Top Things to Do In Harlem


Just a duch village in the 1650’s, Harlem was named after a city in the Netherlands called Haarlem.  Previous to the Great Migration Harlem was home to predominately Jews and Italians. Harlem became a destination for many African-Americans during the Great Migration in hopes for better job opportunities and to provide a better life for their families as well.

The best way to explore Harlem is by walking. Find one of the best walking tours in Harlem and enjoy a day full of rich culture and history. By the 1910’s African Americans only accounted for 10% of Harlem’s population, and by the 1930’s they made up 70% of the population.  With the population rise of African Americans in Harlem it is no surprise it became a mecca for the culture and people along with a popular tourist destination.

Enjoy a Brunch

Harlem is known for its famous brunches! There are a number of soul food restaurants in Harlem that include Melba’s, Sylvia’s, Amy Ruth’s, and more. You can enjoy a good meal in the mid or late mornings here, sipping in the atmosphere and nice coffee.

Catch Some Live Music

Harlem is famous for its deep, soulful history of jazz music. The best jazz clubs in harlem are:

  • Showman’s Jazz Club – This jazz club has been a haven for musicians since 1942 and where you can find “Old Harlem”.
  • Paris Blues – Celebrating their 50th anniversary in this Harlem staple is where you can find live music any day by checking their calendar.
  • Minton’s – Since their opening in 1938 they have been associated with some of the most prominent musicians and singers such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday. I strongly recommend reservations and putting on your Sunday best.
  • Ginny’s Supper Club – Underneath the famous Red Rooster is a supper club that is known for their lavish Gospel Sunday brunch and speakeasy vibes. Under the direction of Chef Marcus Sameuelsson you are the best of hands when it comes to a delicious meal.
  • The Shrine – Jazz, Modern Rock, DJs, Comedy, and anything else you can think of The Shrine has it along with a full bar and food menu as well.
  • Gin Fizz – Live music, DJ’s, and a great cocktail menu makes for the perfect weekend destination.

You can’t miss some of these clubs in your Harlem tour. Surely, the best walking tours in Harlem are sure to feature at least one of these clubs.

Get a Heritage Tour

Harlem is chock full of buildings and streets with deep, soulful history. Book a heritage tour, or get a good local guide to see these locations. They will surely amaze you.

Schomburg Collection for Research in Black Culture

It has been recognized as having some of the rarest Afrocentric artifacts of any public library in the United States. It would be one of the prime points of interest in your Harlem tour.

Apollo Theater

Apollo theater is the number one sightseeing point in any things to do in Harlem list. It is a performance venue with a deep history. The building opened in 1914 as Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, during this time in history colored people were not allowed to attend or perform. It became the Apollo theater as we know it today in 1934 only, and became known as the center of live entertainment for African Americans.

Strivers Row

Strivers Row is located on 138th and 139th between 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Blvd) and 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Blvd). Initially, these homes were built for upper middle-class white families.  In the early 1900’s a lot of the houses were abandoned by the whites and prominent and wealthy blacks were able to purchase the homes they were once denied before.

Relax and Grab a Drink

Harlem is well known for its assortments of bars. But the best evening food and drink are available at the Restaurant Row, at 110th to 125th on 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Blvd).