Skip to main content


Harlem Brownstones


New York City Guide: Harlem lights

The legendary borough of Harlem has been a famous name in New York City since the 1920s, it is full of tradition, culture and creativity.   Today Harlem is an increasingly gentrified area of classic brownstone townhouses, iconic jazz clubs, churches, cultural centers, lounges, and soul food restaurants.  Harlem is unquestionably happening. Buoyed by an influx of former downtowners and emboldened by a tradition of culture and creativity, the neighborhood is chock-full of new high-end shops, restaurants, music halls and lounges.  It's all part of the quarter's ongoing effort to establish itself as a must-visit Manhattan destination, even while it retains its distinctive character—which reveals itself in the historic churches, elegant row houses, and unexpected parks. Take advantage of activities that reflect the neighborhood's vibrancy, energy and diversity at museums and theaters, and then stay to enjoy nearby restaurants and clubs.


Uptown Sightseeing

Change has always been Harlem's watchword.  Tours are offered by companies such as Harlem Heritage Tours and Big Onion Walking Tours (+1 212 439 1090), but it's more fun to make like a New Yorker.  A good book for visitors who want to take

Harlem and the George Washington Bridge

things at their own pace is Touring Historic Harlem: Four Walks in Northern Manhattan (New York Landmarks Conservancy).

Get an overview of Harlem by climbing the steps to the summit of Marcus Garvey Park. From the top, all Harlem's neighborhoods are on display in what amounts to an introductory course on the history of New York architecture.

The elegant brownstone blocks to the south and west to the tenement neighborhoods to the east, once Italian. To the north, the public housing projects that went up in the 50s and 60s, swallowing up the site of the prohibition-era Cotton Club and the Polo Grounds baseball stadium, can't quite obscure the fancy neighborhoods of Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights. You may even catch a glimpse of the oldest house on the island, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, George Washington's headquarters during the early days of the American Revolution (65 Jumel Terrace, +1 212 923 8008).

Live Music

Harlem is synonymous with jazz.  Harlem musicians have been setting the pace for more than a century. It's still showtime at the Apollo Theatre (253 West 125th Street, +1 212 531 5305), an old vaudeville house. Afterwards, drop by Minton's (206-210 West 118th Street, +1 212 864 8346), where bebop was developed in the 40s. Other survivors are the Lenox Lounge (288 Lenox Avenue, +1 212 427 0253) – the booth on the left as you enter used to be reserved each week for Billie Holiday – and St Nick's Pub (773 St Nicholas Ave, +1 212 283 9728).



The newly opened chain stores along 125th Street don't offer anything you can't find downtown. The real action is with the street vendors, who sell everything from the latest street fashion and urban music to self-published, black-oriented books. The best place in the city for African sculpture and textiles is the Malcolm Shabazz Market (52 West 116th St, +1 212 987 8131), while dozens of African hair-braiding salons line 125th and 116th streets. For antiques, Michael Henry Adams, the dean of Harlem style, recommends two shops, both on West 145th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues: Earl's (+1 212 281 6963) and Akbar (+1 212 283 2190).



Harlem nurtured talents such as artists Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, and the Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th St, +1 212 864 4500) makes sure art is still thriving. If you go to the Museo Del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue, +1 212 831 7272) to catch an exhibit, don't miss the nearby Raíces Museum of Latin Music (1 East 104th Street, +1 212 427 2244).  Music and music history can both be found at the National Jazz Museum (104 East 126th Street, +1 212 348 8300) and at the Hip Hop Cultural Centre (2309 Frederick Douglass Boulevard at West 124th Street, +1 212 234 7171).  The most cutting-edge art is to be seen at Triple Candie Gallery (500 West 148th Street, +1 212 368 3333), notorious for shows that refused to reveal the artists' identities.



Manhattan New York

The must-see list for the one-day visitor to New York — especially the first-timer — is mind-boggling. Don't fret; we hope you'll return. We're assuming you're well aware of the major attractions: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (better known as MoMA).  Below are various site links to help you find everything you need to know about New York City.