The Upper West Side and the Upper East Side are two of the most desirable places to live in NYC. Both neighborhoods are among the most sought-after and wealthiest areas of the city. They are also home to some of the most iconic buildings in NYC. But the most common debate among New Yorkers is which area is better: the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side?
If you, too, are wondering which is better, check out our complete guide on the Upper East Side vs. Upper West Side.
Generally speaking, the area that makes up the Upper East Side includes neighborhoods above E. 59th Street between Central Park and the East River and below E. 96th Street. This area includes the Carnegie Hill, Lennox Hill, and Yorkville neighborhoods. Historically, these are some of the most affluent neighborhoods in NYC. The area is also known for its upscale boutiques and gorgeous architecture.
The Upper East Side is home to Museum Mile, a world-renowned collection of museums that line E. 105th and E. 82nd Streets. It also includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim.
The Upper East Side is also known for its architecture. The Upper East Side represents the neo-gothic style of buildings. Apartments in the Upper East Side, as well as hotels in this part of NYC, are world-class by all standards.
The area of NYC north of W. 59th Street, between Central Park and the Hudson River, and south of W. 110th Street is considered the Upper West Side. Historically, the Upper West Side has been a place where wealthy New Yorkers lived.
It’s also a culturally rich area. Barnard and Columbia College are located north of the Upper West Side in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. The Lincoln Center lies along its southern border. The Upper West Side is home to the American Museum of Natural History as well as the Beacon Theatre. Residential areas make up this area more than retail and commercial spaces.
One can’t determine which side is better until they are reviewed side-by-side in some key areas. Let’s do that here:
When comparing the transportation systems of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Upper East Side, it doesn’t take long to see that there isn’t any stark difference between the two. There used to be only one subway line on the Upper East Side: the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 line, and two subway lines on the Upper West Side: the Eighth Avenue A/C/E and B/D lines and the Seventh Avenue 1/2/3 line.
However, this is no longer the case thanks to the completion of the Second Avenue Subway. The Q train now connects the Upper East Side to Brooklyn, Midtown, and the Lower East Side. With all these subway lines from the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, you can easily access work and home, whether you’re traveling downtown or midtown NYC.
Both areas are family-friendly, and there isn’t much difference in the quality and opportunities of education. Many of New York City’s private schools are located on the Upper West Side while others are located on the Upper East Side.
Both the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side have a wide offering of public schools. There are four elementary schools sprinkled throughout the Upper East Side. There are also two middle schools and a high school. In comparison, the Upper West Side has four elementary schools, four middle schools, and at least two high schools.
Over the years, New York City has earned a reputation as being one of the world’s dining capitals, and both the Upper East Side and Upper West Side have contributed significantly to building that reputation.
You are likely to find a coffee shop on almost every corner of the Upper West Side. You’ll also find gourmet grocers, bistros, and bakeries.
The Upper East Side also has coffee shops and bistros, but this neighborhood’s food scene is more trendy and versatile overall.
You would find amenities and culture on the Upper East Side. There’s quality education, access to public transportation, and a more laid-back vibe on the Upper West Side. Millennials tend to prefer the Upper West Side for its convenience and access to Lower Manhattan, while senior residents tend to favor the Upper East Side because of its world-renown restaurants, classic New York vibe, and shopping.
The best thing is that both neighborhoods are great for families due to the number of family-friendly amenities and schools. The Upper West Side has better career opportunities and more fun for adults thanks to its nightlife offerings. The Upper East Side is best for those looking for certain aesthetics and sophistication.
The difference between both neighborhoods of Manhattan includes features like public transit, shopping, schools, restaurants, food markets, museums, and theatres. The Upper East Side is home to the Museum Mile. It also has luxury townhouses, upscale boutiques, and apartment buildings. On the other hand, the Upper West Side is popular with young professionals. It’s home to one of Manhattan’s intellectual hubs and is a cultural hot spot.
The Upper East Side is slightly more affluent and caters more to foreign dignitaries and older residents who aren’t as concerned with public transportation as part of their normal routines. The Upper West Side tends to cater more to professionals, those who work in the city and need to commute to the workplace.
The fact that the Upper West Side is more expensive today has a lot to do with the pandemic. You will find people in the Upper East Side who sold their homes at the beginning of the pandemic to live in New York for its culture and vibe, while the Upper West Side tends to be more working professionals.
On the other hand, the Upper West Side residents didn’t move and held on until things calmed down. So, the real estate market of the Upper East Side has taken a bigger hit than the Upper West Side. But for now, apartments on the Upper East Side are relatively cheaper than their counterparts.
Both neighborhoods have good transportation options with Citi Bike stations, taxi services, buses, and multiple subway lines readily accessible.
The Upper West Side and the Upper East Side both have great schools. But there are more private schools located on the Upper East Side. When it comes to public schools, educational options are comparable.
It doesn’t matter which side of Manhattan you are in, you are likely to find something fun to do. The Upper East Side’s museum tour is a popular attraction. There’s nothing like spending a morning in the museum or having lunch in one of the many neighborhood parks. If you get bored in the park, go check out a live performance in one of the theaters on the Upper West Side or enjoy a late-night dinner back on the Upper East Side.
The Upper East Side has a wide assortment of antique shops, resale stores, and privately-owned art galleries. In addition, there are museums such as Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you are on the Upper West Side, don’t forget to visit the Museum of Natural History or the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which spans over 16 acres.
There is no shortage of shopping options in both neighborhoods. The Upper East Side is home to the most high-end fashion boutiques in NYC with stores like Tom Ford, Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and Bergdorf Goodman. On the other hand, the Upper West Side offers more mid-level shopping for the masses. The prime locations for shopping in the Upper West Side are Columbus Avenue and Columbus Circle.
The million-dollar question is which is better: Upper West Side vs Upper East Side? There is no standard answer; the answer could be different for everybody. It just depends on what you’re looking for.
The Upper West Side has a more dynamic and lively vibe. On the other hand, the Upper East Side tends to appeal to more affluent residents who prefer a quiet lifestyle. Professionals might be more attracted to the Upper West Side because of the easier commute to the office and entertainment at night, while retirees may prefer the Upper East Side because of the classic vibe of New York City.