The battle between the Upper East Side and Upper West Side for the best neighborhood in Manhattan has been going on for years. Both neighborhoods are regarded as some of New York’s best neighborhoods in Manhattan, one of the five boroughs of NYC.
With just Central Park between them, the parks are geographically close, but their vibes could not be more different.
The Upper East Side (UES for short) is the more prestigious side with older, more affluent residents, while the Upper West Side (UWS) is the more relaxed side with more of a working-class demographic.
There are many similarities between the two neighborhoods, given that they’re about 2 miles apart and sound similar. The main differences between the neighborhoods come from the overall vibe of the people who live there or visit.
In this post, we’ll look closely at the differences between the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side and what they would mean for you if you’re thinking of living there or visiting.
We’ll firstly go over general information about both neighborhoods and then head to the specifics.
The Upper East Side of Manhattan
The Upper East Side is a majorly residential neighborhood on the East side of Central Park with lots of green spaces, grand architecture, luxury shops, and fantastic restaurants. The neighborhood is also home to famous attractions like the Museum Mile, Park Avenue, East River Greenway, and parts of Central Park.
The Upper East Side has a somewhat bougie vibe and was previously home to famous families like the Carnegies, Kennedys, Roosevelts, and Rockefellers. This isn’t to say there isn’t affordable housing in the UES. You can still find apartments for less than $2000 per month.
New York is a fast-paced city, and Manhattan happens to be the smallest but most visited borough. The Upper East Side of Manhattan has a more slow-paced vibe than you would find in most other parts of the city. Because of this relatively slower pace, you’re likely to find more people who want to retire here or raise a family outside the hustle and bustle of most parts of the city.
The boundaries of the Upper East Side are:
- 96th Street at the North,
- The East River at the East,
- 59th Street at the South,
- And 5th Avenue at the West.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan
Like the UES, the Upper West Side is mainly a residential neighborhood containing many brownstones and pre-war apartments. This neighborhood has several cultural institutions and is appealing to working professionals.
The Upper West Side has a more laid-back aura than the UES, but it is still considered a classy neighborhood with some affluent residents.
Some important places you’ll find on the West Side are Lincoln Center, Zabars and Fairway Markets, the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, Beacon Theatre, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
The Upper West Side is a lot smaller than the UES and hence, has fewer shops and restaurants servicing it. But what the UWS loses in commercial facilities, it makes up for in several transportation services. As a result, this side of Manhattan, like the rest of New York, remains fast-paced and busy.
The boundaries of the Upper West Side are:
- West 110th Street at the North,
- Central Park at the East,
- West 59th Street at the South,
- And the Hudson River at the West.
Now that you’ve gotten a general feel of both neighborhoods, let’s head to the specifics.
The Upper East Side is split into Lenox Hill (from 59th to 79th streets), Carnegie Hill (from 86th to 96th), and Yorkville (from 72nd to 96th streets).
The Upper West Side is split into Lincoln Square (from 58th to 70th Streets), the Middle of Upper West Side (from 71st to 96th Streets), Manhattan Valley (from 96th to 110th Streets), and Morningside Heights (from 110th to 125th Streets).
Rent Cost of Housing
|Median Rent||Studio||1-bedroom apartments||2-bedroom apartments||3-bedroom apartments||4-bedroom apartments|
|Upper East Side||$2,425||$3,912||$5,600||$6,495||$19,375|
|Upper West Side||$2,850||$4,198||$6,417||$7,943||$6,950|
The average rent on the Upper East Side is around $4,466, while that of the Upper West Side is $4,885. Both are higher than the national average rent, which is understandable since it’s New York we’re talking about.
Although the Upper East Side is generally considered the more expensive side, when it comes to renting in 2022, the Upper West Side takes the cake.
However, the Upper West Side has a higher percentage of housing that falls between $500 and $6000 per month, while the Upper East Side has more housing above $9000.
This means that while both sides have expensive and affordable housing, you will have more options for finding cheaper rent on the west side and more luxurious housing on the east side.
The Upper West Side caters to more of a working-class demographic, who are more willing to stay in their homes during market fluctuations, as we’ve seen during the pandemic.
Upper East Side residents, on the other hand, are more willing to trade up and move out. These are the reasons contributing to why the Upper East Side seems cheaper than the Upper West side lately.
Transportation and Commute Time
Both Upper West Side and Upper East Side have two major subway lines servicing them.
The UES has the 4/5/6 Lexington Avenue lines and the Q train. The 4 and 5 trains are express lines that stop at 59th Street and 86th Street. The 6 train is a local line that goes through 59th St, 68th St, 77th St, 86th St, and 96th St.
