The Lower East Side, populated in the past 150 years by successive waves of lower-income German, Irish and Jewish immigrants, saw extensive immigration of Chinese and Latin ethnic populations in recent decades. Although the well-known Tenement Museum
on Orchard Street chronicles the historically difficult, even squalid, conditions in the neighborhood’s tenements, today’s rents are four, six, even eight times what they were just five years ago before large-scale renovations took place. Today Ludlow and Orchard Streets reflect the newest wave of immigrants, the dot com and downtown crowd. In fact, an unbelievable array of new boutiques, restaurants, stores, fabulous bars and music clubs compete with the area’s long-established tailors, fabric dealers, button wholesalers, religious artifact suppliers, pickle vendors, and Kosher wine distributors.
The neighborhood’s crowded parks and outdoor recreation areas reflect the pastiche of New York’s ethnically diverse groups, especially in summer, and a dizzying array of music from around the world can be heard literally on every corner. Take a stroll around to see some of the city’s oldest synagogues, famous delicatessens, shopping streets, and hang out with the hippest crowds.
Art enthusiasts will be interested to know that the motherlode of art galleries in New York's Chelsea neighborhood has seen tectonic shifts, albeit slowly, to the Lower East Side, with trendy smaller new galleries popping up here and there. Many attribute this gallery migration to the Lower East Side to the presence of the New Museum of Contemporary Art
on the Bowery, the first art museum ever constructed from the ground up in this neighborhood.
Nightlife on the Lower East Side, especially on the weekends, is always rocking, with almost as many people cruising its narrow streets as there are inside its numerous bars, restaurants and live music venues. Up and coming alternative rock bands play at Bowery Ballroom
on Delancey Street and Mercury Lounge
on East Houston Street, while lesser known acts perform at smaller venues, such as the performance space in Pianos
and the Living Room
on Ludlow Street, or by booking Arlene's Grocery
on Stanton Street.
If you're looking to grab a bite to eat before concert-hoping from venue to venue, try Falai Panetteria
the best source of baked goods on the LES in a gorgeous setting. It's got breads, pastries, sandwiches and even brunch, all at very reasonable prices. There's also Apizz
, which features great Southern Italian cuisine and Prune
, which is renowned for its fine American dining.
The Lower East Side is definitely moving upwardly in its hotel and real estate offerings. The growth of this neighborhood has brought several new luxury boutique hotels, including Hotel On Rivington
, Thompson LES
on Allen Street, and the deluxe boutique Blue Moon Hotel
on Orchard Street.