15 Best Things to Do in Harlem

15 Best Things to Do in Harlem

Harlem is a beautiful area of New York which is widely known for its music and cultural institutions. The city is located to the north of Manhattan and is considered to be a creative hub.

After the Great migration of the 1920s, the city got infused with people from various cultures around the world and became the Centre for arts, fashion, food, culture, beliefs, and music in the entire neighborhood area.

The city in New York has a lot of things to explore so much so, that if you start searching about those things, that search can go on and on. Therefore, to ease things out for you, we have compiled a list of top 15 things that you should check out in Harlem.

The Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater
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The Apollo theatre is a legendary theatre which was opened back in 1914 and has provided stage to some of the greatest artists during their lifetime. This theatre is an example of devotion of artists towards their art during the old times.

The famous Amateur night, which started in 1934 is the best gift that this theatre gave to the city of Harlem. Various artists who have performed in this theatre are James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Lauryn Hill, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie holiday, and many more.

The theatre is also the center of development of jazz, Gospel, R&B, swing, blues and soul in the city and spreading it to the masses. The theatre organizes amateur nights at present as well ad that too on a regular basis.

In addition, the theatre organizes various comedy, educational, as well as musical events which can be enjoyed by the visitors. You can also take Apollo theatre multimedia walking tour which gives you an opportunity to learn about the history of art as well as the entertainment of this theatre.

Red Rooster

Red Rooster
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Red Rooster is a famous restaurant which was opened by celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson in the year 2010. The menu of the restaurant is nothing short of a tribute to Harlem, as it features dishes from traditional staples such as shrimp, chicken and waffles, short ribs, and grits.

What makes this restaurant more famous is that former President Obama also dined in the restaurant in 2011. With its famous celebrity vibe, the restaurant is always lively with musical and DJ performances every day.

If you are in this city, you should definitely check this place out and taste their iconic dishes.

El Museo del Barrio

El Museo del Barrio
The Fixers (Wikis Take Manhattan 2009 participant), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Opened in the year 1969, El Museo del Barrio is a famous art museum in the city of Harlem. What makes this museum different from other museums is that it has exhibitions including art pieces which date back to almost 800 years. The museum is considered to be the “pre-eminent form and resource” for Caribbean, Latin American, and Latino art in Harlem.

The museum has a permanent collection of 6500 art pieces some of which are made by Latino artists and are unique to this museum only. All the art enthusiasts should definitely visit this museum, which is as high-spirited as the artist whose collection the museum depicts.

Studio Museum

Studio Museum in Harlem
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Studio Museum in Harlem is another famous art museum in the city which is dedicated to exhibiting the famous artworks of African American artists as well as artists from the African continent.

Most of the collections of the museum date back to the 19th and 20th century. The museum has a collection of more than 2600 pieces which include drawings, photographs, paintings, watercolors, sculptures, as well as mix media installations.

These artworks were produced by more than 400 artists. The famous archival collections of photographer James Van der Zee are also on display. The museum is quite classical in its interior and is definitely going to give you a vintage vibe and throb your heart with its beauty.

Sylvia’s Restaurant

Sylvia’s Restaurant
Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Sylvia’s restaurant in the city is another famous restaurant which is famous for welcoming number of celebrities and politicians alike.

The restaurant has had the honor of serving influential personalities like President Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Sylvia’s restaurant has been the famous and the favorite spot for the visitors as well as the locals for more than 60 years.

Due to its comfortable southern menu, the place attracts most of the visitors in the town. The menu has items like fried chicken, barbeque short ribs, waffles, Peach cobbler, catfish, and whatnot.

It also has Live singers performing on a weekly basis. Overall Sylvia’s restaurant is one of the most favorite place in the city and you should definitely check it out once.

Central Park Conservatory Gardens


Opened in the 19th century, Central Park Conservatory Gardens is the most famous and easily accessible park in the entire city. The park has an iron gate which was designed in Paris in the year 1894 and was transported to Harlem.

The entire property of Central Park Conservatory Gardens comprises of three gardens with different styles. The Italian garden has tired hedges and a jet fountain which is 12 feet in height.

The French garden is famous for “Three dancing Maidens sculptures” inspired ad designed by Walter Scott. The other garden, the English garden is mostly famous for its Shrubs and perennial plants.

The conservatory gardens is a place where you can enjoy culture from Europe while you are in the US and is definitely worth checking out.

Graffiti Hall of Fame


Originally created in the year 1980 by Local Ray “String Ray” Rodriguez, the Graffiti Hall of fame is one of the most beautiful and colorful places in the city.

Since its establishment, the place has been a center of attraction for all the art lovers. Art enthusiasts from all around New York City use this place to depict their art. This is an open-air hall of fame on the walls of Jackie Robinson educational complex school yard.

