Due to the large number of institutes of higher learning that are housed within its borders, most notably Columbia University, Morningside Heights has a very definite college-town vibe. It has been dubbed the “Academic Acropolis,” both for the large number of schools and for the fact that the neighborhood is built high atop the Manhattan schist bluffs that are the geological bedrock of NYC. From this vantage point, which is the highest point of land in all of Manhattan, you can take in stunning views of upper Manhattan and the Hudson River. Sunsets are especially breathtaking from Riverside Park.
Walk through Morningside Heights and you’ll see a diverse population, especially when the schools are in session. It has a generally quiet atmosphere, bounded by large green spaces, dotted with small cafes, specialty stores, and restaurants that offer all manner of international cuisine. There is a modest nightlife consisting of intimate bars and small musical venues, many of which are open to the wee hours of the morning, and frequented by students.
Housing is primarily pre-war buildings that have larger apartments and beautiful architecture clustered around Broadway. You can find affordable walk-ups in low-rise buildings on the side streets. Many of the residential buildings in the area actually are owned by Columbia University.