Things To Do in The Lower East Side

The Ultimate Lower East Side Guide

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.

By the way: you’ll find many more New York City spots in our Loving New York travel guides.

My 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)

Where is the Lower East Side located?

The Lower East Side (also called LES) is located at the southwest part of Downtown Manhattan directly on the Hudson River.

Lower East Side NYC Map

How to Get to the Lower East Side

Commuting to the Lower East Side is pretty easy. There are a lot of options:

  • Subway: You can take the F M Train to Delancey/Essex Street. Alternatively, you can also take the B D Train to Grand Street in Chinatown and walk for about 10 minutes to LES.
  • Hop on Hop Off Bus: Stop 8 of the downtown loop of BIG BUS or stop 13 of the downtown loop of Gray Line Sightseeing. Here you find more about Hop on Hop off in NYC.
    My tip: the tickets for the buses are included in many of the New York City passes – which one is the best for you, you can see in my Pass Comparison for New York!
  • By boat: Take the NYC Ferry, which arrives and departs from Corlears Hook.

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The 12 Best Things To Do in the Lower East Side

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:

  1. 01

    Katz's Delicatessen: Eat one of the best pastrami sandwiches in NYC

    American Restaurant in Lower East Side
    KatzDeli_1280x640
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    An absolute institution in New York is the Katz’s Delicatessen Restaurant in Manhattan, founded in 1888. Cineastes will immediately think of the film scene with Sally’s fake orgasm during “Harry and Sally”. And what should we say? Those were really the best sandwiches (we tested corner beef and pastrami) we ever had.

  2. 02

    Enjoy the Clipper City Jazz Cruise

    Cruise in Lower East Side
    clipper_190726112221009_Clipper_City-1
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    Spend a relaxed evening with live jazz music on the sailing ship. Of course you can enjoy fantastic views of the New York skyline. A great activity for the evening!

  3. 03

    Visit the New Museum of Contemporary Art

    Museum in Lower East Side
    new_museum_of_contemporary_art
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    The New Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Its contemporary art exhibitions are among the best in the world. Founded in 1977, the New Museum of Contemporary Art building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA and is one of the most striking buildings in NYC.

  4. 04

    Russ & Daughters

    Other Restaurants in Lower East Side
    200212121051002_Russ_and_Daughters
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    Russ & Daughters has been serving the best bagels in town for more than 100 years. Be sure to try them with the smoked fish platter – you’ll be delighted.

  5. 05

    NYC Lower East Side Food and Culture Small-Group Tour

    Walking Tour in Civic Center
    Our Highlight
    Best_Walking_Tour_NYC_NYC_Lower_East_Side_Food_and_Culture_Small_Group_Tour
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    This is a really unique walking tour in NYC that will introduce you to the wonderful Lower East Side. The Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour shows you the many lovely little delis, Jewish specialties, bakeries and everything that makes up the soul of the city.

    You’ll visit places that are an important part of the community, having operated in the same spot for generations. You’ll get a glimpse of authentic life and become part of the real New York.

    With nearly 500 positive reviews, it’s the most popular walking tour in New York of them all!

  6. 06

    Tenement Museum

    Museum in Lower East Side
    Lower_East_Side_181017130136004_1600x800
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    Nowhere are the living conditions of the New York migrants of the 19th century more tangible than in the Tenement Museum.

  7. 07

    Have a Drink in my favorite bar: The Fools Gold

    Bar in Lower East Side
    Our Highlight
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    One of the best bars in New York, also known for good burgers. The bar is an absolute MUST-SEE! The burgers are really sensational and they offer really good local beers.

  8. 08

    Pier 35

    Pier in Lower East Side
    pier_35_nyc_190926143039001
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    On the Lower East Side you will find an often overlooked part of the East River Esplanade. We took a closer look at the route and discovered Pier 35 there, which we think is so great that we have to tell you about it! Because: At Pier 35 you have a great view of the East River and you can swing comfortably!

  9. 09

    cloudM Rooftop Bar: Enjoy breath-taking views

    Rooftop Bar in Lower East Side
    Our Highlight
    New York Bowery CloudM Rooftop
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    For me, the cloudM Rooftop Bar is one of the most beautiful rooftop bars not only in the Lower East Side, but in all of New York. It is located on the roof of the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel and offers everything that makes a good rooftop bar: a great view, beautiful design and relaxed atmosphere.

    Recommend: The best rooftop bars in NYC

  10. 10

    NYC Lower East Side Walking and Food Tour

    Walking Tour in Lower East Side
    Our Highlight
    Best_Walking_Tour_NYC_NYC_Lower_East_Side_Walking_and_Food_Tour
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    The Lower East Side is still an absolute insider tip among the neighborhoods of New York City and a part of Lower Manhattan that I love to visit. There are countless authentic bars and delis, some of which have been family-owned for more than 100 years and are thus an important part of the community.  

    The NYC Lower East Side Walking and Food Tour deals exactly with these small spots and stores and is therefore a TOP Thing to do for foodies!

