Known a few years ago for the city’s best bagels and exciting bargains, Manhattan’s Lower East Side is currently packed with indie designer boutiques, stylish bars, cafes and countless contemporary art galleries. An area that wasn’t considered safe many years ago has changed dramatically over the years and now has a very different value than it did.
Even though the LES has been through developments and changes it’s true character is still intact. One can still explore the remnants of the old Jewish neighborhoods, which for many years was home to the Marx brothers and George Gershwin. There’s a lot to see on the Lower East Side.
Getting to LES
Commuting to the Lower East Side is pretty easy. There are a lot of options. You can take the F or M Train to Delancey/Essex Street. Alternatively, you can also take the B or D Train to Grand Street in Chinatown and walk for about 10 minutes to LES.
Walking through The Lower East Side NYC
Lower East Side has become one of the most hip and art driven neighborhoods of New York over the years. During the 1800s, the Lower East Side was a neighborhood filled with immigrants who came here which propped up businesses such as small scale garment factories and also the slums. As the years went on, the area improved and an artistic community has started to thrive. Today’s Lower East Side is a perfect place to enjoy art, food, and drinks! From a New Yorkers perspective, this is where you typically end up on the weekends if you do not live in the neighborhood. Below we have laid out what we think are the must-see and go-to spots are. Check out the inside scoop on the best things to do in the Lower East Side.
Our Top 5 Things To Do in the Lower East Side
- Please Go Experience Katz Deli – Katz Deli is one of the most iconic delis in all of New York City. There’s no other place like it and has been operating since 1888. (Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, Subway F M Delancey/Essex Street.)
- The New Museum – It’s basically a museum for new art and new ideas. Take a look at their awesome gallery and exhibitions which brings in emerging media from modern day artists. (Address: 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002, Subway F 2nd Avenue, Subway JZ Bowery Station and Subway RW Prince St.)
- Two Bit’s Retro Arcade – If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to relive your childhood days, then check out this arcade. It has over 20 vintage arcade games such as Pacman and Tetris. It has the classic games that you grew up loving. Oh, and it has alcohol. Lots of it. (Address: 153 Essex St, New York, NY 10002, Subway F 2nd Avenue or Delancey Street and SubwayM to Essex Street)
- Take a Stroll – Walking around is also one of the best things to do in the Lower East Side. The neighborhood has character and it’s own unique vibe. You can tell it was a rough neighborhood at one point but has not turned into a creatives dream. It’s like a miniature Williamsburg to be honest. (Subway FM Delancey/Essex Street and Subway JZ Bowery Station)
- Visit the Tenement Museum – Here you can learn about NYC’s urban immigrant history. Find out the different challenges immigrants had to face and how they overcame them. (Address: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, Subway FM Delancey/Essex Street and Subway JZ Bowery Station)
Things To Do in the Lower East Side
It’s a small neighborhood but there are a lot of things to do here. There’s a vast amount of restaurants, independent shops and the art scene is pretty spectacular.
Food and Drinks in the Lower East Side
Here are a few articles we’ve written about that are located in the Lower East Side.
Other Restaurants or Cafes Worth Looking Into
Coffee lovers pay attention. The Lower East Side has a few hidden gems where you can enjoy a cup of coffee. One is called Roasting Plant. You’re able to choose the beans from their selection on the wall and will personally grind and brew a cup of coffee for you. If you want the creme de la creme, go here. Another cool spot is Caffe Vita. If you are looking for a rich and creamy cup of coffee, make a stop here. Just a heads up, seating options are limited. Now that you know where to go for your mid-day pick me up, let’s head into where to go for dinner.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya is a Japanese-style tavern and a traditional sushi bar with a fine dining experience. This spot is all about bonding together at a fun place to drink with delicious food selections. From small plate options to family-style platters, Blue Ribbon has got you covered. The location of this Lower East Side restaurant is also beautiful and convenient if you want to jump right into the East Village. It is located in the SIXTY LES Hotel at 190 Allen Street.
Best Lower East Side Bars
The Lower East Side is one of the best neighborhoods in NYC for nightlife. Like we previous mentioned, this is typically where a lot of people end up on the weekend to go out. Los Feliz and Hotel Chantelle are two favorites. Los Feliz not only serves as a restaurant, but they also have a club like space on the two lower levels. Hotel Chantelle is also a 3-level bar where the music is surely to make you move. In the basement you’ll typically find a crowded and dimly lit dance floor where everyone is there to have fun. The second floor is another dance floor filled with people and private tables for those with big groups of people. The third floor is a little calmer. Here you’ll find another bar that’s filled with couches to lounge on. We recommend getting to both of these places before 11pm to avoid long lines.
