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The Top 5 Landmarks to See in Harlem

The Top 5 Landmarks to See in Harlem

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.

The Apollo Theater | 253 West 125th Street

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.

Abyssinian Baptist Church | 132 Odell Clark Place

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.

Sylvia’s | 328 Malcolm X Boulevard

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.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture | 515 Malcolm X Boulevard

Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library
Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library
Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library
Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library

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.

The Studio Museum of Harlem |144 West 125th Street

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.

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About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

28 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing! I’ve never been to Harlem, but I know it has a lot of history and beautiful sights to see! I’d love to visit these sites one day. I’ll definitely be bookmarking this for future travel considerations. Thank you, again!

    • Carmen Edelson

      You are so welcome! Now you have a reason to visit NYC 🙂

  2. So many sites to add to my list next time I am in New York! I tried to catch an exhibition at the Studio Museum unfortunately it was closed, so I ended up just walking around the neighbourhood, such a good memory. Thanks for sharing these places!

    • Carmen Edelson

      Aw, that’s too bad! Now you have a reason to return though 🙂

  3. Pamela
    Reply

    Impressive!!! I was a little surprise by this post from you but pleasantly surprise!! Thank you!! Pamela (a Black girl who travels)

    • Carmen Edelson

      I’m glad to hear it, Pamela! Thank you. New York has so many incredible neighborhoods to explore, and I don’t want to just highlight the more well-known touristy ones.

  4. I’ve never been to Harlem, but would like to next time we are Stateside, and appreciate the suggestions for top places to visit when there. I’d not come across that Abyssinian church before, and I do love that style of architecture, so that’s now on my list!

    • Carmen Edelson

      So glad to hear it! I think you’ll have a wonderful time.

  5. Danila Caputo
    Reply

    The Apollo Theater is quite iconic and we’ve seen it from outside. Only we had no idea that it was so big inside! 1506 seats is quite a lot, especially for a theater with so much history! Have you ever been inside?

    • Carmen Edelson

      I know, it’s bigger than it looks! It’s very cool inside.

  6. Heather
    Reply

    I am embarrassed to admit that I never knew the Apollo was in Harlem! I haven’t thought about it but I guess I always thought it was in Manhattan, although now that I think about it, on all my gazillion trips to Manhattan, I’ve never seen it. There would be a reason for that! I have been to Harlem, but only once. My goal for my next NYC trip is to spend more time in the other boroughs like Brooklyn and Harlem. I would love to see the Abyssinian Church too!

    • Carmen Edelson

      Yes, you now have several reasons to return! Thanks for reading 🙂

  7. As many times as I’ve been to NYC, I’ve never been to Harlem! I’d go just for some of that soul food though. My dad is from Louisiana, so I love some real soul food!! And that church is beautiful! I had no idea something like that was in Harlem.

    • Carmen Edelson

      I think you need to return, Maggie! 🙂

  8. Love NYC, love Manhattan, just danced around the edges of Harlem and clearly, been missing out! This post has just inspired our next visit to NYC and will for sure use it to see Harlem and experience the history and sites. And gotta see the Apollo!

    • Carmen Edelson

      This makes me so happy to read, Michael!

  9. I’d love to go one day! Schomburg Center sounds like a must-visit and the Baptist church is beautiful! Have you eaten at Sylvia’s?

    • Carmen Edelson

      Yes, Sylvia’s is delicious and great service too!

  10. Alice Ford
    Reply

    I have been to New York many times over the years, but never walked the streets of Harlem. I might have to check out some of these museums., and Sylvia’s that fried chicken looks delicious.

    • Carmen Edelson

      The fried chicken is amazing, Alice! You must go 🙂

  11. I’ve not been to Harlem for close on 20 years – oops! Still – that has to be a good reason to return. Soul food and catfish – yay! I think I’d have to be exploring the Studio museum; I love that they have educational extras. The Schomburg Centre looks fascinating.

    • Carmen Edelson

      The food is reason enough to visit! It’s a very fascinating neighborhood.

  12. Good post! It seems like i was there for some time! Intriguing place for visitors! We will be linking to this great information while traveling in Harlem!

    • Carmen Edelson

      Glad to hear it, thank you!

  13. Hi Carmen, when I was in NYC last, I unfortunately did not make it into Harlem, but this list inspires me to travel out there again and spend some time in such a historic part of the city. I have been wanting to visit Sylvia’s since I saw Conan’s visit on the show, as well as the Cotton Club because of its incredible history and considering those famous who frequented the place. Matter of fact, NYC is a lifetime of adventure!

    • Carmen Edelson

      Yes, you must go back to NYC and visit all of these amazing places!

  14. Very informative post and surely help people who are going to plan their vacations in Harlem.

    • Carmen Edelson

      Thanks for reading, Lynn!

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