The Upper East Side is a part of Manhattan that I’m not particularly familiar with, what I do know is that it’s filled with world class museums and some very swanky shopping and dining.
I’ve left my hotel in midtown quite early to get a good start on the day and have been recommended a restaurant called Sarabeth’s (1295 Madison Avenue at 92nd St.) for breakfast, a New York institution busy with locals and tourists. The breakfast was good but in my opinion no better than many other places in the city. If you do want to eat here be prepared to wait for a table.
Another good option in this area is Yura on Madison (1292 Madison Avenue at 92nd St.), it’s just across the street from Sarabeth’s and serves food in a more informal cafe style format.
Having left Sarabeth’s I thought I’d better walk off that breakfast so I headed up to the most northern point of Central Park, at the corner of 110th Street and Fifth Avenue is Duke Ellington Circle where there’s a monument to the great man himself.
This part of Central Park is a lot less crowded than the more popular southern end. At 105th Street stands the Vanderbilt Gate which opens into the Conservatory Garden, Central Park’s only formally laid out garden. The Conservatory is spread over six acres and is made up of Italian, French and English garden styles. As it’s still early in the year you can see from my pictures that it wasn’t as pretty as I’m sure it is when all the flowers are in full bloom but I think you get the idea.
Back out on Fifth Avenue and directly in front of me is the first of the museums, the El Museo Del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street). This museum is dedicated to Latin American and Caribbean art and culture. Founded by Raphael Montanez Ortiz in the 1960’s it was originally a tribute to the Puerto Rican diaspora in the USA.
Literally one block down is the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd St.) Here you can find out about the history, development and culture of New York. Exhibitions range from theatre to fashion to baseball, art and architecture.
Coming off Fifth Avenue at 96th Street I end up back on Madison Avenue, there’s some lovely shops down here including a great little gift shop called Blue Tree (1283 Madison Avenue between 91st & 92nd). Owned by the actress Phoebe Cates star of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and married to Kevin Kline.
Over the road at 1266 Madison Avenue (between 90th & 91st.) is Eleni’s New York where they sell beautifully decorated cookies and other bits of deliciousness.
Heading back onto Fifth Avenue along 92nd Street there are lots of attractive buildings including some lovely looking brownstones in the Neo-Greco, Romanesque Rivival, French Neoclassical and Federal styles. This area is known as the Carnegie Hill Historic District.
New York’s Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd St.) is situated in a French Gothic limestone chateau. Founded in 1904 it moved to the Warburg Mansion in 1947 and is one of the world’s largest museums devoted to Jewish culture. Look out for the great shop and kosher restaurant called Cafe Weissman.
One block down is the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution (2 East 91st St.) it’s the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The building the museum is housed in is Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion. The turn of the century Georgian style house has 64 rooms and a beautiful private garden.
Another block down, another museum, this time The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts (1083 Fifth Avenue between 89th & 90th St.). Founded in 1825 it houses one of the largest public collections of 19th and 20th century American art in the country. It has a world renowned annual exhibition.
In stark contrast to the rest of its surroundings the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th St.) stands out proudly from all the other buildings around it. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the spiral Guggenheim collects art ranging from Impressionism to contemporary. The building is a strange looking place but it bizzarely works in its own way. Check out the much hyped, ultra modern restaurant The Wright, inside.
Further down Fifth in a 1914 Beaux Arts French chateau is the Neue Galerie New York (1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th St.). This museum is devoted to early 20th century German and Austrian art and design. There’s also a very good, or so I’m told, traditional Viennese cafe, Cafe Sabarsky.
I’m getting a bit peckish now so I walk back onto Madison Avenue and decide to stop at William Greenberg Desserts (1100 Madison Avenue between 82nd & 83rd St.) I have been recommended this place and wasn’t disappointed. This was like heaven for me, I have a very sweet tooth!
So after refuelling on some sugary snacks I get going again this time to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue from 80th to 84th St.) The Met as it’s more commonly known is one of the city’s most famous museums and takes up four whole city blocks, it’s huge, and holds over 2 million works of art. There’s a lot to see here so plan properly.
I keep going south on Fifth Avenue until I reach the French Renaissance mansion of the Ukrainian Institute of America (2 East 79th St.). Walking along 79th Street there is some beautiful property to look at particularly on the south side of the road.
Back on Madison Avenue I keep going south and head into one of New York’s wealthiest areas, the street is filled with upscale shops and even if you can’t afford to shop in these places a little window shopping and dreaming is always nice.
Other highlights down Madison include the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Avenue at 75th St.), for shoppers the fabulously ornate 1897 Rhinelander chateau which now houses the Ralph Lauren flagship store between 71st and 72nd Streets and the Neo Baroque style building that is home to Fred Leighton at the northeast corner of 66th Street.
Not far away and back on Fifth Avenue is The Frick Collection at East 70th Street, that’s if you’ve not had enough of museums for one day!
Carrying on down Madison if you’ve not diverted to The Frick, you’ll eventually come to one of New York’s finest department stores, Barney’s, it sits at the northwest corner of 61st Street, the only criteria to shop here is to have deep pockets.
Eventually I end up at Grand Army Plaza at the southeastern end of Central Park and a short walk back to my hotel. I’ve enjoyed my visit to the Upper East Side and seen a part of the city that I’d never been to before.