Harlem: all you need to know about this legendary New York neighborhood

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Elia Tabuenca García
@eliatabuencagarcia
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Harlem History

The village of Harlem was founded in 1658 by Governor Pieter Stuyvesant who gave it the name of Nieuw Haarlem in reference to the Dutch city Haarlem. This district was renamed Harlem in 1664 when the English seized New Amsterdam. At the end of the XNUMXth and the beginning of the XNUMXth century, this district of New York was marked by a country side : large families held land and Alexander Hamilton, a politician, also owned a large estate, now called Hamilton Heights.



In 1873, Harlem was incorporated into New York City and over time new housing and large mansions were built and sports facilities were installed. Gardens also made their appearance.

A few years later, many African Americans decided to settle in Harlem. The causes ? The real estate crash between 1904 and 1905, the rise in rents in New York or even racism. This new presence caused the revival of Harlem and African-American culture emerged in several fields: literature, painting but also in music.

Today, Harlem is considered the birthplace of jazz and its population has grown larger over the years. During your stay in this district, you will be able to discover several cultural places, churches, shops ...

Visit Harlem: what to do in Harlem?

Harlem is the must-see district for jazz and music in general, but this district also has a few interesting sites. Here is an overview on the main things to see and visit in this neighborhood.



L’Abyssinian Baptist Church

Cette Abyssinian Baptist Church is very well known. It was founded in 1808 by 16 African Americans. Today, this church attracts many tourists eager to learn about the oaths of Calvin O. Butts, the church's senior pastor since 1989.

La Strivers’ Row

Built between 1891 and 1893, the Strivers’ Row represents a series of terraced houses arranged in three rows. The houses were built back to back and share the same inner courtyard. During the year 1940, the majority of the houses fell into ruins and were transformed into unique houses. Most of the interior decoration elements have been lost, but the exterior ones have remained intact.

Le Studio Museum Harlem

Visiting Harlem means a visit to the Studio Museum Harlem! Considered the heart of the district, the Studio Museum Harlem is a museum of fine arts which exhibits Afro-American works. In total, more than 1 pieces are on display.

In addition to exhibitions, the museum also hosts conferences and shows that attract both locals and tourists.

The museum is located: 429 W 127th St, New York, NY 10027.

Le Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market

During your stay in Harlem, I advise you to take a little tour of the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market, the biggest African market in the city where you can find all kinds of products (clothes, objects, fabrics…).

It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 20 p.m. and its address is 52 W 116th Street.


The Cotton Club

Le Cotton Club was a mythical place for African-American artists in the 20's - 40's. Today the Cotton Club is still open to the public and welcomes many artists with very different genres.


The address is: 656 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027.

L’Apollo Theater

Here is another very famous place in Harlem: theApollo Theater located at 253 W 125th Street. The decoration of this room is very traditional and for more than 70 years now, this place has been a benchmark in terms of jazz.

Le gospel

- gospel masses are a pleasure for the ears and the eyes at the same time. Religious songs of African-Americans, the main instruments accompanying them are the organ, wind and harmonium. Gospel songs are also accompanied by body movements.

Attending a gospel mass is an essential activity! On the other hand, do not forget that these masses are a moment of meditation and not a spectacle.

The jazz museum

If you like jazz or want to learn more about this style of music, go to the Jazz Museum where you will be able to see a complete collection (photos, documentaries, books…). Even if the place is small, it is rich in discoveries!

The address of the museum is: National Jazz Museum in Harlem, 104 E. 126th Street, Harlem, New York, NY 10035.


Stroll on 125th Street

Visiting Harlem also involves exploring 125th Street. On this famous street, the whole history of the district is concentrated. You will find the Studio Museum, the Apollo Theater, but also shops and restaurants. It is also on this street that you can discover street art.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

A branch of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture brings together everything related to Black culture. You will find numerous documents on thinkers and artists. Sometimes exhibitions, conferences and events are organized.


Map to better identify the places to visit in Harlem

Where to eat in Harlem?

When you visit the Harlem district, I advise you to taste the African American cuisine called "Soul Food". On the menu ? Sweet potatoes, fried chicken, broad beans ... The restaurant Red Rooster Harlem at 310 Lenox Avenue is an establishment that will allow you to taste these famous dishes! But remember to book in advance!

If all tables are booked, try the Sylvia’s Restaurant located at 328 Malcolm X Blvd. This property offers African American cuisine. Here you will discover Soul Food !

Do you like burgers? See you at Harlem Shake, a restaurant offering a varied menu that will take you back to the 40's and 50's thanks to its retro decoration!

Where to go out?

One of the must-see outings in Harlem is that ofgo listen to gospel in a church. It is a very strong moment!

Where is the Harlem neighborhood located?

The Harlem district is located north of Manhattan between the Hudson River, East River and Harlem River. Here is a map to locate it:

You now know everything about the Harlem neighborhood. Now go and discover this district for yourself, you will not be disappointed! Good discovery !

Article updated on May 9, 2020

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