The Ultimate Visitor's Guide to Harlem: the Best Things to See and Do, Plus Where to Eat Nearby

Updated: Apr 29

Spring is almost here, which means visitors hoping to explore Harlem are sure to follow.

If you're one of them—or happen to be hosting friends and family in the area soon—here's a top-11 list of the best things to see and do in the neighborhood.

And since you're all bound to get hungry, there are also suggestions for where to eat and drink nearby.

1. Tour the area's Black monuments

It's safe to say Harlem has the best collection of Black monuments in the country—from a 25-foot-tall memorial dedicated to Duke Ellington to a striking bronze sculpture of Harriet Tubman—and they're all within walking distance of each other. Ready to see them all? Find the full DIY tour here.

📍Pictured: Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial, W 122nd St and St. Nicholas Ave

Eat/Drink: Stylish cocktail bar Sugar Monk, with Monday nights dedicated to the Roaring Twenties, is one block north of the Harriet Tubman Memorial at 2292 Frederick Douglass Blvd.

2. Admire the neighborhood's historic architecture

From Lenox Avenue's iconic brownstones to Convent Avenue's turreted townhouses, you can easily spend the whole day walking around Harlem while admiring its architecture. Here are eight beautiful streets you shouldn't miss.

📍Pictured: Astor Row, W 130th St between Fifth and Lenox Aves

Eat/Drink: Legendary soul food spot Sylvia's is three blocks south of Astor Row at 328 Malcolm X Blvd.

3. Check out public art from the Studio Museum

The Studio Museum may be closed while it rebuilds its home on 125th Street, but it's still bringing great art to the neighborhood. The latest example: "Thomas J. Price: Witness," a monumental bronze sculpture of a young Black man looking down at this phone, on view in Marcus Garvey Park.

📍Marcus Garvey Park, enter at Fifth Ave and E 124th St

Eat/Drink: Vintage-themed Harlem Shake serves up delectable burgers and shakes at 100 W 124th St.

4. Climb up the cast-iron Harlem Fire Watchtower

Following a lengthy renovation, this last-of-its-kind cast-iron watchtower—built in 1857 and used to spot fires in pre-telegraph NYC—is back in all its glory high atop of Marcus Garvey Park. The city's Urban Park Rangers occasionally give tours on the weekends.

📍Top of Marcus Garvey Park between 120th and 124th Streets and Madison Ave and Mt. Morris Park West

Eat/Drink: Local ice cream parlor Sugar Hill Creamery, serving scoops of handmade ice cream in flavors like Harlem Sweeties (a.k.a. salted caramel), is down the street at 184 Lenox Ave.

5. Visit the legendary Apollo Theater

No visit to Harlem is complete without a stop at this legendary theater, where everyone from Billie Holiday to James Brown has performed on its stage. Take a selfie in front of the iconic marquee and don't forget to look down to find the name of your favorite star—Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Prince—in the Apollo Theater's Walk of Fame. Its celebrated Amateur Night competition is every Wednesday night.

📍253 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr and Frederick Douglass Blvds

Eat/Drink: Red Rooster, chef Marcus Samuelsson's world-famous tribute to Harlem, is a short walk away at 310 Lenox Ave.

6. Hear live jazz (and learn about its history)

Jazz is everywhere in Harlem, but a classic place to start your musical tour is Minton's, the birthplace of bebop and open since 1938. Make a day of it and stop by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on 129th Street, where Disney's “The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure” is currently on view.

📍206 W 118th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and St. Nicholas Ave

Eat/Drink: Minton's has a $20 food or drink minimum per guest.

7. Explore the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

This division of the New York Public Library dedicated to Black culture—a must for any visitor to Harlem—includes temporary exhibits (on view now: "Boundless: 10 Years of Seeding Black Comic Futures") as well as permanent highlights like the "Rivers" cosmogram inspired by a Langston Hughes poem. Find a self-guided tour here.

📍515 Malcolm X Blvd and W 135th St

Eat/Drink: French spot Ponty Bistro is open all day at 2375 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd.

8. Visit a storied Harlem church

The Abyssinian Baptist Church, where congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once served as pastor and actor Cicely Tyson's public viewing was held last year, might be the most storied Black church in Harlem. Tourists are welcome to come worship on Sundays.

📍132 W 138th St between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd

Eat/Drink: Ink Harlem serves coffee, pastries and bagels made in house at 2363 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.

9. See where famous Harlemites once lived

Many of the buildings where famous Harlem Renaissance artists, writers, musicians and thinkers once lived are still standing today. Find the homes at your own pace using this DIY guide.

📍Pictured: Graham Court, 1921 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd at 116th St

Eat/Drink: Bo's Bagels, serving every kind of bagel sandwich imaginable, is jut down the street from Graham Court at 235 W 116th St.

10. Discover the neighborhood's best murals

From decades-old murals that have recently undergone renovations to the newest subway art commissioned by the MTA, Harlem's murals are surely some of the best in the city. Find TCU's favorites here.

📍Pictured: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson mural, 269 W 150th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Blvds

Eat/Drink: The charming Lucille's serves coffee and food all day at 26 Macombs Pl.

11. Stop by the Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Built by founding father Alexander Hamilton in 1802, this lovingly restored house was moved twice from its original spot on 143rd Street and is now located on a grassy slope in St. Nicholas Park. (Note: The house is currently closed to visitors due to the pandemic, but the scenic grounds are open and definitely worth a stroll.)

📍414 W 141 St between Convent and St. Nicholas Aves

Eat/Drink: The Grange, a cozy farm-to-table spot named after the house, is just up the hill at 1635 Amsterdam Ave.

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