Neighborhoods We Love: Upper West Side


The Upper West Side (sometimes abbreviated as UWS) went through a tremendous transformation before it became the exciting cultural hub for music and arts that it is today. A popular residential area, the UWS is super easy to get to and holds a variety of cultural entertainments, popular food spots, and parks for outdoor activities!

From Tatters to Riches–Fun History Facts

  • The UWS wasn’t always rich with cultural significance and boundless energy. In the past, the riverfront of the UWS was used for shipping, manufacturing, and transportation. If you go to the riverside today, you can see some remnants of warehouses that are now fun apartments or business buildings. Many areas of the UWS are being developed right now, and new buildings are always popping up.
  • When Central Park was created, the area was full of squatters. The neighborhood used to be a run-down area full of boarding houses, rowdy taverns, and underdeveloped shacks. Imagine the peak of the roaring 20s, like in the film The Great Gatsby, where women dressed in extravagant flapper dresses and went to huge parties. The UWS at that time was the exact opposite of the glamorous lifestyle.
  • All of the changes that the UWS underwent is thanks to Columbia University’s relocation to Morningside Heights! Subway lines expanded, urban renewal projects, and residential apartments turned the UWS into what it is today.
  • Now, the UWS is filled with fun cafés, brunch spots, parks, bars, performing arts centers, and more for you to explore!


General things to do on the UWS:

  • Visit the Lincoln Center to see ballets, operas, and music performances. There are shows every day of the week, but make sure you check for big shows and get your tickets in advance–big shows sell fast. Visit here for a full list of performances this month.
  • Take a stroll in Morningside Heights Park or Central Park when it’s nice and sunny out! If you walk along the park paths, you can see street performers, stop at the hot dog and ice cream stands, and take in all the nature around you. You can also go on a horse carriage ride through the park, bring food with you for a picnic in one of the grassy areas, or just sit on a bench and relax. Central Park is so popular that you might even run into someone you know!


Food Spots!

  • Absolute Bagels–This neighborhood go-to spot for bagels has been running for years! You can go with friends to get a perfectly boiled bagel and surprise each other by choosing for each other from 16 different varieties of bagels. Decorate your bagel with a variety of toppings, such as blueberry, sun-dried tomato, or walnut-raisin. You should also try this shop’s delicious smoked fish.
  • RedFarm–The small, old-fashioned Chinese restaurant is decorated with all wooden furniture, bringing you back to a homey environment where the food is just as amazing as the energy of bustling people around you. Bring your friends who love soup dumplings to give them a great surprise–their soup dumplings are famous around the neighborhood!
  • The Mermaid Inn–This is the perfect place for seafood lovers, but has other options such as quesadillas, aiming to please everyone. It’s the perfect place to grab a quick, tasty lunch to catch up with old friends in a sleek and relaxing setting.
  • Tessa–A rustic design brings in a sophisticated ambiance to this Mediterranean restaurant that serves linguine and delicious vegetable and grain salads. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic date night.
  • Candle Café West–A rare vegan restaurant, Candle Café West brings a healthy, environmental-friendly side to the Upper West Side. Vegan sandwich options are creative yet tasty–full of beans, sweet potato, and homemade gravy. Even if you’re not vegan, the food here will not disappoint!


Architecture and Buildings

  • Look up! If you stop to take a look at the buildings around you, you can see that many buildings have an old charm about them. There are intricately carved stone buildings and townhouses built in the pre-depression era, and if you stop for a moment you can feel the charm from the 1800s buildings.

The UWS has and always will be the busy hub that it is–full of charm, character, and places for you to explore.