Visiting Harlem

If you’re coming to New York City, definitely consider visiting the neighborhood of Harlem.

What to Expect

Harlem first gained popularity as the birthplace of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance movement, where different cultures came together to celebrate music, art, food and creativity in the Big Apple. It remains an eclectic mix of cultures, traditions and generations of families who have seen the neighborhood change through the years. It is home to both newcomers and long-time residents, and it continues to be one of the city’s most famous cultural hubs. Still known as the Black Capital of America, the gorgeous neighborhood is rich with the history and culture of the past even as the area continues to grow and gentrify.

A History of the Neighborhood

Harlem is known for being an important place in American history and has played a significant part in the worlds of literature, jazz and civil rights. The neighborhood’s main streets, such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard pay a tribute to the great civil rights leaders of our past. In the early 1900s, developers built hundreds of tenement apartment buildings, but many of the homes in Harlem remained unsold. African-American residents poured into many of the open housing units from Lower Manhattan, the South and everywhere in between, leading to its growth as a cultural and artistic hub. It’s currently undergoing a new renaissance of sorts while trying to find a balance between economic development and cultural preservation.

Street baptism in Harlem New York

Credit: a Katz / Shutterstock


Harlem residents are big on community, and they have been a driving force in development since the neighborhood first started out. You can find everything here, including sleek patio cafes, historic parks and plazas, art galleries, ethnic markets and world-famous music venues. The lifestyle here truly represents a refreshing blend of the old and the new.

Apolo Harlem New York

Credit: Shutterstock


Harlem has definitely kept its edge, and you’ll find plenty of original architecture alongside the newly renovated brownstones and modern developments. Even though it’s a bustling area, it can feel quiet even as it remains a central part of the city. There is definitely a peaceful residential vibe throughout the area — don’t be surprised to run into neighborhood basketball games and block parties as you stroll through. There’s also a thriving cultural scene that keeps the area feeling cosmopolitan and vibrant, just like anywhere else in Manhattan.

Harlem New York

Credit: Shutterstock

Best Walks

For a great walking tour of Harlem, check out this detailed tour by Walks of New York, which takes you to many of the important cultural and historical sites in the neighborhood.

What You’ll Fall in Love With

Although there are dozens of reasons to love this neighborhood, at its heart, Harlem is all about history, food and music. Residents of all ages and from all backgrounds gather to admire and enjoy the historical significance of the area, embrace visitors and do their best to offer the most amazing, soulful and inspiring food and entertainment you can find in this city.

How Do I Get to Harlem?

Central Harlem runs from 110th Street to Harlem River and 5th Avenue to St. Nicholas Avenue. To get here, you can take the 6 train to 96th or 110th Street, the 2,3 to 110th, 116th, 125th or 135th Streets, the A,B,C,D to 125th or 145th Street, or the B,C to 135th Street. Visit the MTA site for more information on getting around on the subway.

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