The Lower East Side

This is New York’s landmark historic Jewish neighborhood, which was once the world’s largest Jewish community. It was here that the New York garment industry began. Today it is one of New York’s favorite bargain beats, where serious shoppers find fantastic bargains (especially along Orchard Street on a Sunday afternoon), cutting-edge new designers, and hot bars and music venues – and possibly the best place to get a great pastrami sandwich, pickles out of a barrel, and the world’s best bialys. Try Katz’s Delicatessen (205 East Houston St.), the oldest and largest real NY deli, founded in 1888.

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Bounded by Houston Street, Canal Street, and the FDR Drive, the neighborhood’s center is Orchard Street. Once a Jewish wholesale enclave, this street is a true multicultural blend, with trendy boutiques, French caf├ęs, and velvet-roped nightspots sprinkled among dry-goods discounters, Spanish bodegas, and mom-and-pop shops selling everything from T-shirts to designer fashions to menorahs. Orchard is lined with small shops purveying clothing and shoes at great prices. Grand, Orchard, and Delancey Streets are treasure troves for linens, towels, and other housewares, and the traditional Sunday street vendors (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, is observed by many shopkeepers as a day of rest) offer great opportunities to hone your bargaining skills! At Shapiro’s Winery visitors can taste one of their 32 flavors of wine, and at Streit’s bakery, matzoh mavens can sample the freshly baked unleavened bread as it rolls off the conveyor belts behind the counter.

Timeline Touring offers insider tours that relate to this historic period by exploring the culture and heritage that existed then and still exists today. Transportation provided. Tours leave from the NYC visitor center.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum interprets the area’s immigrant and migrant experiences through tours of a landmark 19th century tenement, living history programs, neighborhood walking tours, plays, and special programs. The first synagogue built by Eastern European Jews in America (1887) is the Eldridge Street Project, now a cultural center and gift shop.