  11. 11

    SIXTY LES Hotel: Spend a Night in one of NYC's most beautiful hotels

    Hotels & Accommodations in Lower East Side
    best staycation hotels nyc
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    4 Stars | The highlights of the Sixty LES are definitely the rooftop pool, gym, and spa. The stylish rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows. My advice: When booking, definitely ask for a room on one of the higher floors and, with a little luck, enjoy a great view of the Empire State Building.

  12. 12

    Speakeasy Bars: Dive into the prohibition era of the 1920s

    Bar in Lower East Side
    190826114815001
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    In the Lower East Side you have several to choose from, as there are the bars Please Don’t Tell (PDT), Attaboy and The Back Room.

    One of the Attaboy’s specialties is the bartenders: since there is no cocktail menu, you just say what you feel like and in which direction you want the cocktail to go and your personal cocktail will be mixed. The bar is not cheap, but worth every cent – otherwise it wouldn’t have made it into the TOP 20 of the best bars in the world.

     

Some impressions of the LES in NYC

Attractions in the Lower East Side

Many of New York’s major New York attractions like the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or the One World Observatory are located in the adjacent Lower Manhattan and are therefore easily reachable from here:

  1. Lower_East_Side_181017130136018_1600x800

    01 Bowery Ballroom

    The nightlife of the Lower East Side is considered one of the best in the city. And one of the most popular locations for live music is the Bowery Ballroom (address: 6 Delancey St). The former ballroom offers many concerts worth seeing every week. Bruno Mars played here many years ago, when not the whole world knew him.

  2. lowline_park_nyc_190718151749001

    02 Lowline

    Lowline in NYC is the world’s first underground park. It’s located in the Lower East Side.

  3. Gallery

    03 Magenta Plains Gallery

    Magenta Plains is a contemporary art gallery located in the lower east side of New York City directed by Olivia Smith, Chris Dorland and David Deutsch.

  4. Museum_170423115755026-2

    04 Museum at Eldridge Street

    The museum tells the story of Jewish history of the area. Here you can get a good overview of the background of the life of Jewish immigrants.

  5. new_museum_of_contemporary_art

    05 New Museum of Contemporary Art

    The New Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Its contemporary art exhibitions are among the best in the world. Founded in 1977, the New Museum of Contemporary Art building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA and is one of the most striking buildings in NYC.

  6. pier_35_nyc_190926143039001

    06 Pier 35

    On the Lower East Side you will find an often overlooked part of the East River Esplanade. We took a closer look at the route and discovered Pier 35 there, which we think is so great that we have to tell you about it! Because: At Pier 35 you have a great view of the East River and you can swing comfortably!

  7. Lower_East_Side_181017130136004_1600x800

    07 Tenement Museum

    Nowhere are the living conditions of the New York migrants of the 19th century more tangible than in the Tenement Museum.

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Best Guided Tours in the LES NYC

There are a lot of very popular tours where New York guides show you the best parts and the history of this (and neighboring) neighborhood:

  1. Best_Walking_Tour_NYC_Guided_New_York_City_Walking_Tour_from_Manhattan_to_Brooklyn

    01 Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO Walking Tour

    Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and learn about the exciting and dramatic history of this world-famous New York City neighborhood, all while enjoying breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. On the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge you will discover DUMBO, a newly popular and up and coming part of Brooklyn. 

    Meeting point is 52 Chambers Street in front of the Tweed Courthouse.

  2. Best_Walking_Tour_NYC_NYC_Lower_East_Side_Food_and_Culture_Small_Group_Tour

    02 NYC Lower East Side Food and Culture Small-Group Tour

    This is a really unique walking tour in NYC that will introduce you to the wonderful Lower East Side. The Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour shows you the many lovely little delis, Jewish specialties, bakeries and everything that makes up the soul of the city. 

    You’ll visit places that are an important part of the community, having operated in the same spot for generations. You’ll get a glimpse of authentic life and become part of the real New York. 

    With nearly 500 positive reviews, it’s the most popular walking tour in New York of them all!

  3. Best_Walking_Tour_NYC_NYC_Lower_East_Side_Walking_and_Food_Tour

    03 NYC Lower East Side Walking and Food Tour

    The Lower East Side is still an absolute insider tip among the neighborhoods of New York City and a part of Lower Manhattan that I love to visit. There are countless authentic bars and delis, some of which have been family-owned for more than 100 years and are thus an important part of the community.  

    The NYC Lower East Side Walking and Food Tour deals exactly with these small spots and stores and is therefore a TOP Thing to do for foodies!

If guided tours interest you, be sure to check out the Best Walking Tours NYC!

Best Restaurants in the Lower East Side

  1. 210611115910002_Sushi_Japanese_Restaurant_New_York_Blue_Ribbon_Sushi_Izakaya

    01 Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya

    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. 