Due to its extremely colorful tags and artistic views, the place is perfect for capturing some beautiful memories in Harlem. You can also spot some artists working live on the wall during your visit.

Harlem Haberdashery


Harlem Haberdashery is a famous custom clothing company which was established more than 25 years back. It is a boutique which is run by a family and has styled some famous celebrities like DJ Khaled, Jay Z, the notorious big, and LeBron James.

The place is extremely famous for its colorful suits, white ensembles, as well as its oversized hats. The place celebrates the legacy of Harlem and welcomes not only the celebrities but the local visitors as well.

If you are looking for some ready to wear men’s and women’s custom pieces, you should definitely check this place out.

Bill’s Place


Bill’s place is a famous musical venue which was opened in 2006 by a famous musician Bill Saxton. The place is designed in a manner that it reminds all the visitors of the prohibition and Renaissance era in Harlem.

The place is very cozy and spacious. Regular shows are organized each evening. The place also welcomes legendary Performers such as Satz Waller, Billie holiday, Willie Smith, and many more. If you are in the city you should definitely not miss this place as it is a different kind of experience in entirety.

Langston Hughes House

Langston Hughes House
Americasroof, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Built in 1869, Langston Hughes house is a famous building which is listed on the national register of historic places and is managed by a non-profit organization I, Too arts collective. Langston Hughes was a famous leader from the renaissance era who stayed in Harlem for almost 20 years starting from 1947.

This home allows you to explore his belongings and the history of how the city developed throughout the era of Renaissance. The place also organizes various events such as public reading, and writing workshops on a regular basis which are quite educative and informative in nature. With its well-maintained infrastructure, the place is a good catch in the city for history lovers.

Attend a Gospel Mass

Corinthian Baptist Church
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The city of Harlem is equally popular for its religious and cultural beliefs. Due to this, attending a gospel Mass becomes quite an interesting and important part in order to understand the culture of the city.

With a lot of churches in the city, it is quite easy to attend a Mass Gospel. However, in order to ensure better experience, you should always try to find some local church early in the morning. For this purpose, the first Corinthian Baptist Church is a perfect place.

Even if you do not want to visit the church, you can take a Gospel Mass tour which is equally a great experience with some fellow tourists. However, it is important that you observe a respectful and diligent attitude while on this Gospel tour as it is directly related to the feelings and sentiments of the locals.

Mount Morris Historic District

Brownstone houses in Mount Morris Historic District
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Mount Morris historic district was designed in the year 1971 and is located in west central Harlem. The place is spread over 16 block area and is one of the most important historical areas in the city. It has a large number of historical buildings which are still in their original position.

It has a number of residential houses made of brownstones in a row as well as some beautiful unaltered streetscapes. The place has been listed on the National register of Historic places and quite-well managed by the state authorities. Designed in the eclectic style of architecture, Mount Morris Park historic district is one of the best places to explore on foot.

Enjoy various events

African American day parade in Harlem
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The city of Harlem is quite culturally active as it organizes a lot of events and festivals on a regular basis. Usually conducted in the month of July to August, Harlem week is a festival that you should definitely consider enjoying as it has a lineup of very lively and entertaining events depicting the music, culture, and dance activities in the city.

Harlem Art alliance is another event which takes place on a weekly basis and hosts musical and play performances. You can also consider enjoying Annual Christmas show which is organized by the Harlem school of Art where family friendly performances are put on by the students of the school.

Abyssinian Baptist Church

Abyssinian Baptist Church
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Abyssinian Baptist Church is a church which was founded by a group of local men and woman in the year 1808.

The church also represents the non-conceding part of the population who refused to attend the segregated sitting at the first Baptist church of New York City. At present, this is one of the most artistic and architecturally important building in the city.

The church is constructed using stained glass windows and marble furnishings. It has a Gothic style of architecture and the entire building looks very attractive. The place is a perfect example of historical architecture in the city and you should definitely check it out.

Minton’s Jazz Club


Minto’s Jazz club was established in 1938 and is believed to be the place where bepop was born. It is a famous nightclub which revolutionized jazz in the city. Since its establishment, the place has been through multiple renovations and it is now a modern steakhouse providing the local and African American cuisine to the visitors.

Minto’s has its own band of musicians which include jazz musicians, who have played in some of the most famous events in Harlem. The place is very lively and offers a perfect opportunity to enjoy night life in Harlem.

Harlem is a beautiful city which will surely give you some extremely NYC vibes. This place is beautiful and artistic and opens its arms to all the visitors. While in Harlem, one this is of surety that you are not going to get bored even for a moment.

The city has beautiful houses and more beautiful people who love hosting the visitors and depicting their great hospitality and homely feelings.