Summary of contents of this post
Welcome to Harlem! If you have already read our New York guide, you will have seen that Harlem is one of the areas of New York in which we divide our post about New York neighborhoods to make the visit easier. Well, in this post we are going to tell you everything you can see and do in Harlem and surroundings, the most important points of interest, the best museums, timetables, prices, where to sleep, where to eat, etc …
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If you ask us what to see and do in Harlem, these would undoubtedly be the places that we recommend and that you can’t miss.
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Harlem map and points of interest
In the map below, you will find the most important points of interest in Harlem:
What to see and do in and around Harlem
North of Central Park you’ll find Harlem, another must-see in New York, the New York bastion of African American culture. If jazz and gospel are your thing, this is your place. It is now a completely safe neighborhood where you can enjoy places like the Cotton Club or the Apollo Theater. It is also a good area to stop for a bite to eat and feel the daily routine of the New Yorkers.
We visited the most important points of interest in Harlem during our contrasts tour, but in this post we want to talk to you about EVERYTHING you can see and do in Harlem. Because the truth is that what we saw during this tour tasted us little by little and we would have loved to get lost more in the neighborhood.
TOUR OF CONTRASTS
What to See and Do in Harlem: Cotton Club
This mythical nightclub that managed to keep its doors open with the dry law of the 20’s is one of the most emblematic places in New York. It was founded in 1920 and initially did not allow African American citizens to enter.
The Cotton Club became one of the most important clubs in the city because it was the main showcase for the musical novelties of the moment.
The Apollo Theatre is undoubtedly one of the most important points of interest in Harlem. It tells the musical story of a neighbourhood and a city. It began as a cabaret only for whites but soon after it was the place where the most important African-American musicians played. Guided tours are organized, but only for groups of more than 20 people, so the best way to see it inside is to attend a show.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Apollo Theater
You can buy tickets to see a show at the theater from here. Every Wednesday from 19:30 is celebrated the ‘Night of the Amateurs’ in which you can find shows of the most varied. On those amateur nights, artists such as Jimi Hendrix or the Jackson 5 participated in their day.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard and Malcolm x Boulevard
It is curious how in Harlem many avenues have been renamed after African American celebrities, especially those who have fought for the rights of this community. In Harlem, Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue abandon their simple names to become Malcolm x Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard, respectively.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. is Harlem’s main avenue and is home to the famous Apollo Theater. Malcolm X Avenue is named after the murdered civil rights activist. In both avenues you will be able to live 100% the atmosphere and daily life of the inhabitants of Harlem: they are full of shops, restaurants and churches.
Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market
In this market you can find almost everything: leather, African handicrafts, textiles, oils, clothing and a huge range of African products and objects. You can even braid your hair if you feel like it.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market
It’s such a curious market that you can’t stop visiting it and immerse yourself in it when you visit Harlem. Maybe you’ll find some bargains! 😉
Brownstone Houses in the Historic District of Mount Morris
Do you remember the peculiar architecture we saw in the Greenwich Village area? Well, that’s what the Mount Morris district will remind you of with its brownstone houses. They stand out above all else, just like the ones in Greenwich Village for their beautiful entrance staircases.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Brownstone Homes
Don’t miss anything in the world this area located at 118 St and 125 St, between Fifth Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. avenue.
Marcus Garvey Park
Very close to the streets where you will find these beautiful houses is also the coquettish and secluded park of Marcus Garvey, which will be the perfect place if you feel like having a picnic in the area or rest before continuing to tour Harlem.
Cathedral of San Juan el Divino
The unfinished St John The Divine Cathedral is the largest place of worship in the United States. If its construction is ever completed, it will also be the third largest church in the world. And in this case, size does matter.
What to See and Do in Harlem: St. John the Divine Cathedral
They began to build it in 1892, but between one thing and another (often due to lack of funds) it has never been finished. Initially it had to have a neo-Romanesque design, but finally it was inspired by the Gothic.
The cathedral is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and can also be visited on one-hour guided tours. There are three types of tours:
Highlights tour. This tour shows you the most important and outstanding parts of the cathedral. It costs 14 USD per person. It is available on Mondays at 11:00 and 14:00, Tuesdays to Fridays at 11:00 and 13:00, and some Sundays at 13:00. You can book online.Vertical tour. In this tour you will climb to the top of the cathedral by steep spiral stairs. It costs 20 USD per person. It is available on Mondays at 10:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, Fridays at 12:00 and Saturdays at 10:00 and 12:00.Spotlight tour. With this tour you will discover the most secret history of the cathedral and its architecture. It costs 18 USD per person and you will have to go to the cathedral visitor’s office to book it.What to See and Do in Harlem: St. John the Divine Cathedral
If you don’t do any of these tours, the cathedral visit has a suggested donation of 10 USD (you can give it or not).
You have more info on how to visit the cathedral here.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Columbia University
Founded in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest university in the city and one of the most important research centers in the world today. Within the architecture of the campus, the College Walk, or main courtyard, and the Hamilton Hall, a place that has been key in all student revolts, stand out.
The best way to visit it is to download this self-guided tour of its website 😉 It is only available in English, but it will be very useful to learn the history of this emblematic campus and its hidden corners.
