Walking New York’s Lower East Side

New York’s Lower East Side has always intrigued me.
Once home to many of New York’s immigrants, the Lower East Side or LES as it is called, is changing. It is becoming gentrified.  Slowly the old clothing and food shops are being replaced by trendy boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Since the arrival of the New Museum, contemporary art galleries have also flourished. 

New Museum, New York

The fabulous New Museum


Jeff Dobbins from Walks of New York has watched these changes taking place. He loves to explore this area and knows its history, its secrets and hidden corners. When he offered to show me this side of New York, I jumped at the chance!

New York's Lower East Side


As we walked to our first stop, Jeff explained how immigrants began arriving in this area from the 1840s. They were mainly German and Irish but between 1880 and 1920 there was a large influx of Eastern European Jews. Many of them settled in the overcrowded tenement buildings in the area. Today Puerto Ricans and Dominicans live here.

By the early 1900’s the Lower East Side was the largest Jewish settlement in the world. Their businesses flourished and the LES became the centre of Jewish culture. Over time, most have moved out of the area but today a few businesses still remain including some well known New York institutions.

New York's Lower East Side


Busy East Houston Street is the northern boundary of the area that makes up the Lower East Side. The East River, the Bowery and Canal Street mark the other edges of the area….Chinatown, Nolita and the East Village!

Let’s take a walk along East Houston Street….

Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery
I had never tasted a knish before so this was something new. A knish is a bun filled with sweet and savoury fillings. We tried spinach and cheese and a potato filling…very tasty! Together with egg cream this was a new and fun way to start the day. 

Yonah Schimmel started selling his knishes from a cart in the 1890s. Since 1937 this family run business has operated from this shop at at East Houston St. The knishes are made by hand below the shop and sent upstairs in an old lift. There’s no short cuts here!

Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery

Spinach knish at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery

Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery
Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery: 137 E Houston St 


Russ and Daughters
Russ and Daughters has been a compulsory stop for visitors since it first started in 1914. Their famous delicatessen has been the place to come for the best smoked salmon in town. They also sell many other types of smoked fish. You haven’t been to New York if you haven’t had a bagel and lox from Russ and Daughters….

Russ and Daughters Russ and Daughters: 137 E. Houston St., between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue.


A bit further along the street is Katz’s..home of the famous pastrami and corned beef on rye. It’s not your ordinary pastrami on rye, this sandwich is huge…filled to overflowing with tasty pastrami. In fact, its probably a good idea to share one.

Katz's, New York

Even if you’re just popping in for a look, you have to take a ticket as you enter.
Posters and photos of famous Americans decorate the walls. You may even feel as though you have seen this all before and you have! This is where the famous scene from ‘When Harry met Sally’ was filmed.

Katz's, New York
Katz’s: 205 E. Houston St., at Ludlow St.


Kossars’ Bialys
Not far from here, Kossars’ Bialys makes another delicious food bought to New York by Polish jews. They have been making bialy by hand since 1934. A bialy is  similar to a bagel except that garlic and onion fill the spaces where the hole usually is. Delicious!

Kossars Bialys, New York Kossars’s Bialys: 367 Grand Street, between Essex St. and Norfolk St


Lower East Side


The Tenement Museum
We wandered down Orchard street, once one of the busiest streets in the area. Photos in the Tenement Museum show people gathering on the street to escape their crowded living conditions. The museum offers tours of restored apartments so y0u cansee the conditions they lived under.
We didn’t have time to take the tour but this is one place I will definitely come back to.

The Tenement Museum, New York

The Tenement Museum

Tenement Museum: 108 Orchard St., between Delancey St. and Broome St. 


The Pickle Guys
When New York ‘s famous pickle shop, Guss’ Pickles moved location, Alan Kaufman who used to work for them decided to set up his own store not far from where Guss’s had been…. a smart move. Today he sells his own pickles from the pickle jars…no Pete didn’t pick them! My husband, who loves his pickles, declared them one of the best.

The Pickle Guys, New York

Delicious pickles at The Pickle Guys

The Pickle Guys: 49 Essex Street 


We were now getting closer to Chinatown…Chinese restaurants were starting to line the street. I was not expecting to find one of the first Synagogues to be built in the country here. It certainly highlighted how the community has changed.

The Lower East Side, New York

Chinese shops in Eldridge Street, New York


The Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum
Even though the synagogue is still used for weekly services, this beautifully restored building is now a museum keeping the Jewish history of the area alive. Beautiful stained glass windows, carved wooden seats, and brass chandeliers take you back to the days in 1887 when over a thousand people would attend services.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum

The Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum

A fitting finale to a fabulous walk in this area that was once the centre of Jewish culture!