The Art Scene in the Lower East Side
Aside from the street art you’ll encounter, there are numerous galleries that you can look into. Here’s a list of our favorites.
Canada (Address: 333 Broome Street)
Eleven Rivington (Address: 11 Rivington Street)
Miguel Abreu Gallery (Address: 36 Orchard Street)
Rachel Uffner Gallery (Address: 70 Suffolk Street)
Sperone Westwater (Address: 257 Bowery)
Shopping in the Lower East Side
One of the best things to do in the Lower East Side and even in NYC in general is shopping. The Lower East Side is more about boutiques and specialty stores, so you won’t find any major retailers. If you’re into hats, definitely check out World Hats. They carry every possible hats you can think of. If you’re into fighting such as MMA or Boxing, check out the fight store Superare. You can find fighting gear, apparel and they even carry their own exclusive brand. Other shops in the area are boutiques with their own distinctive selections, look and vibe.
Staying in the LES Neighborhood
There are a good amount of hotels near or in the Lower East Side. This list is some of our recommendations. We usually like to book on booking.com.
- PUBLIC Hotel (215 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002)
- The Gatsby Hotel (135 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002)
- SIXTY LES Hotel (190 Allen St, New York, NY 10002)
- The Ludlow Hotel New York (180 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002)
Other Nearby Neighborhoods to Check Out
The Lower East Side is a unique neighborhood with lots of history. With that being said, check out these other neighborhoods nearby.
Things to Do in Chinatown NYC
This is definitely one of the places you don't want to miss visiting when you...
The Best Things to do in SoHo
SoHo stands for south of Houston and is a world-famous shopping paradise and artist district...
Things To Do in Little Italy NYC & NoLita
Little Italy NYC and NoLita is a must-see neighborhood in Lower Manhattan and is popular...
If you enjoyed Lower East Side’s raw atmosphere, here are some neighborhoods that are similar to it.
Which NYC Neighborhood Do You Belong In?
Are you a Brooklyn Boy or maybe a Queens Queen? Find out now!
Hip & Trendy
You’re walking through the streets as you spot bearded men in flannel shirts in the distance. They are wearing sunglasses with thick black frames. The women next to them are wearing small, black hats that cover their autumn color hair, falling onto their leather jackets and ponchos. The group is drinking from Mason jars and eating sweet potato fries topped with truffle mayo served on wooden boards. What do you do?
You are using the front camera of your smartphone to ensure your mustache is twisted properly - or - your pastel colored clutch that you just snagged from a fancy pop-up store is hanging off your shoulder. You're happily walking toward the crowd.Weiter
You're curious about these people. You decide to observe them from a closer distance, as you wanted to head that way anyway.Weiter
You're not really in the mood for a circus, so you decide to turn around and go somewhere else.Weiter
Food & Drink
You’re enjoying your day in New York. When your stomach starts rumbling, you decide to…
... get a quick snack to satisfy your hungerWeiter
... look for a top restaurant nearby to sit down and eat, because what could possibly make the day better than a great meal?Weiter
... ignore it! Time is too precious to spend at restaurants.Weiter
You’re strolling through a park and observe a family having a picnic. Immediately, the sight makes you..
... smile, because spending quality family time is the best thing in the world!Weiter
... think that you could really use a cold beer and a hot dog right now.Weiter
... laugh, because (thank God)- you're by yourself and don't need to take care of anybody. Instead you're free to do whatever you want!Weiter
For you, meeting fellow tourists in the most amazing places in the world is like…
... a bonfire at camp: the perfect opportunity to learn incredible stories.Weiter
... a night at a wild party followed by a nasty hangover. You can't have one without the other.Weiter
... a large glas of expired milk: simply the worst!Weiter
We say shopping, you say…
... Michael Kors meets Sex and the CityWeiter
... drop a new item into the online cart and click "Order Now".Weiter
You and nightlife, that’s like…
... the cast of the Jersey Shore out first pumping.Weiter
... Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in the Golden Havana Bar.Weiter
... two bears hibernating in their cave for the winterWeiter
Art & Culture
Back in 2015, one of Picasso’s art pieces was auctioned for a record breaking $200 million. What’s your first thought?
A masterpiece like this belongs into a museum, so everybody can enjoy it.Weiter
I would sell my last shirt to own one of Picasso's works.Weiter
Who would have thought that Pokemon could paint!Weiter
Being a photographer and creative in general, New York City, I think is the perfect place to be. I moved to NYC from Boston in 2013 and never looked back. Loving New York has given me the opportunity to do what I love and share those images with you all.