and Work Here
1. What are the main differences between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side?
The main differences between the Upper East Side and Upper West Side can be sorted by the most important features of living in New York City, including: transportation, or public transit; schools; shopping and fashion; restaurants and food Markets; recreation, such as museums and theatres; and, for those neighborhoods bordering Central Park, which of the park’s attractions are in closest proximity.
Home to Museum Mile, the Upper East Side is an exclusive residential neighborhood with upscale boutiques, storefronts and eateries scattered among luxury townhouses and apartment buildings. It is the most affluent neighborhood in New York City. Also upscale and mostly residential, the Upper West Side neighborhood is known as one of Manhattan’s premier cultural and intellectual hubs, popular with young professionals for its thriving nightlife.
2. Is public transportation better on the Upper East Side or Upper West Side?
Public transportation is convenient on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, with multiple subway lines, buses, taxi services and Citi Bike stations readily accessible in both neighborhoods.
3. I have children. Which neighborhood has the best schools?
Home to the majority of the most distinguished and celebrated educational institutions in Manhattan, the Upper East Side and Upper West Side are both quintessential urban family neighborhoods, with a small-town feel in the heart of the City That Never Sleeps.
While New York City’s private schools are primarily located on the Upper East Side, there are a number of others headquartered in Upper Manhattan, west of Central Park.
In both neighborhoods, the public schools also rank among the highest in the City.
4. How does shopping on the Upper West Side compare to the Upper East Side?
The main difference between shopping on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side is the price point. With J. Crew, Banana Republic, Sephora and Swarovski, the stores on Columbus Avenue and at Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side are targeted more toward the mass market; the Upper East Side, on the other hand, has more high-end fashion boutiques on Third, Fifth and Madison Avenues than any other neighborhood in New York City.
5. I’m a foodie. Is the food scene more exciting on the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side?
Both the Upper East Side and Upper West Side can take partial credit for New York City’s standing as one of the world’s most celebrated food destinations. However, while the Upper West Side is recognized more for its bakeries, bistros, coffee shops and upscale casual restaurants, dining on the Upper East Side at Daniel, David Burke Tavern or Boqueria UES, for example, is defined more by sophistication — and who might be seated beside you.
6. Which Upper Manhattan neighborhood has more things to do?
No matter which side of Central Park you find the luxury apartment of your dreams, you’ll never need to leave. However, a quick bus or taxi ride will take you across town, through Central Park, and a perfect day for many consists of an Upper East Side museum tour in the morning, then a picnic in the Park, followed by an evening performance on the Upper West Side and a late dinner back east.
On the Upper East Side, the privately owned art galleries, antique stores and auction houses are only the beginning; Museum Mile includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. On the Upper West Side, you don’t want to miss the Museum of Natural History, but what makes this high-end district so important to the City is Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, with its 30 indoor and outdoor facilities spread across more than 16 acres; the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and Jazz at Lincoln Center are a few of the iconic landmarks.
7. What about outdoor activities? Are there more attractions on the east or west side of Central Park?
There’s way more to Central Park than sunbathing and jogging — from free music concerts and performances of Shakespeare in the Park in the summer to ice skating and sledding in the winter, in addition to a wildlife sanctuary, five-acre zoo, amusement park, tennis center, public pool, world-famous carousel, waterside steakhouse and 19th-century castle with panoramic views of the lawn, the open-air theater and 38 acres of forested trails.
If you live on the Upper East Side, you’re in walking distance to the Central Park Zoo, Wollman Rink and the Victoria Gardens amusement park, as well as the Loeb Boathouse and Lakeside Restaurant, fishing at the Harlem Meer and boating on Conservatory Water. On the Upper West Side, you’ll find the 1,872-seat Delacorte Theater, the Tennis Center and one of the country’s largest merry-go-rounds, the Friedsman Carousel.
8. So which neighborhood should I choose?
This is a question only you can answer, and the best way to find out is by touring luxury rental properties and their available apartments.