Very few places in the world are as eclectic and captivating as Manhattan's Lower East Side. Charming and lively, the Lower East Side lures you in with its ultra-hip image and distinct connection to the island's vibrant past. It's where the old world meets the new, with Katz's Deli, Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery and historic places of worship mingled with avant-garde bistros, swanky boutique hotels and the city's hottest nightlife. Explore the scene on Ludlow Street, where the Velvet Underground once lived, and you'll find today all in one place incredible designer clothes, dance clubs, galleries, bars, bodegas and international cafes. Or discover Orchard Street just steps away with its great discount shopping district.
Recently designated a state and national historic district, the Lower East Side (or "LES") is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Over 200 years ago, Orchard Street was among the world's busiest commercial centers, and home to a flourishing garment industry. The first settlement house in America was built in 1898 on Eldridge Street. In response to the pushcarts that once filled the neighborhood's narrow streets, Mayor La Guardia established the Essex Street Market in the 1930s. New York's oldest surviving synagogue can be found in the LES. Now home to the Angel Orensanz Center, an art and performance space, this landmarked building was also the site of Sarah Jessica Parker's and Matthew Broderick's famous wedding. In the 1980s, the LES became a bastion of radical contemporary art, where intimate galleries like ABC No Rio resisted the status quo of the mainstream art scene. Exemplary of the Lower East Side's rich, diverse past, a Dutch church from the 1840s was once a boxing venue and vaudeville theater before becoming Sunshine Cinema. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum on Orchard Street is an excellent venue for the early Lower East Side experience.
Romanesque and Gothic revival buildings stand alongside tenement-style walk-ups and the occasional glass-and-steel modern high-rise on the LES. The Lower East Side is bordered by Houston Street (pronounced HOW-ston) to the north and roughly runs west to Eldridge, south to Canal Street and East to the East River Park. Though mostly populated by narrow streets, the Lower East Side's main thoroughfare is Delancey Street. There are also three parks that hint at what was once the Delancey farmland, with a cherry grove after which Orchard Street was named. This southeastern neighborhood is reached by the J, M, B, D and F subway and several bus lines, and is the gateway to the Williamsburg Bridge.