Jeff has many more places to share with you in this fascinating area of New York so join him on one of Walks of New York’s tours of the area!


Walks of New York
Walks of New York have just launched their city tours. To celebrate this, from April 1-7,  they are offering special previews of all their tours for $5 with all contributions going to the American Heart Association .
Choose from one of these: Highlights of New York,  Lower East Side Stories: Traditional New York Culture and Food, Meet the Met: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a great looking New York Photography Tour that takes you along the High Line.
Details are on Walks of New York’s web site:  Walks of New York

Thank you Jeff and Walks of New York for an insight into this fabulous area of the city.
Good luck with your new venture!


Articles you may enjoy:
Eating in New York
What to do in New York
Brunch in NYC
Walking New York’s High Line

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18 Responses to Walking New York’s Lower East Side

  1. Jeff Dobbins March 30, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    It was so much fun exploring the LES with you both. Hope you make it back to NYC soon so we can explore some more (and, of course, a bit more noshing).

    • Jenny Freedman March 31, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      It was a great day thank you Jeff…a fascinating area of New York. Good luck with the launch of Walks of New York…In know you’ll do well!

  2. Ana March 30, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Yay! Keep going with the New York posts, please! I’m planning a trip there in July.

    • Jenny Freedman March 31, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

      Ooh what fun Ana! There’s quite a few posts already on the blog about New York…where to eat, what to see , brunch spots and many more. Walks of New York have some fun tours…you’d love the photography one Ana!

      • Ana April 1, 2014 at 12:40 am #

        I know, I’ve pinned some. 🙂
        Have you got any tips on where else to go in the area? Places we shouldn’t miss on the East Coast? We’re going to Ithaca, New York, and probably Washington and the Niagara falls, and we’ll have 2 weeks there. Many thanks.

        • Jenny Freedman April 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

          Great Ana. Washington is fun..catch the train there! You could also catch the train to Boston. There’s so much to do in NYC you’ll probably need the whole 2 weeks there! Have great trip!

  3. Christina March 31, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Great spots! I’ll keep those in mind next time I’m in NYC 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman March 31, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

      Thanks Christina. A couple of the places are well known…you’ve probably already been… but a couple of the others maybe new and are certainly worth trying.

  4. Muza-chan March 31, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Beautiful photos 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman March 31, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

      Thanks Lili. New York is one of my favourite cities!

  5. Corinne March 31, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    Jenny, No kidding. You must be on a mind-meld with me. I just told my daughter to start researching NYC…we’re doing it! And knishes are one of my favorite things in life. Do you know if there are any Jewish (read knish) cooking classes? That would be on my list. I’ll have to look up the tenement museum. Sounds fascinating! Any other tips? I’m all ears!

    • Jenny Freedman April 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      A trip to NYC..how fabulous. I love New York! There’s quite a few posts on the blog already…just look under New York in the destination list at the top of the blog. There’s a long post on what to do there and another on where to go to eat. The Cloisters is a fabulous Museum that is often overlooked. Two weeks will go so quickly..don’t forget to go over to Brooklyn as well. I’m not sure about Jewish cooking classes…maybe Walks of New York could help you. You should definitely do this walk with them. Have great trip Corinne!

  6. budget jan April 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    I have been thinking about New York lately so it was nice to walk through the streets with you. We stayed in East Village just a hop skip and a jump away from LES. Love those streets. And I have not heard of a Knish but I am positive I would love them. 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman April 1, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

      There are so many fabulous areas of New York to stay it’s so hard choosing one. Last time we split our stay between Soho and Mid Town which worked very well. We spent time in the East Village as well…there are some fabulous food places there!! The knish was great! It was fun doing the walk with Jeff and trying these new tastes! I can recommend it for when you next go back to the Big Apple!

  7. Heather April 3, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    I love this neighborhood and regret not spending more time there when I lived in Manhattan. But I did make sure to hit up Katzs’ and a Jewish cookie shop on my last visit!

    • Jenny Freedman April 3, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

      What a shame you didn’t spend time here Heather. It’s a fascinating area of New York. Mmmm..which cookie shop?

  8. Cornelia April 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I really enjoyed your post a lot, since N.Y. is my favorite city and I was so lucky to go back there 2 years ago, wish I could go there once a year. Thank you for sharing, brought back some wonderful memories.

    • Jenny Freedman April 7, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      Thanks Cornelia. I’d love to be able to go back every year too. There’s so much to see and do and a lot more walks to take. They really do give you a great insight into an area.

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