The Q train is a local line that was added in 2017 and has drastically reduced the overcrowding that was synonymous with the 4/5/6 lines. The Q train goes under 2nd Avenue and stops at 63rd St, 72nd St, 86th St, and 96th St.
On the other hand, the UWS is serviced by the A/C and B/D Eighth Avenue lines and the 1/2/3 Seventh Avenue lines.
The A, B, C, and D trains go under the west side of Central Park and stop at 59th St, 72nd St, 81st St, 86th St, 96th St, 103rd St, 110 St, 116th St, and 125 St. For specific stops and schedules of each train, check out the Metro Transit Authority website here.
The 1/2/3 lines all go under Broadway. The 1 Seventh Avenue train is a local train that stops at 59th St, 66th St, 72nd St, 79th St, 86th St, 96th St, 103rd St, 110th St, 116th St, and 125th St. The 2 and 3 lines stop at 72nd St and 96th St and then branch northeast of 96th street toward Central Harlem.
As per commute time, since the Upper East Side has a larger area size than the Upper West Side, it is safe to assume that commute time is longer in the UES.
Safety and Crime Rate
New York City has seen a recent increase in crime in 2022. The Upper East and Upper West neighborhoods have always been considered part of the safest neighborhoods in the city.
Although, when it comes to crime rates and safety, it is more accurate to look at the sub-neighborhood/streets individually. For instance, the areas after 96th street on the Upper East Side and after 125th street on the Upper West Side are considered less safe.
Overall, there aren’t many violent crimes in the two areas. Property crime is probably more rampant in these areas than other crimes, but you should take general safety precautions regardless.
Get yourself security alarms, and pepper spray, and don’t walk in lonely places at night.
Access to Schools
Both sides have access to multiple public and private schools with high ratings and quality education. There are at least four elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school on the Upper East Side.
On the Upper West side, there are at least four elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools.
As for universities, you’ll find Rockefeller University, Hunter College, and Marymount Manhattan College on the east side, while the Upper West Side has favorites like Julliard, Barnard, and Colombia University.
If you’re looking for the most expensive shops, head to Madison Avenue, where you’ll find designer brands like Lanvin, Bottega Veneta Maison, Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren Men’s, and so on.
While some departmental stores on Fifth Avenue are Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom.
Shopping on the Upper West Side might be generally upstaged by the numerous and iconic options on the east side, but there are still plenty of places to shop till you drop.
The shops on the UWS are more for a mass market and include shops like Aveda, Cole Haan, H&M, Nordstrom Women’s Flagship Store, Madewell, Olive and Bette’s, and so on.
Some highly recommended restaurant options are Daniel, Mission Ceviche, Kaia Wine Bar, Pizza Quadrata Romana, Cafe Sabarsky, Donohue’s Steak House, J.G. Melon, and NR.
Restaurants on the Upper East Side are classier and more exclusive on a whole than restaurants on the Upper West Side. Not that you can’t find fancy dining in the UWS, but the food scenes here are more family-friendly and casual.
The neighborhood is overflowing with bakeries, coffee shops, bistros, and grocers. You’ll still find a variety on the Upper West Side though. From Asian to Chinese to Indian to American and Italian cuisine, you’ll find a restaurant to your taste.
Some restaurants on the UWS are Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, Charles Pan-Fried Chicken, Leonti, Oxbow Tavern, Awadh, Absolute Bagels, Chick Chick, etc.
Art and Theatre
The Upper East Side is also home to the Museum Mile with NYC famous museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum.
Most of the art on the east side is centered around history and culture. Other Museums include El Museo del Barrio, 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 is better known for the performing arts tending toward music, dance, theatre, opera, and so on.
This is made evident by the presence of the Lincoln Center, which houses organizations like the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Juilliard School of Music.
The west side has its fair share of museums such as the Museum of Natural History, the New York Historical Society, the American Folk Art Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
Summary: Similarities and Differences
So which neighborhood do you think is better: the Upper West Side or the Upper East Side? There’s no clear-cut answer since we all look out for different things. The two sides are often pitted against each other, but they share many similarities; not to mention the famous Central Park sandwiched between them.
Both neighborhoods have similar rent pricing which changes with seasons and market rates. Both sides also share an appreciation for art and culture, as evidenced by their museums and other cultural institutions. And both neighborhoods have similar crime rates, transportation services, and quality education.
The real differences lie in the kind of life the residents live. Life on the Upper East Side is often called more boring and uptight by Upper West residents. There are more nighttime clubs and activities on the west side, and it is generally more student-friendly. On the other hand, Upper East residents flock to the neighborhood for a quieter life.