Located north of Central Park in Manhattan, Harlem has served as an influential part of American history, particularly in the arts, music and fashion during the 1920s. While the area might have changed slightly in recent times, its lifeblood still pulsates.
Catch the next big thing at the Apollo Theater
Concert Hall, Theater
This legendary theater has played an integral role in the emergence and popularity of jazz, swing, R&B, gospel, blues and soul, and is one of the top things to do in New York. Opening its doors in 1914, the Apollo Theater first introduced its famous Amateur Nights in 1934. Influential artists including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr, Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill began their road to stardom on Apollo’s stage.
Grab a chocolate-chip cookie from Levain Bakery
Bakery, American, $$$
Founded in 1994 by best friends Constance McDonald and Pamela Weekes, Levain Bakery has become a destination for its massive, warm cookies. Visit the Harlem location for delectable treats, including chocolate-chip cookies, oatmeal raisin scones and blueberry muffins.
Feast on soul food at Red Rooster
Bar, Restaurant, American, Soul Food
Headlined by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster celebrates the roots of American cuisine and the diversity of the neighborhood with its soul food
menu. The restaurant, which opened in 2010, is named after the now-shuttered legendary Harlem speakeasy. Red Rooster has its own speakeasy (Ginny’s Supper Club), tucked in the basement, where visitors can enjoy dishes such as cornbread slick with apple butter and waffles crowned with fried chicken, all while listening to local musicians.
El Museo del Barrio’s exhibits spotlight Latin artists
El Museo del Barrio
strives to educate visitors about Latino culture and its contributions to North America. Through its extensive collections and array of exhibits, El Museo del Barrio aims to preserve the cultural richness of the Caribbean and Latin population in America. Founded in 1969 by a large group of Puerto Rican artists, educators and activists, this museum showcases the work of creatives who veer away from the dominant European art forms.
For an insight into African American art, head to The Studio Museum in Harlem
Dedicated to African American artists, the Studio Museum in Harlem offers collections of vibrant and inspiring artworks of the 19th and 20th centuries. Around 2,000 photographs, paintings and sculptures are displayed throughout the museum, along with the permanent archival collection of work from renowned Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee.
Dine on Southern classics at Sylvia’s Restaurant
Restaurant, American, $$$
Sylvia’s Restaurant has been delighting the neighborhood with its Southern comfort food for over 50 years. Dine on classics such as Southern-fried chicken and waffles, barbecue short ribs, catfish and peach cobbler at this restaurant while enjoying weekly events including Gospel Brunch Sundays and Live Music Wednesdays.
See world-class jazz at Bill’s Place
Opened in 2006 by musician Bill Saxton, Bill’s Place
traces its roots to the Prohibition era. Visitors take a trip back in time to the Harlem Renaissance with its cozy, elbow-touching speakeasy space. Saxton, a world-renowned saxophonist, leads the Harlem All Stars on Friday nights here. Legendary performers including Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith all graced this parlor.
Harlem Haberdashery’s threads will have you looking sharp
Harlem Haberdashery is a family-run boutique that is the retail extension of 5001 Flavors, a custom clothing company that began more than 25 years ago. Celebrities including DJ Khaled, The Notorious BIG, Jay-Z and LeBron James
have all worn pieces from 5001 Flavors. The shop, which celebrates the spirit of Harlem in the 1970s and 1980s, isn’t just for celebrities, offering ready-to-wear options, and the place encourages all patrons to turn the showroom into their own private club.
Take a yoga class in Marcus Garvey Park
Named for the politician and advocate, Marcus Garvey Park spans from East 120th Street to East 124th Street. There are two playgrounds, where children can romp around on the park’s slides, fountains and drawbridges. Swim lessons are offered in the summer, while classes including kickboxing, yoga and karate run throughout the year.
Read up on African American history at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
This branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is devoted to the preservation, research and the exhibition of African American, African diaspora and African experiences. Founded in 1926 by historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the center hosts jazz concerts, films, lectures and more. The research division of the NYPL features collections and programming that span more than 11 million items.
Michael LoRé contributed additional reporting to this article.