Why you should make Harlem a Stop on your next trip to New York
Gospel music, the legendary Apollo Theater, soul food, Malcolm X… Harlem is the ultimate symbol for African-American culture in New York. Renovated and safer, the neighborhood abounds with new places to go out and enjoy. Follow the guide !
The soul of Harlem
You don’t just wander into Harlem by chance, you come for its soul. Tucked at the northern tip of Manhattan, Harlem represents New York’s black heritage. The Mount Morris Park, Malcolm X Boulevard, Columbia University and the Apollo Theater are the gatekeepers of its history. On Sundays, soulful gospel masses look like American TV shows. But, thank God, some of them still give you chills. Since 2010, yuppie families have started to move into the beautiful brownstones that line the streets. Fish markets, squeezed in between the Caribbean fast-food joints and African bodegas, set the tone for the neighborhood: Harlem is full of swag! But be advised: cultural projects are plenty, and rents are skyrocketing !
Jazz and Soul
Louis Armstrong, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, and James Brown have all filled this space with their voices. The Apollo Theater, a symbol of Black music in New York, still welcomes the crème-de-la-crème of soul and R’n’B artists such as Lauryn Hill, Fantasia, and Mariah Carey, as well as contemporary dance companies (at reasonable prices, finally !). A couple blocks away stands the Cotton Club, opened in 1923 and still one of the most iconic jazz clubs in the city.
Apollo Theater, 253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027 - tickets starting from 10$
Cotton Club, 656 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
My favorite spots in Harlem ?
The beautiful modern art museum, Gavin Brown.439 W. 127Th Street, NY 10027 - tuesday to saturday : 12h-18h.
The Studio Museum promotes art by African and African-American artists. 44 West 125th Street, NY 10027 - thursday to sunday : 12h-18h.
Inspired by the music of Fela Kuti, Shrine is a club where afrobeat is king. 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10030 - every day : 16h-4h
The Caribbean restaurant Solomon and Kuff. 2331 12th Ave, New York, NY 10027 - phone : 212.939.9443.
Oh my god !
450 churches are hidden along the streets of Harlem. Communities gather in them to help each other, talk about politics, exchange opinions and ways they can enhance their neighborhood. They truly are a social and cultural glue. Gospel music was born in Harlem: You can’t forget the opportunity to experience it! The Abyssinian Church gives a well-known, supershow of a mass, while the choir at First Corinthian Baptist Church also boasts a very good reputation. One of my most cherished memories of New York !
Abyssinian Church, 132 W 138th St, New York, NY 10030 - on sunday : 11h30.
First Corinthian Baptist Church, 1912 7th Ave New York, NY - sunday : 7h30, 9h30 and 11h30.
The soul food
“Soul food” describes African-American cuisine that hails from the South of the country, with roots that tie back to slavery. Being banned from reading and writing, slaves passed their recipes through word of mouth, from generation to generation. Based on simple ingredients such as corn, rice, chicken, lard and gombo, soul food is still at the centre of some of Harlem’s best restaurants. Let’s focus on two legendary eateries...
The Red Rooster
The Red Rooster is my favorite place to eat in Harlem. Its concept is to serve family-style American food in a groovy atmosphere. I enjoyed a DJ set of jazz and old school hip hop while discovering for the first time the well-know Harlem fare of chicken and waffles.
Red Rooster, 310 Lenox Ave, New York, NY 10027 - Phone : (212) 792-9001 - monday to sunday
Sylvia is a Harlem institution, and has built its reputation on its famously spicy sauces. The menu is filled with traditional African-American recipes, and their deliciously soft golden corn bread is to die for. Barack Obama is a fan !
Sylvia, 328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10027 - phone. : (212) 996-0660 - monday to sunday