Self Guided Harlem Walking Tour and Things to See

This is a self-guide tour and Harlem visitor’s guide intended to aid the visitor in discovering things to see in Harlem, places to eat, sleep, hear gospel music and finding his or her way around.  The focus is on finding inexpensive ways to experience this great neighborhood, though it does provide an array of price ranges.  Directly below a self-guided walking tour of Harlem.  To skip to the other sections, simply click on the links below.

Where is Harlem

Events in Harlem

Sightseeing Tours

Food and Entertainment

 

Below is a self guided Harlem walking tour that is based largely on our guided Harlem Walking tour.  This tour should take you just under 2 hours and the total walking distance is about 1.5 miles or 2.2 km.  If you are looking for a tour guide, do check out our Harlem Walking Tour and our Harlem Food Tour.

Be sure to check out our other free, self-guided New York tours as well as our Guide to New York on a Budget.  If you are interested in a gospel experience in Harlem, then check our blog post on hearing gospel music in New York City.

Click the map to view a larger format.

self-guided Harlem tour

 

(Stop A) – Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture 

515 Malcolm X Blvd. (map)

Here is where we start our self guided Harlem walking tour.  Opened and financed by New York City leaders, Arturo Schomburg and Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Hall) in 1905, this Center features a main exhibition hall; smaller lecture rooms; and a center designated as one of the City’s foremost public libraries.  Once upon a time, there stood a huge mansion in a ‘townhouse style’ in the block where Schomburg Center, currently, stands. The mansion belonged to Madam C.J. Walker, first female self-made millionaire; inventor of the straightening comb; developer of pomades, cosmetics and hairdressings for African-American hair care.  http://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg

(Stop B) – Abyssinian Baptist Church – 132 Odell Clark Place (map)

Founded in 1808, considered a ‘mega-church’; once lead by Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., one of America’s first civil rights activist; home of the original Boys Choir of Harlem.  Abyssinian is a popular place for visitors to take in a gospel service.  Also check our blog post on hearing gospel music in New York City.

abyssinian baptist church Harlem 2

(Stop C) – Strivers’ Row – (138th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.)

A ‘three-row’ radius of ‘townhouses, which are better known as ‘brownstone-homes.’ If you never thought Harlem living could be spacious and luxurious, think again. Some of the key players in the Harlem Renaissance and civil rights movement lived in upscale homes within the Striver’s Row.

Harlem strivers row West 139th Street by Stanford White

(Stop D)- Harlem Walk of Fame (map)

(middle of block –135th Street between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.).  Fitting to have a walk of fame on a self guided Harlem walking tour.

(Stop E) – NYPD 32nd Precinct – 250 West 135th Street, (middle of block – 135th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.)

This police precinct is one of New York City’s oldest, dating back to 1664. Be sure to look at the plaque at the top of the building, where you will see a British politician and a Native American Indian.

(Stop F) – Former location of Small’s Paradise, 2294 ½ Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. at 135th Street

One of the most popular nightspots during the Harlem Renaissance – Roaring Twenties because
owner, Ed Smalls, owner and operator, knew how to cater to both white and black audiences with cabaret, blues and jazz musical performances.

(Stop G) – YMCA – 135th Street

Young Mens’ Christian Association has been a ‘life-saver” for many young men who were ‘new’ to New York City Malcolm X stayed at the 135th Street location after moving to Harlem from Omaha, Nebraska in the 1950’s. He would later become Malcolm X, a cherished religious and Civil Rights leader and activist.

(Stop H) – Doug E’s Restaurant – 2245 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd,/corner of 132nd Street (map)

Want Chicken N Waffles? Want Fish N Waffles? Well, come and get ‘em. Doug E. Fresh, owner and operator, is better known as the original ‘beatbox’ of the 1980’s and 1990’s. He used to have hit rap records. Now, he has chicken and waffles.  You can see one of our groups standing in front of the legendary rapper’s establishment sometime in summer 2013. Check out our article on finding soul food in Harlem.

