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

Updated: Nov 22



The holidays are 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-10 list of the best things to see and do in the neighborhood.


And since you're bound to get hungry, check out TCU's 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 porch-lined Astor Row at 328 Malcolm X Blvd.



3. Check out 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 atop Marcus Garvey Park. Look for the stairs on the east side of the small hill in the middle of the park.


📍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) and hot chocolate made with vanilla ice cream, is down the street at 184 Lenox Ave.



4. 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 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. Upcoming events include the Double Dutch Holiday Classic and the Amateur Night Holiday Special.


📍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.



5. 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 Playhouse, the birthplace of bebop and open since 1938. Make a day of it and also stop by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on 129th Street, which hosts live jazz concerts a few times a week.


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


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



6. 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—always has interesting 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.



7. 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: NBHD Brûlée at 2620 Frederick Douglass Blvd is an inviting all-day spot for coffee, pastries and sandwiches like the garlic butter and parsley grilled cheese.



8. See where famous Harlemites once lived



Many of the buildings where famous Harlem Renaissance artists, writers, musicians and thinkers—from Duke Ellington to Zora Neale Hurston—once lived are still standing today. Find the homes at your own pace using TCU's 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.



9. 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.



10. 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. Tours are held Fridays through Sundays, but the scenic grounds are definitely worth a stroll any day of the week.


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


Eat/Drink: Fumo, a popular neighborhood spot for pasta and pizza prepared in a wood-fired oven, is up the hill and around the corner at 1600 Amsterdam Ave.


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