Gorgeous prewar apartments owned by blue-blooded socialites, soigné restaurants frequented by Botoxed ladies who lunch, the deluxe boutiques of international designers.… This is the clichéd image of the Upper East Side, and you’ll certainly see a lot of supporting evidence on Fifth, Madison and Park Avenues. Recently, however, pockets of downtown cool have migrated north, notably the growing food-and-drink enclave pioneered by Earl’s Beer and Cheese.
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Encouraged by the opening of Central Park in the late 1800s, affluent New Yorkers began building mansions along Fifth Avenue. By the start of the 20th century, even the superwealthy had warmed to the idea of giving up their large homes for smaller quarters, provided they were near the park, which resulted in the construction of many new apartment blocks and hotels. Working-class folk later settled around Second and Third Avenues, following construction of the defunct elevated East Side train line, but affluence remained the neighborhood’s dominant characteristic. Philanthropic gestures made by the moneyed classes over the past 130-odd years have helped to create the impressive cluster of art collections on Museum Mile—from 82nd to 105th Streets, Fifth Avenue is lined with more than half a dozen celebrated institutions, including theMetropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Frick Collection.
To find out more about things to do, see, eat and drink in Manhattan, and discover other neighborhoods in the area, visit our Manhattan borough guide.
Map of the Upper East Side and travel information
The Upper East Side of Manhattan is east of Central Park, running from Fifth Avenue to the East River and extending north from E 59th Street to E 110th Street, where it borders East Harlem. The neighborhood encompasses several sub-nabes: Lenox Hill (E 59th St to E 77th St from Fifth Ave to Lexington Ave), Carnegie Hill (E 86th St to E 96th St between Fifth Ave and Lexington Aves) and Yorkville (E 79th St to E 96th St from Third Ave to the East River).
Restaurants on the Upper East Side
Even in the worst of times, a world-class city needs restaurants offering the escape of over-the-top coddling and luxurious food, with a star chef who's not just on the awning but in the kitchen and dining room, too-—in short, a place like Daniel. The most classically opulent of the city's rarefied restaurants, Daniel Boulud's 15-year-old flagship emerged from a face-lift last fall, looking about as youthful as a restaurant in a landmark Park Avenue building realistically can. The sprawling dining room no longer resembles the doge's palace in Venice. Instead it's been brought into the 21st century with white walls, contemporary wrought iron sconces and a centerpiece bookshelf lined with vibrant crystal vases among other curios. The redesign, by longtime Boulud collaborator Adam Tihany, couldn't have come at a better time. With even neighborhood regulars keeping an eye on their budgets, now more than ever the place needs to cultivate a new clientele. Despite Boulud's ever-expanding reach—he'll soon launch his tenth restaurant, on the Bowery—the chef still prowls the dining room here most nights, charming fans and sending extras to his special guests. While the setting has been revamped, the food—overseen since 2004 by executive chef Jean Franois Bruel—hasn't taken a radical turn. Still, presentations overall seemed much more up-to-date. The tiered silver tower cradling an overkill of miniature bites that used to kick off a meal has given way to a less-is-more amuse-bouche on aBook now Read more
New York’s endless hustle can lead a diner to want a restaurant retreat—a relaxing venue where you can enjoy a simple meal and a break from the outside world. Fatty Fish, located on the Upper East Side, is certainly one of those places. Its spa-like atmosphere washes over you upon entering, with dim lights, warm woods, and comfortable seating (a growing rarity in New York’s dining scene) waiting to usher you into your meal. An eclectic menu overseen by chef-owner Roy Lamberty touts East-meets-West creations like a sushi pizza starter ($14), which reads, deceptively, like a menu gimmick to avoid. Don't. Impeccably fresh tuna comes layered over a crunchy, greasless wonton-based crust, all slicked with three sauces (eel, spicy mayo and mango) applied in precise amounts. It’s hard to stop eating it. A plate of lemongrass chicken dumplings ($6) proved serviceable, its vinegar dipping sauce cutting through the rich filling. Recent specials included soft shell crabs sautéed and served with spinach edamame risotto and black garlic sauce ($22). The edamame added lovely texture to the toothsome risotto and provided the perfect place for the savory crustaceans to rest. A salmon bento box ($21) found the prized fish slightly overcooked, but an addictive side of shumai nearly made up for the misstep. Here, the garden-variety bento-box salad boasts the ideal dollop of ginger-carrot dressing—smooth, sparse (no overdressing here), and never cloying. On the drinks front, find a well-curatedBook now Read more
