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Living in Manhattan: 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.

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
  • Schools
  • 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 ArtManhattan’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.

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.

The Upper East Side and Upper West Side: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Transportation/Public Transit

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.

Plus, taxi services and Citi Bike stations are easily accessible in both neighborhoods.


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 YorkNeue 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 BalletJazz at Lincoln Center, and Juilliard School of Music.

On the Upper West Side, you’ll find the 1,872-seat open-air Delacorte Theater, as well as the Tennis CenterHeckscher 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.