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Upper East Side vs. Upper West Side: What's the Difference?

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June 4, 2021
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Is there a difference between the Upper East Side (Upper East Side) and the Upper West Side (Upper West Side)? If you’ve ever considered moving to the fast-paced city of Manhattan, you’ve probably wondered whether you would prefer living in one neighborhood over the other.

Just like any other neighborhood in Manhattan, both the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side each have their own distinct characteristics and unique charm. Even though both neighborhoods are located around the iconic Central Park and border rivers, there are significant differences between the two.

To help you decide between these two amazing neighborhoods, we’ve created this essential guide so that you can determine which best suits your lifestyle!

The Upper East Side

The Upper East Side is the area that stretches from below E. 96th Street to above E. 59th Street and contains well-known neighborhoods such as Carnegie Hill and Yorkville. It is the larger area between the two neighborhoods and houses the famous “Museum Mile” - an avenue that contains popular museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim.

The Vibe

Known as one of the most affluent areas of New York, the Upper East Side is known for its luxurious residential options, posh lifestyle, and is the playground of New York’s elite. The architecture of the area is striking and eye-catching; you’ll often find gorgeous examples of neo-gothic and neo-federal architecture.

Some of the most expensive pieces of real estate in NYC can be found here, mainly on Madison, Fith, and Park Avenue. Even in TV and film, the Upper East Side is known to be the setting for luxury apartments. One of the most well-known examples is Carrie Bradshaw’s 1-bedroom apartment in Sex and the City.

The Upper East Side is a mostly residential area, although you will find upscale boutiques and trendy cafes nestled among the luxury apartment buildings.

Rent

On average, the rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the Upper East Side will cost around $2, 106 per month. You’ll find a wide range of various apartment types in this area, ranging from 1-bedroom apartments to luxurious penthouses. In older buildings, you’ll even find classic apartments that have been renovated to fit a more modern lifestyle.

Apartment hunting can be quite difficult because of the high demand, particularly during peak season. If you want to find good deals on cheap apartments, it’s essential to know the best time to find an apartment in NYC. Typically, you’ll find that rent prices are a bit lower when you search for apartments from November to March.

Getting Around

The Upper East Side has two main train lines: the Q train at Second Avenue and the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 trains. These allow residents to easily commute around Manhattan. There is also a bus line that covers 2nd Avenue.

Getting around the Upper East Side itself can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a private vehicle. While it does have a high walkability score of 99 and a bike score of 88, it can be difficult to run errands because of the sheer size of the area. What’s more, it can be difficult to get around during the winter months because of the snow and rain.

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Places of Interest

The Upper East Side is a haven for those who love to immerse themselves in a city’s art and culture scene. While the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art should be part of any bucket list, you should also take time to visit the Jewish Museum, Neue Galerie, and the El Museo del Barrio.

Aside from the abundance of museums and galleries, there are also interesting outdoor attractions that you should not miss! Carl Schurz Park is a great alternative if you feel that Central Park is a bit too crowded. The gorgeous cherry trees bloom during the spring, making it the perfect spot for an outdoor picnic. You can also take a stroll down Carnegie Hill Historic District to glimpse the beautiful classic architecture.

Shopping & Food

If you love to “shop until you drop”, then the Upper East Side is definitely going to test your endurance! You’ll find exclusive retail destinations bearing world-famous brand names here, including Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and Chanel. The Bloomingdale on 3rd Avenue is certainly a shopper’s paradise.

Just like with its shopping scene, the dining scene at the Upper East Side is also trendy and chic. For a fancy night out, make reservations at the James Beard Award-winning Daniel restaurant, then head on over to The Polo Bar for a nightcap.

Is It the Neighborhood For You?

The demographics of the Upper East Side lean more towards families and retirees. This is why the atmosphere is relatively calmer and more peaceful compared to the Upper West Side. Historically, this area is a bit more prestigious and caters to the “old money” crowd.

The Upper West Side

The Upper West Side is the area that stretches from the Hudson River to its border along Central Park. Generally, this is from 59th Street to 110th Street, and it is around 2.5 miles long. Some of the most well-known areas in the Upper West Side include Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

The Vibe

The atmosphere in the Upper West Side is more dynamic, lively, and colorful compared to the Upper East SideUpper East Side. The thriving nightlife scene is evident in the abundance of clubs and bars that can be found along 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.

Another reason why Upper West Side is seen as livelier can be attributed to the younger crowd. Due to the area’s proximity to both Columbia University as well as the Juilliard School of Music, many of the businesses cater towards college students, graduate students, and young professionals.

The Upper West Side has its share of apartments in popular culture. Ted Moseby’s How I Met Your Mother lived in an apartment found in the Upper West Side!

Just like the Upper East Side, however, the Upper West Side is a largely residential area.

Rent

On average, you’ll pay around $2,725 per month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in the Upper West Side. In this area, studio and 1-bedroom apartments are more common compared to larger apartment types because of the typical renter profile.

The type of renters in the Upper Westside dictates how easily you can find apartments in the area. Since a large number of renters are students, there are peak seasons when it comes to apartment hunting. At the start of the school year, it can be harder and more expensive to find apartments. This is why it’s also important to go apartment hunting during the off off-season. The silver lining is that it can be easier to find a roommate.

Getting Around

One of the perks of living in the Upper West Side is the easy access to various commute options. You have three subway lines to choose from, namely the A/C/E and B/D lines on Eighth Avenue and the 1/2/3 line on Seventh Avenue. In between these subway lines, you find several bus lines that cover most of the Upper West Side.

Just like the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side also rates highly in both walkability and bike scores. It boasts a 99 walk score and a 99 bike score, which means that you don’t really need a personal vehicle to get around the Upper West Side.

Places of Interest

The Upper West Side is all about performance art! At the Lincoln Center, you can catch performances by renowned groups such as the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. However, the Upper West Side also has its share of amazing cultural attractions, such as the American Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the New York Historical Society.

If you have a free weekend, the Upper West Side attractions will not disappoint. Theodore Roosevelt Park is a great place for a run, go biking, or walk your dog. Afterward, head on over to the open-air Delacorte Theater where you might catch a local theater group staging an off-Broadway production.

Shopping & Food

The shopping scene at the Upper West Side is geared more towards the mass market, so you’ll find affordable options. Columbus Avenue offers plenty of prime shopping opportunities, including more budget-friendly brands such as Michael Kors, J. Crew, and Club Monaco.

The dining options are decidedly more budget-friendly as well! You’ll find an assortment of coffee shops, small bakeries, and cozy family restaurants on almost every corner. However, if you want a fancy night out, there are still great options such as Jean Georges, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant at 1 Central Park West.

Is It the Neighborhood For You?

The population of the Upper West Side leans more towards young professionals, students, and singles. However, this is not to say that you won’t find young families and retirees as well. It’s just that the atmosphere and overall area vibe are more attractive to “new money” and those who want to have an easier commute to work.

Final Thoughts

So, back to the million-dollar question: which is better, the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side?

Ultimately, it will depend on what you’re looking for in a neighborhood. The Upper East SideUpper East Side offers a more affluent, laid-back, and quiet lifestyle. On the other hand, the Upper West Side has a more up-and-coming, lively, and dynamic vibe. Younger residents lean more towards the Upper West Side because of the easier commute to work and the nightlife, while older residents prefer the Upper East Side because of the classic NYC aesthetic and emphasis on strong community ties.

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