  2. Hotel_Chantelle_Lower_East_Side_NYC

    02 Hotel Chantelle

    Hotel Chantelle is 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 the Hotel Chantelle before 11pm to avoid long lines.

  3. Restaurant-170423115755029

    03 BigA Bite

    As the name suggests, there are big pizzas here. They can be up to 8 feet long – so BigA Bite is a great experience especially for groups (or for families with big appetites). The pizza dough is very fluffy, tasty and you have a great choice of toppings. Be sure to try the Pizziri to start beforehand. Or the Spicy Burrata!

  4. Dinner_on_Ludlow_New_York_05

    04 Dinner on Ludlow

    If you are looking for a nice dinner location with really good food, then have a look here. The atmosphere is pleasant – the interior with the old wood, the huge chandeliers and modern influences do the rest. The restaurant is one of the most popular in the area. Try steak tartar, mussels or lamb ribs. They are known for these three starters. It’s best to book in advance.

  5. KatzDeli_1280x640

    05 Katz’s Delicatessen

    An absolute institution in New York is the Katz’s Delicatessen Restaurant in Manhattan, founded in 1888. Cineastes will immediately think of the film scene with Sally’s fake orgasm during “Harry and Sally”. And what should we say? Those were really the best sandwiches (we tested corner beef and pastrami) we ever had.

Looking for more recommendations? We’ve got you covered! Here you find the Best Restaurants in the Lower East Side.

Best Bars in the Lower East Side

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:

  1. New York Bowery CloudM Rooftop

    01 cloudM New York Bowery

    For me, the cloudM Rooftop Bar is one of the most beautiful rooftop bars not only in the Lower East Side, but in all of New York. It is located on the roof of the citizenM New York Bowery Hotel and offers everything that makes a good rooftop bar: a great view, beautiful design and relaxed atmosphere.

  2. The_Fools_Gold_NYC_Bar_02

    02 Fools Gold NYC

    One of the best bars in New York, also known for good burgers. The bar is an absolute MUST-SEE! The burgers are really sensational and they offer really good local beers.

  3. Copper_Oak_NYC_Bar_190527095945001

    03 Copper & Oak

    Ui, this is where we as whiskey fans lost our hearts – the operators behind the bar are the same as from the Brandy Library in Tribeca. Like there, the bar is always well attended. No wonder, the bar is not very big and beautiful. Shelves filled with whiskeys, rum and co instead of books, an illuminated bar and super delicious bar food make it one of the bars that is one of the most beautiful for us!

  4. Hotel_Indigo_Lower_East_Side_Mr._Purple_Rooftop

    04 Mr. Purple

    Mr. Purple is a rooftop bar in the Lower East Side, located on the roof of the Hotel Indigo. The view of the city from here is magnificent – and it is one of the most relaxed rooftops in the whole city!

  5. 190826114815001

    05 Speakeasy-Bar Attaboy

    One of the bar’s specialties is the bartenders: since there is no cocktail menu, you just say what you feel like and in which direction you want the cocktail to go and your personal cocktail will be mixed. The bar is not cheap, but worth every cent – otherwise it wouldn’t have made it into the TOP 20 of the best bars in the world.

Looking for more recommendations? We’ve got you covered! Here you find the Best Bars in the Lower East Side.

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.

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.

Best Hotels in the Lower East Side NYC

Are you looking for a nice hotel in the Lower East Side for your next visit to New York? But which one is the most beautiful hotel to stay in? My advice: check out our list of the best hotels in the Lower East Side!

  1. New York Hotels with a View

    01 citizenM New York Bowery

    4 Stars | The citizenM New York Bowery is my favorite hotel in this area, because it combines a lot of things I like: stylish, bright rooms, a sensational bar and even a rooftop bar with a fantastic view. 

  2. Indigo_Lower_East_Side_New_york_Booking

    02 Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York

    4 Stars | The rooms of the Indigo Hotel are stylishly furnished and each bathroom has a bathtub. And notable for anyone that isn’t the greatest fan of air-cons: The windows in the rooms can be tilted. Where else do you find that in a Manhattan hotel? 

  3. Off_SoHo_Suites_Hotel_Lower_East_Side_New_York_Booking

    03 Off Soho Suites

    2 Stars | Each of the modern suites has a chic living room with a flat-screen TV, a dining area and a sofa bed. For all gym fans among you, there is a fitness centre which you can use free of charge.

  4. best staycation hotels nyc

    04 SIXTY LES Hotel

    4 Stars | The highlights of the Sixty LES are definitely the rooftop pool, gym, and spa. The stylish rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows. My advice: When booking, definitely ask for a room on one of the higher floors and, with a little luck, enjoy a great view of the Empire State Building.

Recommended article: The Best Hotels in the Lower East Side NYC.

Neighborhoods Nearby

The Lower East Side is a unique neighborhood with lots of history. With that being said, check out these other neighborhoods nearby.

Neighborhoods that are Similar

If you enjoyed Lower East Side’s raw atmosphere, here are some neighborhoods that are similar to it.

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About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!

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