UPTOWN MANHATTAN begins above 59th Street, where the businesslike bustle of Midtown gives way to the comfortable domesticity of the Upper East and West sides. In between, people come to Central Park, the city’s giant backyard, to play, jog and escape Midtown’s crowds in a particularly intelligent piece of urban landscaping.
The Upper East Side is at its most opulent in the several blocks just east of Central Park, and at its most distinguished in the Metropolitan and other great museums of “Museum Mile”, from 82nd to 104th streets along Fifth Avenue. The predominantly residential Upper West Side is somewhat less refined, though there are certainly plenty of expensive townhouses and apartment buildings. The northern reaches embrace the monolithic Cathedral of St John the Divine and Columbia University. North and east from here, Harlem, the cultural capital of black America, is experiencing a new renaissance. Still further north, in the Washington Heights area, you’ll find one of the city’s most intriguing museums – The Cloisters and its medieval arts collection.Read More
Completed in 1876, smack in the middle of Manhattan, Central Park extends from 59th to 110th streets, and provides residents (and street-weary visitors) with a much-needed refuge from big-city life. The poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant had the idea for an open public space in 1844 and spent seven years trying to persuade City Hall to carry it out. Eventually, 840 desolate and swampy acres north of the city limits were set aside. The two architects commissioned to design the landscape, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, planned a complete illusion of the countryside in the heart of Manhattan – even then growing at a fantastic rate. Despite changes in and around the park, the sense of captured nature largely survives. For general park information, call t 212/310-6600, or visit w http://www.centralparknyc.org.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the world’s great art museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (usually referred to as just “the Met”) juts into the park at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street (Tues–Thurs & Sun 9.30am–5.30pm, Fri & Sat 9.30am–9pm; suggested donation $20, seniors $15, students $10; includes same-day admission to The Cloisters; t 212/535-7710, w http://www.metmuseum.org). Its all-embracing collection amounts to more than two million works of art, spanning America and Europe as well as China, Africa, the Far East, and the classical and Islamic worlds. You could spend weeks here and not see everything.
If you make just one visit, head for the European Painting galleries. Of the early (fifteenth- and sixteenth-century) Flemish and Dutch paintings, the best are by Jan van Eyck, who is generally credited with having started the tradition of North European realism. The Italian Renaissance is less spectacularly represented, but a worthy selection includes an early Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints by Raphael and Duccio’s sublime masterpiece Madonna and Child. Don’t miss the Spanish galleries, which include Goya’s widely reproduced portrait of a toddler in a red jumpsuit, Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga, and a room of freaky, dazzling canvases by El Greco.
The nineteenth-century galleries house a startling array of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, showcasing Manet and Monet among others, and the compact twentieth-century collection features Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein and Gauguin’s masterly La Orana Maria, alongside works by Klee, Hopper and Matisse. The Medieval Galleries are no less exhaustive, with displays of sumptuous Byzantine metalwork and jewellery donated by J.P. Morgan, while the Asian Art galleries house plenty of murals, sculptures and textile art from Japan, China, Southeast and Central Asia, and Korea. Other highlights include the imposing Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian section, and the Greek and Roman sculpture galleries, magnificently restored a few years back.