For the best fix for a late-night sushi jones, you’ll need to go east…Far East. No matter: locals, sushi snobs and off-duty chefs alike crawl in to this completely conventional façade on First Ave until 2:30 a.m. to sample an original selection of raw fish. The Sushi Seki formula: unusually flavored variants of popular sushi cuts (milky king salmon, medium-fat tuna, chopped and deep-fried egg) complemented by a dollop of subtly head-turning sauce (jalapeño atop yellowtail, an oniony tofu sauce above leaner tuna, sesame oil bathing snow crab). Although Seki peddles the sushi standards, too, it’s sushi omakase, starting at $50, which keeps the cabbies idling outside. Piece-by-piece, it’s a fun ride that justifies the off-the-track location and steep prices.Read more
The only menu you’ll find here is for drinks. The fish prepared at this tiny outpost of a popular L.A. sushi spot is governed entirely by chef Kenji Takahashi’s whim. There’s nothing to fear (except maybe the wasabi—they use the much spicier real stuff): Sasabune’s omakase is culled from Takahashi’s daily New Fulton Fish Market finds. He and his team dole out raw numbers, from favorites like salmon and yellowtail to more exotic sea creatures, including bonito in a spicy-sweet homemade soy sauce and a black cod in an eel sauce you’ll want mop up with your fingers.Read more
Museums on the Upper East Side
The opulent residence that houses a private collection of great masters (from the 14th through the 19th centuries) was originally built for industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The firm of Carrère & Hastings designed the 1914 structure in an 18th-century European style, with a beautiful interior court and reflecting pool. The permanent collections include world-class paintings, sculpture and furniture by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Renoir and French cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener.Read more
While the Guggenheim’s collection of modern art works is certainly impressive, it is impossible to separate the museum’s contents from its form with architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s brilliant and controversial design. Opened in 1959 on Fifth Ave across from Central Park, just months after Wright’s death, the concrete inverted ziggernaut (a Babylonian step pyramid), stomped on the expectations and tradition of clean square galleries exemplified and cherished by the neighboring Upper East Side museums, like the nearby Metropolitan Museum. Instead Wright combined his use of geometric shapes and nature, to create a gallery space that presented art along a flowing, winding spiral, much like a nautilus shell, with little in the way of walls to separate artists, ideas or time periods. Best experienced as Wright intended by taking the elevator to the top of the museum and following the gentle slope down, the art is revealed at different angles along the descent and across the open circular rotunda in a way that even the most well known Monet landscape might seem like a revelation. This unusual, bold way of approaching art, both as it is displayed and viewed, has inspired spectacular exhibits by highly-conceptual contemporary artists such as a series of films by Matthew Barney and hundred of Maurizio Cattelan's sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Considering the steep price of admission ($25, students and seniors $18, children under 12 free), make sure to take a break from the captivatRead more
The Asia Society sponsors study missions and conferences while promoting public programs in the U.S. and abroad. The headquarters’ striking galleries host major exhibitions of art culled from dozens of countries and time periods—from ancient India and medieval Persia to contemporary Japan—and assembled from public and private collections, including the permanent Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III collection of Asian art. A spacious, atrium-like café, with a pan-Asian menu, and a beautifully stocked gift shop make the society a one-stop destination for anyone who has an interest in Asian art and culture.Read more
