Harlem, named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands, is situated on the north side of New York City borough in Manhattan district. The neighborhood is synonymous with African-American culture and history.
Harlem has a thriving arts, music, and gastronomic scene, and popular for being an epicenter of exciting events in New York. The neighborhood may look rough around the edges, but it has a unique vibe and offers a lot more than you can imagine. If you’re really interested in experiencing the heart of the African-American culture, it’s definitely a place to be.
THINGS TO DO
Catch the next show at the legendary Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theatre is perhaps the most popular icon of Harlem. It offers a variety of art and music shows and it has also provided big breaks to many African-American artists since 1934. Although the legendary theatre was first opened in 1914, it first introduced the popular amateur Nights in 1934. Artists like James Brown, Lauryn Hill, Sammy Davis Jr and Billie Holiday started their journey into stardom on Apollo stage. You can visit to catch the next show or even take a historic tour around the theatre.
Visit the Marcus Garvey Park
This park is named after Marcus Garvey, an advocate for economic independence within the black community. It’s one of the oldest attractions in Harlem and it has served as a play area for families, children, a meeting place for neighbors as well as a holy place for local churches. It has a variety of activities to offer everyone, from dog owners to art lovers, athletes and fitness enthusiasts, bird watchers, families, history students and nature lovers.
Explore the 125th street
The 125th street has a reputation of being one of the most famous streets of America as it has endured yet maintained itself through long periods of booms and busts and still manages to be the capital of African-American cultural life. The 125th street is also famous for the tremendous number of shops it endorses making it the go-to street for shopping and roaming around.
Gospel in Harlem on Sunday
Experience gospel in Harlem on Sunday in one of the local churches the city has to offer. The gospel service in Harlem is quite popular, and it’s always an incredible experience. Visit the First Corinthian Baptist Church to attend a gospel mass with the finest musical treats and inspiring sermons.
Music is an integral part of the Harlem gospel service, the choir performs live worship songs, just like a concert right in front of the church audience. The church is quite large, but you have to be there an hour early so that you can get a seat.
If you are looking for a much smaller but authentic church to experience Harlem Gospel service, you can visit Canaan Baptist Church of Christ. Be prepared for a wonderful Sunday service, sing, clap your hands and enjoy the whole service. You’ll also have an opportunity to meet friendly locals who go out of their way to ensure you feel at home, just expect as many hugs as possible from them.
PLACES TO SEE
The Studio Museum
Opened in 1968, the studio museum is dedicated to displaying the art of African-American descendants. The museum, in the beginning, focused on workshops and exhibitions for artists and art enthusiasts. This gave birth to the idea of the Artist-in-residence program That allows artists to access free non- living studio space for a year. At the end of the year, there’s an exhibition to display the artists work of arts.
Harlem is famous for its love for jazz and Bill’s place is solely dedicated to the mentioned genre. One night per week, the owner Bill Saxon plays sax and other nights it’s a go-to for people looking for famous bars of the city with the best music. Opened in 2006, it’s a great place to visit on Friday nights to see the legendary saxophonist as he leads the Harlem All-Stars.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Located in the center of Harlem, the Schomburg Center is an arm of the New York Public Library (NYPL). It showcases the dynamic programs and exhibitions that promotes the knowledge of the global black experience. It was founded in 1926 by Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. The center also hosts a variety of events including jazz concerts, lectures, films and more. Don’t forget to visit the research division, as it features a collection of millions of items related to African American experiences.
WHERE TO EAT
Although Harlem boasts a wide range of places to wine and dine, the queen of soul food is Sylvia’s. Founded in 1962 by Sylvia Wood, the restaurant is still famous and running smoothly till date. If you are looking to try the renowned southern-fried chicken, Sylvia’s won’t disappoint you! The restaurant serves up classics such as barbecue short ribs, waffles, and catfish. You can visit Sylvia’s at any time during the week, but don’t miss the Live Music Wednesdays and Gospel Brunch Sundays. The restaurants also sell other franchise items such as beauty care products, cookbooks, and children’s books, etc.
Opened in 2010, it has already gained fame for bringing delicious dishes to Harlem residents and guests. Headlined by chef Marcus Samuelsson, the restaurant serves up some food classics such as Tuna Aguachile, Lobster Roll, Jukebox Catfish and many more. The restaurant has its own speakeasy in the basement, Ginny’s Supper Club, which has become a draw for everyone.
The bakery initially was opened in 1994 by two great friends, Pamela Weekes, and Constance McDonald. It first sold artisanal bread and minimal bakery items. It is now famous for its giant chocolate chip walnut cookies that have now become the signature of the place. The bakery is a great place to go for delicious, warm cookies and other delectable treats baked from the finest natural ingredients.
Harlem Walking Tour
Harlem walking tour is provided by the people born and raised in the neighborhood. It’s the most authentic first-hand experience of the city’s life and culture. The tour starts with a video presentation that showcases the history of the neighborhood, and highlights places to explore. You’ll discover and learn about how Harlem became an influential part of the American history, and the drastic changes that the populations took throughout its history.
Explore the National Jazz Museum
The National Jazz Museum is dedicated to preserving, presenting and celebrating the historically iconical genre of music. It features live performances, exhibitions and educational programs for music and emerging artists. Its goal is to create a permanent place in Harlem to protect the history of jazz and the contribution of Harlem in jazz through preserving and education.