Living the life in New York doesn’t have to mean renting a West Village pad that’s basically a glorified walk-in closet, or spending a fortune buying a condo in Tribeca. Times have changed, and Uptown is now the place to find a relative bargain while still getting some of the best that Manhattan has to offer.
While many parts of Uptown Manhattan have their charms, having just moved back to the Upper East Side after two years on the Soho/West Village border, I can only really speak in detail about this neighborhood. So what makes the Upper East Side so great? Three main reasons:
After sharing a downtown studio with my fiancée for two years, combined with walking on sidewalks so narrow you often had to let someone coming from the other direction pass first, it’s nice to be able to stretch out a little. We were able to find a true 1-bedroom that’s about twice the size and $100 less per month than the Soho studio, and walking around up here is actually enjoyable.
Not only is there space in the apartments and sidewalks, but the stores, bars, restaurants and parks pretty much all have space! Who knew it was possible to go so long without elbows assaulting your rib cage as people pass by?
2) The Lifestyle
Sure, downtown has some awesome bars and restaurants, but unless you’re raking it in, they’re mostly for show. It’s not like you’re gonna go up and down the block dining in a different restaurant each night, so it doesn’t really matter if there’s 100 great restaurants vs. 50. In the Upper East Side, there’s still plenty of great options for a night out without getting bored, and if you do ever want to go downtown, it’s not that hard. The new Second Avenue subway is almost fun to ride, and for now at least it’s more reliable than trying to schlep in from another area like Brooklyn.
Plus, cool downtown places are starting to open up new locations in the Upper East Side, like La Esquina and soon Quality Eats.
In addition to the restaurants and bars, the Upper East Side also covers your basic human needs like Whole Foods and Pick-a-Bagel. Downtown is basically a high-end grocery and bagel desert, which isn’t meant to minimize actual food deserts, but still, it’s enjoyable that the Upper East Side has lots of good options in these categories.
3) The Culture
With all this space in the Upper East Side, there’s room for museums and cultural institutions galore. From the Met to the Museum of Design to the adorable bookstore inside the French Embassy’s Payne Whitney mansion, there’s plenty of places in the neighborhood to soak up culture. And don’t overlook Central Park, which has all sorts of attractions that feel like hidden gems each time you stumble across them, like statues, gardens and even a castle.
There are lots of great neighborhoods in Manhattan, each with their perks, but at least for myself in this stage of my life, the Upper East Side is perfect.