A Guide of the Lower East Side

When in New York, be it for many years or only a few days, you will most likely find yourself wandering through the Lower East Side. It is at the heart of New York City’s underground culture and nightlife, one of the most colorful neighborhoods of the Big Apple, and a Harlem Spiritual’s staff favorite. Do not let the edgy and strikingly contemporary vibe of the streets fool you, for the Lower East Side is one of the most historic areas in town, and there is a plethora of art, cultural hubs, dining, entertainment, and shopping to keep you busy.


(Photo by New Museum/Facebook)

Over the years, the Lower East Side has evolved into one of the most prevalent art districts in New York City. You are able to find some of the best art galleries in the area. From Philadelphia to NYC, find Bodega, to a more unconventional space with the work of varying artists at 33 Orchard, art is in the air. Check out the funky, old-school gallery, Canada or the original, contemporary Derek Eller Gallery. Other noteworthy art exhibits include Marc Straus Gallery, Beauchene GalleryNathalie Karg Gallery, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Invisible-Exports and many more. You can plan your day around this downtown gallery map. The Lower East Side is also home to the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which showcases impressive and thought-provoking multi-media compilations. The Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum is also an interesting find in the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts comes to the area annually for a massive art and theater performance marathon as an arts advocacy movement for the community. Lastly, the First Street Green Art & Cultural Park is an open art space that invites unrecognized artists to display their work and viewers to pass by as they please.


(Photo by Julienne Schaer/ NYC & Company)

New York City mirrors the United States’ history of the great immigration. The city attracts thousands of new immigrants each year from around the world, and the urban legend has it that every nation on earth is represented in the Empire City. The impact of such flows makes for an incredibly diverse cultural landscape, dynamic layers of architecture and folklore, and an amazing sense of community. The first steps of the Urban Pioneers that came to the New World occurred in Ellis Island. The giant infrastructure served as the most important federal immigration inspection station in the country, processing over 500,000 inspections a year. Some newcomers fled to the alternative cities while others settled in New York, particularly in the Lower East Side leading this area to be the epicenter of immigrants. In the late 1800s when the Eastern European Jews migrated to the city, they created America’s first house of worship, The Eldridge Street Synagogue as well as the Museum at Eldridge Street.  The Lower East Side Tenement Museum once hosted 7,000 people from over 20 nations, and today is an exhibit to display how these families truly lived to promote tolerance and historical perspective on immigration.


(Photo by Julienne Schaer/ NYC & Company)

The Lower East Side offers dining atmosphere’s for all occasions. Katz Delicatessen is famous for both their fully-loaded pastrami sandwiches and for being the venue of the iconic “When Harry Met Sally” movie scene. The restaurant is also the longest lasting of the old Hebrew Quarter and a fan favorite for both locals and tourists. On a more modern note, Pig & Khao offers Filipino-Thai accented Southeast Asian fare in a hip venue with patio seating, Dirt Candy is one of the most prominent vegetarian-forward restaurants in the area, and SakaMai is a Japanese-style pub infused with American cuisine and creative cocktails. You may also want to experience the flavors of Central China at Spicy Village, the chill ambiance of Fat Radish, the fresh, thick and stuffed-with-lox bagels at Russ & Daughters, and the mouthwatering-fluffy pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co.  For a solid lunchtime pick-me-up, dine at El Rey Coffee and Luncheonette or Goa Taco for Indian-Style Tacos. If you are looking for classic French food with a New York twist, try Dirty French. 



The Lower EastSide’s demographics shifted in the 80’s from workers to artists and musicians, becoming the heart of the punk movement in New York. Today, you can still enjoy the underground punk scene at Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar & Lounge The Lower East Side is also home to many renowned bars such as Beauty and Essex and Dressing Room Boutique and Bar, a hotspot for drinks, people watching and local designer shopping. For the most innovative cocktails try Bar Goto or Suffolk Arms, or opt for global and authentic wine at The Ten Bells. Aside from the more sophisticated scene, Mehanata is a lively, clubby, Eastern-European bar, better for later in the night. Grey Lady also attracts a young crowd with a nautical atmosphere. Join in on bands rock-and-rolling all week long at Arlene’s Grocery, or sip on a few cheap beers among spinning DJ’s at the 80-year old dive bar, 169 Bar. Home Sweet Home is a great venue to dance your worries dry. For live music performances, the Lower East Side is home to Rockwood Music Hall, Bowery Ballroom, Pianos and Mercury Lounge. For family-friendly fun, Mission Escape Games- Escape Room NYC is a great way to see the savviest of your group, and could quite possibly be a family-bonding activity.


(Photo by Marley White / NYC & Company)

Despite the historical evolution of the Lower East Side, the neighborhood has evolved into a chic and trendy hot spot for boutiques and high-end shopping with an overflow of flavor. Stores such as Tokyo Rebel display an array of higher-end punk-rock angst with New York City flair. The Rising States and Maryam Nassir Zadeh are well-known boutiques that supply clothing and accessories of local designers. On Delancy Stree before reaching the Williamsburg Bridge, you will find Claw & Co. as well as the extensive, modern eyewear store, MOSCOT. Hop into Ticktail Market for a wide array of clothing, accessories, home goods and both local and international designer products. Aside from clothes, we recommend finding Stanley’s Pharmacy, standing out from all of the other pharmacies in the city, not only because of it’s bright orange exterior, but because of its rare selection of products, wellness bar, and customized teas and tonics. Bluestocking is also worth exploring, as this bookstore identifies as a “radical” bookstore and café hosting readings and discussions on health, race, sexuality, and class.  If you like surprises and avoid conjuring expectations, you will have fun shopping in the Lower East Side, as there is certainly a unique identity to each shop that you stumble across.


If you are interested in finding things to do in New York City, search through our complete range of tours, attractions, and activities. We can also tailor-make programs specifically to match your desires and budgets. Harlem Spirituals is the ideal one-stop-shop to simplify your planning! Find more information on www.harlemspirituals.com. Also, check out our New York City Travel Guides for some more inspiration.





A Guide of Downtown Manhattan

A Guide of Hell’s Kitchen

A Guide of Chelsea & the Meatpacking District
















To learn more about the Lower East Side and the inspiring stories of the Urban Pioneer, join us on a special tour at your convenience! If you are interested in finding more to do in New York City, search through our complete range of tours, attractions and activities. We can also tailor-make programs specifically to match your desires and budgets. Harlem Spirituals is the ideal one-stop-shop to simplify your planning! Find more information on www.harlemspirituals.com or contact us at info@harlemspirituals.com






A Guide to Downtown Manhattan

A Guide of Hell’s Kitchen

A Guide of the Meatpacking District

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