Lower East Side


Photo: Thomas Rafael

Once upon a time, the Lower East Side was home to tenements, pushcarts, and family after family of immigrants who had come to New York searching for the "American Dream." These immigrants, packed by the dozens into dirty tenement homes, sold their wares from sacks on Orchard Street. The successful immigrants graduated from selling from sacks to pushcarts, lining the streets, and eventually they took over the storefronts, filling the area with the flavors of the Old Countries, while celebrating the industry of the New World.

The Lower East side was, and still is, the name for the area from the Manhattan Bridge to about 14th Street, running up along the East River. Initially, it was a center for Jewish immigrants; today it's still home to a ever-changing cast of immigrants; parts of the Lower East Side have been more recently settled by immigrants from Latin American, Poland, the Ukraine, and Japan, as well as Bangladeshis and other immigrants from Muslim countries. The diversity has led to a variety of religious places of worship, from temples to synagogues to mosques, and it's still a place where you can find authentic foods from almost any country imaginable.

Today, you'll walk the streets of the Lower East Side and encounter fascinating, one-of-a-kind boutiques, delicious ethnic restaurants, and, at night, a busy variety of bars and clubs. If you're curious about the Lower East Side's vibrant past, be sure to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which recreates the area's immigrant past while celebrating its diverse future.

Molly O'Neill