Exploring The Upper West Side: Life In A New York Landmark

Nestled between Central Park and the Hudson River, the Upper West Side is one of New York's most iconic neighborhoods. (Shutterstock)

The Upper West Side is one of New York City’s most beloved neighborhoods. Flanked by Central Park on the east, Riverside Park on the west, 110th Street on the north and 59th Street on the south, it offers access to lush green spaces and tree-lined paths, bird-watching and people-watching. The area, home to Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History, is also one of New York City’s cultural and intellectual hubs. A 66-block stretch of Broadway is the Upper West Side’s commercial and retail spine. 

Exclusive pre-war apartment buildings line Central Park West and include the Dakota (where John Lennon lived), the San Remo and the Beresford. Wander over to Broadway and check out the massive Ansonia, Apthorp and Belnord (“Only Murders in the Building”) apartment buildings. Then stroll the side streets in the West 70s and along Riverside Drive to admire the elegant low-rise 19th-century row houses and brownstones. 

Views of the city skyline from an Upper West Side residence on the market now. (Elegran)

The Vibe

The easygoing Upper West Side is known for brunch, bistros, low-key bars and famous delis. The neighborhood has a residential feel, with upscale high-rises, large apartment buildings and cozy brownstones. Residents love the many parks, playgrounds and quiet streets that are ideal for strolling. But don’t be fooled by the Upper West Side’s family-oriented charm; this locale has plenty of bustling businesses. 

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts stands as a cultural beacon and an architectural marvel. (Shutterstock)


Spectacular Riverside Park begins at West 72nd Street and stretches for 4 miles along the Hudson River. It includes children’s play areas, pedestrian and bike paths, sports fields and a skatepark. 

The American Museum of Natural History, on Central Park West, was founded in 1869 and covers four city blocks. Wow factors include its collections of fossils, mammals, sea life, minerals, gems, meteorites and, of course, the dinosaur wing. The shows at its Hayden Planetarium are a joyride through space. 

Lincoln Center is home to 11 resident arts organizations that offer music, theater, dance, film and opera in 30 indoor and outdoor spaces. The Juilliard School, New York’s prestigious performing arts conservatory, is also located in Lincoln Center.

The New-York Historical Society, on Central Park West and West 77th Street, was founded in 1804 and is known for its collections of Tiffany lamps, Hudson River School paintings and Audubon’s Birds of America series. 

The neighborhood is often associated with its historic brownstones. (Shutterstock)


Although the Upper West Side is not as famous for shopping as Madison and Fifth avenues, there are plenty of shops and boutiques where you can purchase just about anything. 

The Shops at Columbus Circle is an upscale shopping mall in a high-rise complex featuring more than 50 stores and boutiques, including Coach, Cole Haan and Lululemon, and Michelin-starred restaurants Per Se and Masa. 

For a different shopping experience, visit the Grand Bazaar flea market on Sundays on West 77th Street. The oldest and largest weekly market in New York City offers goods from local artisans, food vendors and vintage and antique dealers, and donates 100% of its profits to four local public schools. 

For grocery basics, shop at Fairway’s flagship store at Broadway and West 74th Street. Just one block north, try Citarella for gourmet foods, sushi and custom cakes. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s also have stores on the Upper West Side. 

Founded in 1934, Zabar’s is one of New York City’s most famous appetizing stores.


Sophisticated French brasserie Nice Matin, on West 79th Street, has a Provençal-inspired menu and an award-winning wine list. Open daily for breakfast and dinner, weekday lunch and weekend brunch. 

Family-friendly Jacob’s Pickles offers up Southern-style comfort food— shrimp and grits, fried chicken with sausage gravy—and nine varieties of pickles. Extensive whiskey and craft beer menus make its Amsterdam Avenue location a popular destination for drinks. Open 10 a.m.-12 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-12 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 

Barney Greengrass, “the Sturgeon King,” has been an Upper West Side institution since 1908. Order up the Nova Scotia salmon scrambled with eggs and onions or the homemade cheese blintzes. Open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Family-owned Zabar’s is another longtime neighborhood favorite for hand-sliced deli meats and housewares. Get a lox and bagel sandwich to go from its cafe (open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays) on Broadway and head to Central Park for a picnic. Strawberry Fields and the “Imagine” memorial to John Lennon are near its Central Park West entrance. 

The 72nd Street subway station. (Shutterstock)

Need to Know 

There are more than 30 public schools in the Upper West Side, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus, which houses seven separate high schools, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, which specializes in visual and performing arts. Many private school options include coed Trinity School, established in 1709, and all-boys Collegiate School, founded in 1628. 

Head uptown or downtown on the 1, 2 and 3 subway trains that run under Broadway. The three trains stop at 72nd and 96th streets, while the 1 makes local stops by Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center, 79th, 86th, 103rd and 110th streets. The B and C trains make local stops along Central Park West. The subway station at 81st Street is next to the Museum of Natural History.


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