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

Updated: 2 days ago



The U.S. is finally allowing vaccinated travelers into the country, which can only mean one thing: Tourist are coming back to Harlem.


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


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



1. Tour the area's Black monuments



Harlem probably has the best 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: Swanky cocktail bar Sugar Monk, with Monday nights dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance, 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 and 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/Lenox Ave.



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



No visit to Harlem is complete without a stop at this legendary theater, where everyone from Billie Holiday to James Brown has performed. 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.

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 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.

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: Traveling While Black) 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 the public viewing for actor Cicely Tyson was held earlier this 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 a light menu 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: While the house is currently closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the grounds are open.)

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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