Doug E's Fresh Chicken and Waffles

(Stop I) – Shiloh Baptist Church – corner of 131st Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. (map)

This church is a smaller church with a real big heart for gospel music and soul-stirring sermons. Visit this church on a Sunday morning at 10:30 am for the Gospel Inspirational service.

(Stop J) – Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 West 125thAdam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s Statue
Named for America’s first Congressman (of African-American descent); built in 1972; at the corner of 125th Street.

(Stop K) –  Hotel Theresa (corner of 125th Street/Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.)
Harlem’s first luxury hotel. Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed there during his visit to New York City; Fidel Castro stayed there during his visit to New York City.

William Clinton Foundation– 55 West 125th Street (between Lenox and Fifth Avenues)
Founded in 2001, originally established in Harlem, former President Clinton influenced a real-estate ‘sky-rocket’ when he established this office. The general thought was if Clinton could live in Harlem, everybody could live in Harlem!

Sylvia’s House of Soul Food/Red Rooster Restaurant/Corner Social Restaurant
(corners of 126th and 127th Streets/in the block Lenox Avenue)

Three fabulous restaurants where one can delight in a good bite or two…Sylvia’s: world famous for African-American soul food; Red Rooster: a mix of traditional American food and diverse culinary appeals to the “New Harlem’ neighborhood; Corner Social: less than a year old, yet sure to be a favorite ‘social corner’ in Harlem.  Click here for more information on getting soul food in Harlem.

 

Apollo Theater – 253 West 125th Street (map)

World-famous music hall, opened in 1914 originally, later re-named, Apollo Theater. Amateur Night has been hosted for several years on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. BE GOOD OR BE GONE!  Read more about the Apollo Theater here.

Apollo Theater Showtime

Harlem received its name from the Dutch. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, Harlem is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem was largely farmland and belonged to the descents of Dutch, French and English settlers during the seventh and eighteenth centuries. African Americans migrated to Harlem around the 1900’s during the Great Migration.

The Harlem Renaissance
Harlem is probably known best for its cultural heyday period from 1919 to the 1930’s. The Harlem Renaissance was a defining period for African Americans who many migrated from the South fleeing Jim Crow Laws. During this period Harlem was a cultural center for writers, activists, artists, musicians, poets and intellectuals looking for a place to freely express their voices and talents. Harlem discovered such celebrated writers as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and James Weldon Johnson.

How To Get to Harlem

Harlem stretches across the Manhattan river to the East/Harlem River above Central Park. There’s East Harlem (Spanish Harlem, or “El Barrio”), which occupies 5th Avenue to the East/Harlem River, and West Harlem, which includes the neighborhoods of Morningside Heights and Hamilton Heights.  Many of Harlem’s most sought after sights are within walking distance of 125th street and Lennox Ave.  We recommend using this Google map for directions to the center of Harlem.

TIP: If you are considering using a New York bus tour company to get around NYC, keep in mind that several of the hop-on, hop-off buses have stops in or at the border of Harlem.  Be sure to read our post comparing the different New York bus companies.

How to Get to Harlem

SUBWAY TO HARLEM

Many subway lines pass through the neighborhood. The (A, C, and 1) go up the West Side to Manhattanville, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, Inwood and Fort Tryon Park. The (2 and 3) go up Lenox Ave more or less in the center, and the (4, 5, 6) on the East Side. The (B and D) go up 8th Ave and St. Nicholas Ave along with the (A and C) as far as 155 St, then go under the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium and other stops in the Bronx. The A and D and the 4 and 5 are fast express trains during the day, as the A and D whiz passengers from 59 St directly to 125 St, while the 4 and 5 go from 86 St to 125 St in one stop.

COMMUTER TRAIN

Metro North Railroad has a station at 125th St and Park Ave with easy connections to and from the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. See the By train section on the main New York City page for more info.

