Walk in NYC # 8, Midtown East Side, is a 4 miles self-guided tour off the beaten track with several variations possible.
Count 2 hours to explore mainly residential parts of Midtown: Kips Bay, Stuyvesant Town, Cooper Village, East River and East Murray Hill.
You’ll discover a private park and beautiful mansions, second-hand clothing and furniture shops, red-brick buildings, the shores of the East River and an alley of old stables.
Highlights: Block Beautiful, Gramercy Park, a spice haven, second hand furniture and clothing shops, Stuyvesant Town, Cooper Village, East River, Sniffen Alley, the American Copper building and the Corinthian.
Metro: Union Square, lines 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, Q and L (departure) Grand Central, lines 4, 5, 6, 7 and S (arrival).
Bus: use an app like Citymapper to find the best options with bus #, waiting time, list of stops, and where you are in the city once you’ve boarded. Your Metrocard or OMNY account will work and will be valid for transfers to the Metro and other buses. Express buses are more expensive but you can buy your ticket at the stop. The drivers are generally very helpful!
Good to know: you’ll see few restrooms on this tour except at Union Square, St Vartan Park and Grand Central; you’ll find benches in the public parks, Stuyvesant City and along the river. Avenues are your best bet for finding something to eat.
A and B: From Union Square, find Park Ave and follow it towards 19th St then take it on your right.
After Irving Pl. and before 3rd Ave, you’ll be in what’s called Block Beautiful, a set of red brick townhouses that was an artists colony in the 1920s and still houses celebrities looking for a peaceful setting.
C: Once you’re done admiring the facades, retrace your steps and take Irving Pl to Gramercy Park.
Surrounded by beautiful building in Greek, Italian and Gothic revival styles, it’s also a quiet place, away from the crowd and only accessible by the inhabitants who have a key. Yet you can still go around and dream to be invited inside!
D: Next, continue on Lexington Ave until you see Kalustyan’s on your right, an extraordinary spice shop situated after the 28th St.
If however the detour seems too long, turn on 23rd St. and walk to 2nd Ave. You’ll be able to go and see Kalustyan’s later if you decide to shorten your walk along the river (see the marker G further down with the proposed route and its alternative).
E: 23rd St. has 4 furniture and second-hand clothing stores, one on your left before the 3rd Ave named Housing Works Thrift Shop and designed to help people with HIV , the others on your right after 3rd Ave.
If only to see a beautiful interior, try the City Opera Thrift Shop, the last of the series and the smallest one, but one where you’ll probably find the most incongruous treasures.
Opposite to it, you can go and have a look at the small gallery in the School of Visual Arts, in its lobby.
F: The tour now takes you to two amazing architectural ensembles, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Built in red brick after the Second World War, they form a group of about one hundred residential buildings almost all identical, housing a population of about 25,000 inhabitants, with its own police, shops, cafes and public places. It’s a kind of city in the city.
To get there, you have two choices: go through the large Stuyvesant Park and take 16th St. between two buildings of the Mt Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. This is the path shown on the map. It will allow you to visit Stuyvesant Town. Or take 22nd St. to go directly to Cooper Village.
G: In any case, get to 20th St. after your visits and walk towards East River. You’ll have to go under the FDR highway to reach the banks of the river.
Although the noise of the highway is constant, it’s another world you enter now, made of local joggers and walkers, seabirds and various boats. In front of you, Greenpoint, a Brooklyn neighborhood.
Head north and once again, you’ll have two choices, then a 3rd one:
- Go to 26th St. via a footbridge directly opposite the United Nations School, then take 3rd Ave on your right and turn left on 36th St. If you haven’t been to Kalustyan’s yet but wish to go there, go to Lexington Ave and turn right, the shop will be a bit further on your right, after 27th St. Then you’ll go to 36th St. (see point H for the rest of the tour)
- Go to 35th St. as shown on the map to have the opportunity to walk a bit longer along the river. If you choose this option, you need to turn right past the footbridge in front of the United Nations School and rejoin the boardwalk along the river. If you don’t find the way, don’t hesitate to ask the guards who are in front of the school. You will then be far from everything and the walkway is dated but you’ll eventually see and reach a heliport. It will be there that you’ll go back under the highway to take 35th St.
- Unless, 3rd option, that you want to go a little further to take a ferry to the North that will bring you to Walk in NYC # 6, along the East River, part 3, or another ferry to the south that will bring you to Walk in NYC # 16, the quiet Bay Ridge.
If you stay on this tour, St Vartan Park at the beginning of 35th St. has restrooms. It also offers beautiful views of the American Copper Building, actually two towers of luxury apartments connected by a footbridge, and the Corinthian, a wavy tower that allows all apartments to have bow windows.
The edge of the river at this location is in fact a succession of high rise apartment buildings, but these two towers have a particularly interesting architecture.
After the park, turn right to take 36th St. on your left.
H: Once past 3rd Ave, you’ll see on your left an alley from another time, Sniffen Court, the smallest historic district of New York.
Built in 1863 to house stables, it remains as it was, without the horses though, and with a gate now closing it.
I: All you have to do next is turn right on Lexington Ave to find Grand Central on your left after reaching 42nd or 43rd St.
It’ll be the end of this walk but if you want to do more, Grand Central is also the starting point of Walk in NYC # 5, along the East River, parts 1 and 2, and Walk in NYC 7, Midtown from Grand Central to Union Park.
To visit without walking, many photos of New York are on Citywalks.space.
Before you go, don’t forget your guide and see how to thank him at the bottom of the page. Then enjoy the rest of your day!