Riverside Park and Riverside Church
If the cathedral of San Juan el Divino had seemed impressive to you, the church of Riverside does not fall short. This impressive neo-Gothic building built in 1930 is another of the religious symbols of the Harlem district. It also has a bell tower, which houses the largest sounding bell in the world.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Riverside Church
Striver’s Row or St Nicholas Historic District
Walking through the historic district of Saint Nicholas with its yellow brick houses is one of the best experiences you can have in Harlem if you want to soak up its history. The streets of this neighborhood were the favorite of Harlem’s elite in the 1920s.
The yellow brick semi-detached houses of which this district is composed, were designed by the most famous architects of the time and some date back to the nineteenth century.
What to See and Do in Harlem: Striver’s Row
Harlem Meer occupies the northeast corner of Central Park. It’s located west of Fifth Avenue, south of 110th Street. It’s a pretty park area that is often a little forgotten by tourists who prefer to visit the park in areas further south.
What to see and do in Harlem: Harleem Meer
Studio Museum in Harlem
This art gallery is presented as one of the most important collections of African-American art in the city. Today, the building in which the museum was located is closed for works and the works have been relocated to Studio Museum 127, located at 429 West 127th Street, between Amsterdam and Convent Avenues.
In addition to its works of art, this museum stands out for its films, temporary exhibitions and talks.
Opening hours are Thursday through Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00 hours and have a suggested donation of 7 USD per person.
The Neighbourhood Museum
Known among the locals simply as ‘The Museum’, it is located north of the mile of the museums we told you about when we wrote about the Upper East Side, where the Metropolitan or the Guggenheim are located.
New York tickets for the most cultured
This museum is one of the most important Latin institutions in New York and its exhibitions include all kinds of artistic works, from photographs to videos to the most traditional media. It houses a permanent collection of works by numerous artists of Latin American origin.
The museum has a suggested donation of 9 USD per person and the schedule is as follows:
From Wednesday to Saturday from 11:00 to 18:00 hours. Sundays from 12:00 to 17:0 hours.
How can I attend a gospel mass in Harlem?
It is undeniable that gospel masses have gone from an African-American tradition to a tourist spectacle. And of course, if you want to live it, Harlem is the perfect place to do it.
If you are considering attending a gospel mass, you have two options for doing so:
Hire a tour that includes this activity. You know that we always recommend Civitatis to do this kind of activities around the world. In this case, you have two options: Do it on your own. On the map at the beginning of the post we have left you five churches (marked in black) where you can go on your own to attend a gospel mass. All you have to do is check their website for the times of the masses and come a little earlier because it’s very likely that you’ll have to wait in line. Keep in mind that the sooner the mass, the fewer people you’ll find. Attending a gospel mass on your own is ‘free’, but the logical thing to do is to offer a small donation (usually an envelope will be given to you for you to put in): Abyssinian Baptist Church. They celebrate mass every Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30, but they only admit visitors in the second one. Remember to go with time because if you can’t run out of room. The Mass lasts about two and a half hours. Bethel Gospel Assembly. The timetables vary depending on the season, so it’s best to check their website.
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Be that as it may, when you attend a gospel mass, keep in mind that this is not a Broadway show, so respect all the people who are there for the real reason that mass is celebrated. Also, keep in mind that in most of them you will not be able to record or take photos of the Mass and you will have to keep some decorum with your clothes (no shorts or flip-flops). Large backpacks are not usually allowed either.
Other points of interest around Harlem
The Cloisters.Inwood Hill Park.Crack is wack Playground.The National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
How much time do I need to see Harlem and the surrounding area?
In our opinion the ideal time to visit this area is mid-morning or mid-afternoon, but it depends a lot on whether or not you entertain yourself in taking photos, visiting one of the museums or attending a gospel mass.
How to get to Harlem
The best way to get to Harlem, like most places in New York, is by subway.
What you have to be clear about is where in Harlem you want to start your visit, because Harlem is quite big. Next we leave you the map with the metro stops that you will find in Harlem:
How to get to Harlem
In this post you have more information about how to get around New York.
Where to Eat in Harlem
One of the best things about New York in general is the large number of choices you have to eat. As always, we are preparing videos and posts about this, but Harlem is a perfect place to eat or better, have a super brunch.
And one of the most typical plans in Harlem is to go to see a gospel mass and then have a good brunch at the end. If you visit Harlem in the middle of the morning, you can eat at one of the restaurants marked in dark red on the map, such as Tom’s Restaurant, Sylvia’s, Red Rooster or Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken.
Other dining options in Harlem:
Where to Sleep in Harlem
Harlem is undoubtedly one of the best areas to stay in New York because it is well communicated and quiet. It’s usually cheaper than other areas of Manhattan because it’s a little farther from the heart.
When looking for accommodation in New York, you have to take into account depending on the season in which you travel, staying in Manhattan is really expensive, I dare say almost prohibitive. So it might make sense that if you travel in high season, you stay off the island, in Brooklyn or Queens.
We’re going to talk in depth about accommodation in New York in upcoming posts, but at the moment I’m showing you four super scored options in Booking in the Harlem area:
The Central Park North >> 7,3/10 de puntuación en Booking y alrededor de 122 euros la noche sin desayuno.Harlem Chateau >> 8,3/10 de puntuación en Booking y alrededor de 124 euros la noche sin desayuno.Harlem YMCA >> 6,9/10 de puntuación en Booking y alrededor de 87 euros la noche sin desayuno.Saint Nicholas Inn >> 8.1/10 of Booking score and about 137 euros the night without breakfast.
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