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Famous Things to See in Harlem

The Apollo Theater
253 West 125th St (map)
The world famous Apollo Theater has been a staple in the Harlem community and has featured performance giants for generations, such as swing era greats – Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie to soul singers- Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Gospel Acts-Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson and the Clark Sisters. Even young comics like Richard Prayer and Redd Foxx got their start at the Apollo. It was also the home of Showtime at the Apollo, a nationally syndicated television variety show which showcased new talent from 1987 to 2008.

Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem
328 Malcolm X Blvd
Looking for a great place to eat in Harlem? A popular yet affordable place that’s rich in culture and history? Why not head up to Sylvia’s Restaurant in the heart of where the Harlem Renaissance took place. Sylvia’s is simply a must have to really experience the Harlem culture and is surprisingly reasonably priced for the entire family.

Check out our blog post on soul food in Harlem and consider both our Harlem Walking Tour as well as our Harlem Food Tour. Find out more things to see with our self-guided Harlem tour.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
The Schomberg is widely known and recognized for his vast collection on the history of black life.

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Events in Harlem

  • National Jazz Museum
    104 East 126th St. Suite 2D. New York, NY 10035
    Committed to keeping Jazz alive.
  • Harlem Week
    July 22-August 27 2015
    Offers over 100 events throughout the summer

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Churches in Harlem – Gospel Music

Coming out of the African American religious experience, gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music has remind close to its roots and the best place to hear the soul-stirring music is in African American churches.

We recommend that you read our post on how to experience gospel music in New York without a costly tour.  This article is full of helpful tips to prepare you for a church service as well as providing alternative options.

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GOSPEL CHURCHES IN HARLEM

  • Abyssinian Baptist Church – 420 W 145th Street between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenues (212) 234-6767. Sunday services at 9 am and 11 am. The congregation welcomes those who would like to worship with them. They discourage visitors who are only looking for Gospel performance.
  • Greater Refuge Temple – 2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. at 124th Street (212) 866-1700. Sunday services are at 11 am, 4 pm, and 7:30 pm.
  • Mount Neboh Baptist Church – 1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 114th West 115 Streets. Streets. (212) 866-7880. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am.
  • Canaan Baptist Church – 132 W. 116th Street between Lenox & 7th Aves. (212) 866-0301. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am. Sunday service at 10 am (during the summer).
  • First Corinthian Baptist Church – 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 115th and West 116th Streets (212) 864-5976. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am.
  • Bethel Gospel Assembly – 2-26 East 120th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues, (212) 860-1510. Sunday Services: 8:00 am and 11:30 am. *Please be advised to double check times yourself.

To learn more about Harlem and visit many of its main attractions, join us for our free Harlem Walking Tour. Be sure to reserve a spot now!

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Sightseeing Tours of Harlem

The 21st century Harlem is birthing once again rising stars with new shops and businesses opening weekly. There is a perfect blend of urban culture mixed with a new diverse energy and community. Gorgeous 19th century brownstones are being restored and are a must see.  Be sure to read our Guide to NYC on a budget for more money saving ways to go sightseeing in New York City.

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Hotel/Accommodations

Harlem does not have the same number of hotels and other accommodations that are found in other parts of New York, but finding a bargain is very possible.  We have listed a few places below that are either in Harlem or nearby.  You may also want to check out our Guide to New York on a Budget for more tips on saving money on accommodations in the Big Apple.

  • HIGH-RANGE
    • Aloft Harlem ($$$) – This urban chic hotel looks like something you might see Downtown.  Overall very good reviews on TripAdvisor.

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Restaurants and Eating in Harlem

Cheap Restaurants ($7-15)
Sam’s Famous Pizzeria (East Harlem)
150 East 115th St. New York, NY 10029
Huge pizza slices for only $2. Sam’s is one of the oldest stables in the neighborhood.

Famous Fish Market (take out only)
684 Saint Nicholas Ave. New York, NY 10030
Fried fish and shrimp so good that the line is often outside the door.

