From its southern tip to its northernmost neighborhoods, there’s no denying that Manhattan is full of history. However, when it comes to historically and culturally significant sights, Harlem trumps them all. From the Harlem Renaissance to today, the neighborhood has been home to some of New York’s foremost visionaries, from writers to chefs, each imbuing the neighborhood with a little bit of magic. While the neighborhood is more desirable than ever today, thanks in no small part to elegant new residential developments like The Rennie on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, it hasn’t lost a bit of its vintage charm along the way. If you find yourself in Harlem, make sure to hit up these must-see sights.
One of the most famous performance venues of all time, The Apollo Theater is a must-visit for anyone who loves the arts. The 1,506-seat theater, which opened for business in 1914, has been designated a New York City Landmark both inside and out, and with good reason: in addition to its famed amateur nights, the theater has hosted a long list of top-tier talent, including James Brown, Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Even if you’re not personally religious, the Abyssinian Baptist Church on Odell Clark Place (formerly 138th Street) is well worth visiting during your trip to Harlem. This stunning Gothic Revival-and-Tutor-inspired church, which was designated a New York City landmark in 1993, has hosted countless notable guests and worshippers over the years, from Adam Clayton Powell to Nat King Cole, the latter marrying there.
Feeling peckish on your trip through Harlem? Better stop at Sylvia’s. Owner Sylvia Woods, known as “The Queen of Soul Food,” has been serving up the city’s best soul food from this modest eatery since it opened its doors in 1962. In addition to its famous clientele, which includes pasts guests Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Magic Johnson, the menu here can’t be beat, with everything from grits to cornmeal-dusted catfish to chicken and waffles gracing her famed menu.
Want to learn about the visionaries who made Harlem tick? Head on over to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This New York Public Library research unit has been integral in terms of recording and preserving the black culture that has shaped Harlem over more than 100 years, from the original manuscript for Richard Wright’s Native Son to more than 5,000 hours of recorded oral history.
Harlem is home to one of the city’s dynamic—if often overlooked—museums. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, take some time to explore the Studio Museum. This unique arts institution not only champions work from artists like Firelei Báez, Maren Hassinger, and Jamel Shabazz, but offers inventive teaching programs where aspiring artists can listen to lectures from experts in the industry and hone their own skills, as well.
Manhattan is loaded with must-see sights, but there’s perhaps no neighborhood with as much history as Harlem. From storied 125thStreet to Malcolm X Boulevard, the neighborhood is packed top to bottom with sights you just can’t afford to miss.
Note: This is a guest post by Candace Schaffer; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author. Candice Schaffer works at Knightsbridge Park, a leading digital marketing firm for luxury real estate brands such as The Greenwich Lane, EVGB, One Dalton, and Modern Spaces.