Founded in 1897 by the Hewitt sisters, granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper, the only museum in the U.S. solely dedicated to design (both historic and modern) has been part of the Smithsonian since the 1960s. The museum hosts periodic interactive family programs that allow children to experiment with design.Book now Read more
Bars on the Upper East Side
You’ll miss the entrance of this uptown lounge at least once, if not twice. Recheck the address all you want—this is the place. Inside a small leather-and-accessories shop with a pair of gold-leaf scissors emblazoned on the window, the shopkeeper-host leads you through velvet curtains and into a warm drinkery overseen by the Gilroy trio Steve Laycock, Josh Mazza and Francis Verrall, with former Dead Rabbit bar maven Pamela Wiznitzer behind the stick. With two bars turning out stellar cocktails and Ducks Eatery chef Will Horowitz whipping up food to match, this neighborhood haunt is a destination to look out for—literally.Book now Read more
The idea of a hobnobbing scene in Manhattan’s stuffiest zip code seemed laughable a few years ago. But the Penrose—named for a neighborhood in Cork, Ireland, where two of the owners grew up—is finally bringing a bit of the indie-chic East Village to Gossip Girl territory. Operated by the gastropub specialists behind the Wren and Wilfie & Nell, the joint would be run-of-the-mill farther downtown, where the trifecta of reclaimed wood, craft pours and pedigreed pub grub long ago joined the ranks of food-world clichés, but it’s a welcome change up here.Read more
Venue says: Main Bar: Su-W 11a-2a Th–Sa 11a-2a Cocktail Lab:M-F 6p–2a Sat-Sun 12-2aGrowler Bar: 7 days a week 12-2aEspresso Bar: 7 days a week 6a-4p
The Alewife team crosses the East River this fall, debuting two bars, including this Upper East Side hangout. A custom draft system controls the pressure for optimal fizz. To pad the boozing, chef Michael Haigh (the Vanderbilt) will dole out gussied-up bar snacks such as sriracha peas, house-made Cool Ranch chips and truffle popcorn. Keg pallets and lighting fixtures fashioned from plumbing parts decorate the space, including a 65-seat biergarten.Read more
Choice acts keep New York’s most dapper nightspot on the map, while the steep cover charge and white-jacketed service makes sure riffraff doesn’t scuff up the bar’s most valued draw: original Ludwig Bemelmans murals. Mixologist Brian Van Flandern’s spiffy (and pricey) potions preserve the bar’s classic character. Try the popular Paradise cocktail (pear vodka, Aneri and prosecco with lime and bitters), or a rum, lime, tonic and Martell cognac concoction named for the spot’s longtime barkeep, Tommy Rowles.Read more
Shops on the Upper East Side
A life-sized zebra welcomes shoppers at Alexis Bittar’s boutique, a veritable safari of the designer’s most colorful accessories. Best known for his Lucite jewelry (small square bangles, drop pendants, block rings), Bittar has also expanded his collection to include precious metals. Choose from silver, gold or rose-gold pieces, adorned with semiprecious stones and Swarovski crystals.Read more
Barneys sets the prodigious record for housing the most progressive, conceptual and hard-to-find labels in the city. You'll find Balenciaga and Commes des Garcons; Lanvin, Azzedine Alaia and Dries van Noten. The ground floor offers an excellent selection of accessories such as Hermes watches, Pucci scarves and an in-store shop from Parisian luggage company Goyard, while the shoe department hosts almost every Manolo Blahnik on over (as well as a range of pairs from Miu Miu, Christian Louboutin and Lanvin).Read more
This Brazilian footwear and accessories brand, which has a cult following thanks to designer Giovanni Bianco’s whimsical creations, opens its first store outside its mother country. The space is set up to resemble a high-fashion art gallery, with black-and-white geometric display tables in the middle of the shop and backlit cubes set within the walls displaying goods. Shoe fanatics will find an array of styles to covet, including ballerina flats with glitter heels ($160), suede peep-toe platforms ($190), colorful studded pumps ($260) and glitter-encrusted sandals ($190).Read more