Make My Cake (two locations)
121 St Nicholas Ave New York, NY 10026
2380 Adam Clayton Powell New York, NY 10030
http://www.makemycake.com
This former home-based family business offers a tasty answer to any sweet tooth. With such yummy delights as cookies, cakes, cupcakes and pies. Be sure to check out there “Sweet Brand” of mugs, t-shirts and hats.

Mid Level Restaurants (-$22)
French American
Yatenga Restaurant and Bar
2269 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. New York, NY 10030
http://www.yatengabistro.com
Outdoor Seating

Yatenga is located in the heart of Harlem and has a very rustic look with matched matched chairs and festive statues for sale. The mac and cheese is a huge favorite!
Be sure to check out the Shrine, a music venue, (same owners) located right next store. There is no cover, the music is great usually African, Caribbean, Hip Hop and they even have live bands. Be sure to check the Shrine’s website for the musical performance schedule.
http://www.shrinenyc.com

Vegan
Seasoned Vegan Restaurant
55 St Nicholas Ave. New York, NY 10026
http://www.seasonedvegan.com

Operated by a mother and son team who believe in making food with tender love and care. The restaurant is organic and 100% vegan soul food. Check out the Nori roll with walnut meat.

Soul Food
Melba’s Restaurant
300 West 114th St. New York, NY 10026
http://melbasrestaurant.com
This attractive establishment stands out with its charming church pews sitting out front. This is one of the smaller restaurants in Harlem and seating maybe a bit limited. Check out the Southern Fried Chicken & Eggnog Waffles featured on the Food Network. Bonus-Tuesday’s live music night.

Nights/Bar/Music
Moca Lounge
2210 Eighth Ave. New York, NY 10026

Notable drinks-Booty Call Martini, the Harlem Shuffle
HAPPY HOUR
Mon-Tue, 5pm-9pm; $3.50 beer, $5 wine and cocktails
Wed-Sun, 3pm-9pm; $3.50 beer, $5 wine and cocktails
Shrine Music Venue
Shrine, a music venue, same owners as Yatenga restaurant, located right next store. There is no cover; the music is great usually African, Caribbean, Hip Hop and they even have live bands. Be sure to check the Shrine’s website for the musical performance schedule.
http://www.shrinenyc.com

German Bar Food
Bier International
2099 Frederick Douglas Blvd
http://www.bierinternational.com
Happy Hour Mon – Fri 4 – 6 p.m., Sat & Sun from 4 – 5 p.m.
Cash only (ATM on premises). Outdoor seating
Harlem’s first beer garden. Serving international and domestic beers: 18 on tap, more than 30 by the bottle. All are paired with international dishes.

Soul Food American
Red Rooster
310 Lenox Ave. Harlem, NY 10027
http://redroosterharlem.com
Red Rooster was named after the former legendary Harlem speakeasy of the Harlem Renaissance era. Fried chicken is a must have. Home to award-winning chef and cookbook

author Marcus Samulsson (2010 Top Chef Masters Season 2 and guest chef for the first State Dinner of the Obama administration)
Be sure to make reservations (if on a time schedule)

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Shopping in Harlem

Harlem Haberdashery Boutique
Future forward edgy urban unique style
245 Lenox Ave New York 10027
646-707-0070
http://www.harlemhaberdashery.com

Harlem Underground Retail store
20 E. 125th Street New York, NY 10029
212-987-9385 phone
https://www.facebook.com/HarlemUnderground
Vibrant cool shirts and jackets often with Harlem’s name stylish centered on the clothing.

125th Street
Now with National Chain Retailers is the main shopping area in Harlem.
http://www.harlemonestop.com/organization/969/shop-125th-street

Flame Keepers Hat Club
273 West 121 St New York, NY 10027
http://www.flamekeepershatclub.com

Classic stylish men’s hats from Ecuador and Columbia. The 700-foot square store is brimming with hats and a great new addition to the Harlem community.

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