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

Updated: Jun 3

Spring is here—as is a fresh wave of visitors eager to explore Harlem.

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 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: BLVD Bistro at 2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd—serving up freshly-made biscuit sandwiches and other modern soul food in a cozy setting—is a short stroll from the Harriet Tubman statue.

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 nine beautiful streets you shouldn't miss.

📍Pictured: Astor Row, W 130th St between Fifth and Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd

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

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 stairs on the east side of the 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: Family-run ice cream parlor Sugar Hill Creamery, serving scoops of handmade ice cream in flavors like Chairperson of the Board (a.k.a. blueberry cheesecake) as well as brownie sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, and its beloved ice cream hot chocolate is a short walk from the park at 184 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd.

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 picture 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 inside include the Amateur Night at the Apollo Semi Finals and Grand Finale, the Dance Theatre of Harlem's family matinee of Harlem Mouse/Country Mouse, and Smokey Robinson in concert.

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

Eat/Drink: Stylish cocktail bar Sugar Monk, with Monday nights dedicated to the Roaring '20s, is just two blocks south of the Apollo.

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

Jazz is everywhere in Harlem, but a good place to start your tour is the small-but-mighty National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which hosts live jazz performances a few times a week.

📍58 W 129th St between Fifth Ave and Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd

Eat/Drink: Red Rooster, chef Marcus Samuelsson's world-famous tribute to Harlem, is a short walk away at 310 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd. Check out the restaurant's live music schedule, including Gospel Brunch with Sing Harlem! on Sundays.

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 through July 8: The Ways of Langston Hughes: Griff Davis and Black Artists in the Making) as well as permanent highlights like the "Rivers" cosmogram inspired by a Langston Hughes poem. Find the Schomburg's self-guided tour here.

📍515 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd and W 135th St

Eat/Drink: Experience old-school Harlem at its best at Sylvia's Restaurant at 328 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd, serving soul food since 1962.

7. Visit a storied Harlem church

The Abyssinian Baptist Church, where congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once served as pastor and actress Cicely Tyson's public viewing was held in 2021, 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: French/West African spot Ponty Bistro is open all day at 2375 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd.

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: Serving every kind of bagel sandwich imaginable, Bo's Bagels at 235 W 116th St is just down the street from Graham Court.

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 at 26 Macombs Pl, a short walk from the Bill "Bojangles" Robinson mural, serves coffee and food all day (closed Mondays).

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. Free park ranger-led tours of the house are held from Wednesday to Sunday.

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

Eat/Drink: Fumo (1600 Amsterdam Ave), a popular neighborhood spot for pasta and pizza, is up the hill and around the corner.

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