This week, it’s Director of Communications Aki’s turn to share her five favorite spots in NYC!
Although I am a Tokyo native, I’ve been living in New York for the past 18 years.
Most of this time I’ve been raising kids, so I know a lot about playgrounds, kid-friendly restaurants and restroom locations. However, for our readers, I’d like to introduce some places I love in my neighborhood, the Upper East Side (UES) of Manhattan. UES is the area between Central Park in the west, the East River in the east, 59th St. in the south and 96th St. in the north. To be honest, my absolute favorite place on the UES is the Metropolitan Museum, but since it needs no introduction, I picked some places that are less well known.
1. Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd St. (between Lexington & Park Ave.)
Open Tuesday through Saturday, the Society of Illustrators offers exhibitions, lectures and events for those who love the art of illustration. If you are a self-proclaimed artist, you can pop in for a sketch night (Tuesdays & Thursdays 6:30-9:30pm) where you can enjoy sketching live models with live music and a small plates buffet ($20 adults/$15 students with ID). Their exhibitions are super fun too – check out their permanent and special collections online before your visit. The café on the third floor has great reviews and apparently has an original Norman Rockwell.
This is a beautiful gallery located along the “museum mile” that specializes in early twentieth century German and Austrian art. If you love Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alfred Kubin among others, this is the place to go. The Beaux-Arts building it’s housed in is an artwork in itself.
The added bonus is the Viennese café on the first floor. Café Sabarsky serves multiple types of Viennese coffee, delicious Austrian/German dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel and bratwurst, and of course sachertorte. Be prepared to wait at lunch time. (Reservations can be made for dinner.)
3. The Book Cellar
1465 York Ave. (between 77th & 78th St.)
Only open in the afternoons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, this second-hand book store is nestled in the basement of the Webster Library on York Ave. between 77th & 78th St. My 12-year-old daughter is a bookworm and practically lives there.
All books on sale have been donated, and 100% of proceeds goes to NY public libraries. Not only do they have classics but plenty of new books too. My daughter has purchased everything from A Tale of Two Cities to For Whom the Bell Tolls in hard cover for $2 each!
4. Carl Schurz Park
East End Ave. between 84th-90th St.
Central Park is obviously THE park in NYC, but if you happen to be on the Upper East Side, Carl Schurz Park is a beautiful place for a walk as well. It lies between the East River and East End Avenue from 84th street to 90th street. Volunteers maintain the flowerbeds year-round and the garden is impeccable. You can check out what is in bloom on their website.
At the northern end of the park, you will find a cream yellow federal-style home. It is Gracie Mansion, the residence of the mayor of New York City. You can reserve a tour in advance on their website (Tuesdays only). 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the mansion!
5. German/Hungarian Town
Yorkville, the area between 79th St. and 96th St. on the Upper East Side used to be known as “Germantown” in the early twentieth century, when many immigrants from Germany put down roots. The neighborhood is still home to the Zion St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on 84th St. and many German shops – Schaller & Weber (German food store), Glaser’s Bakery (very retro and photogenic) and Heidelberg restaurant among others.
It wasn’t just the Germans who populated this neighborhood, however. Hungarian, Austrian, Polish and Czech immigrants were also drawn to the area, and there are a couple of Hungarian establishments that stand out.
People from all over the city flock to the Budapest Café & Bakery to enjoy traditional Hungarian dishes such as stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash, or get a strudel to go. Artisan bakery Orwashers was founded in 1916 by a Hungarian immigrant family, and offers freshly baked bread, cookies, pastries and donuts filled to order with fruit preserves from Upstate NY farms.
The Hungarian House on 82nd St. is home to the American Hungarian Library and Historical Society that host events to introduce Hungarian culture and history, such as folk dance parties, concerts and lectures. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.
St. Stephen of Hungary Church (also on 82nd St.) which had served as the center of the Hungarian community on the UES for a century and offered Mass in Hungarian, announced its closing this year. The parish was clustered with nearby churches, but the St. Stephen of Hungary School right next to it continues to thrive.
Global Link students will be based in Morningside Heights, but I hope they’ll have some time to visit the UES as well!
About Aki: Aki is an ICU and Oxford graduate who loves art, dance, cooking and netflix. She lives in New York with her husband and two kids. Feel free to contact her with any questions in Japanese/English at firstname.lastname@example.org.