A day in Harlem

Take the A train uptown and spend time in this neighborhood's museums, shops and more.

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  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Levain Bakery

    Levain Bakery

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Coventry Garden

    Coventry Garden

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Coventry Garden

    Coventry Garden

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Coventry Garden

    Coventry Garden

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Atmos NYC

    Atmos NYC

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Atmos NYC

    Atmos NYC

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Atmos NYC

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe

    Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe

    Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Red Rooster Harlem

    Red Rooster Harlem

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Harlem Tavern

    Harlem Tavern

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Harlem Tavern

    Harlem Tavern

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Harlem Tavern

    Harlem Tavern

Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery


11am


Harlem remains one of New York's most diverse neighborhoods, with the area around West 125th Street boasting an especially vibrant mix of cultural institutions, shops and historic spots. Start your tour at Levain Bakery (2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 116th and 117th Sts; 646-455-0952, levainbakery.com), famous for its enormous cookies ($4). Try the oatmeal-raisin variety—it counts as breakfast, right?—and a cup of coffee ($1.25--$2), which will give you the energy you need to power through the next few hours. Perch on a bench at Coventry Garden (Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 122nd St) as you eat your snack. Then, make a pit stop next door at Harlem Flo Boutique (2276 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 122nd St; 212-316-1525, harlemflo.com), whose owners are responsible for fixing up the garden (they also own a flower shop a few doors down). Peruse photo books such as Harlem: Lost and Found ($65) and the street-style classic Back in the Days Remix ($35).

Noon


You'll find even more locally focused tomes at Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe (2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 124th and 125th Sts; 212-665-7400, huemanbookstore.com). Flip through Harlem: A Century in Images ($55) to see snapshots of the neighborhood's past. Bust out some James Brown--inspired moves as you pass the legendary Apollo Theater (253 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave] and Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave]) before stopping at sneaker-head emporium Atmos NYC (203 W 125th St at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave]; 212-666-2242, atmosnyc.com). The newest limited-release Air Jordans ($150) might be out of your price range, but you can pick up one of the store's Mitchell & Ness vintage snap-back hats ($24--$28). Try on a blue-and-orange Knicks cap to prep for Melo and Amar'e's championship run next season (right?).

1pm


Continue down 125th Street to the Studio Museum in Harlem (144 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave] and Malcolm X Blvd [Lenox Ave]; 212-864-4500, studiomuseum.org; Thu, Fri noon--9pm; Sat 10am--6pm; Sun noon--6pm; $7, seniors and students $3; Sundays free), a pioneering institution devoted to artists of African descent, which opened in 1968. Check out its exhibits to learn more about the area; in "Harlem Postcards Summer 2011," contemporary artists were asked to submit photos that represent the neighborhood. Make sure to pop into the museum's shop, where you'll find swag like T-shirts ($25) and mugs ($12) emblazoned with the slogan BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. Relax at the museum's Atrium Caf (Thu, Fri noon--7:30pm), and wash down a sandwich ($7) with a Harlem Brewing Company Sugar Hill Golden Ale ($5).

4pm


Enough walking—plant yourself at the National Black Theater (2033 Fifth Ave between 125th and 126th Sts; 212-722-3800, thenationalblacktheatre.org; Sat 13 4--10pm; suggested donation $10) for the Black August Film Showcase, organized by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. The program consists of shorts (such as "Black Womyn Griots," about female poets in Toronto) and full-length docs, including Hip Hop Is Bigger than the Occupation, which follows artists—including M1 of Dead Prez—on a ten-day tour through Palestine.

6pm


By now, you should be ready for some food. Grab a bite at Red Rooster Harlem (310 Malcolm X Blvd [Lenox Ave] at 125th St; 212-792-9001, redroosterharlem.com), the latest eatery from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson. The restaurant can get packed, so pass the time at the bar and sample an inventive cocktail, such as the Earl of Harlem ($13), a mix of bourbon, Earl Grey tea and coriander syrup. As for the food, you can't go wrong with the fried "yard bird" ($21), a platter of crispy fried chicken smothered in mace gravy, hot sauce and a top-secret blend of spices.

8pm


Walk off your meal by sauntering up to Marcus Garvey Park (Fifth Ave at 124th St, nycgovparks.org), and head to the upper level, where you'll find a great view of the surrounding environs. Take a seat at the recently revamped Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, which plays host to SummerStage shows. On Saturday 13, you can see a performance by Cecilia Marta Dance Company and Francine E. Ott/The Walk (212-360-2756, summerstage.org; Sat 13 at 8pm; free).

10pm


Round out the day by stopping for a drink at the recently opened Harlem Tavern (2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 116th St; 212-866-4500, harlemtavern.com). Sample one of the 20 brews on tap, such as 21st Amendment's hoppy IPA ($7), at one of the numerous patio tables. If you need a bite to eat, the kitchen's hefty American fare is available until midnight. Still thirsty? Make your way to Nectar Wine Bar (2235 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 120th and 121st Sts; 212-961-9622, nectarwinenyc.com) for a nightcap. Sip a chilled glass of Seven Sisters Bukettraube ($11) before you hop on the subway back home.

How to get there


A, C to 125th St; C to 116th St


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Users say

10 comments
Nixxie
Nixxie

I'm from Philly but have loved Harlem for quite some time. Then due to circumstances, I ended up spending a LOT of time there and have quite a fondness for the area. But I haven't been in about 5 years and am looking for things to do on an upcoming visit. Your comments are incredibly helpful. Thanks for your posts. They're better than the article!

mandy
mandy

I would also recommend the african market on 116 right off lenox avenue it offers a variety of african instruments, african clothes and other african items.

Disappointed
Disappointed

I'm sorry Andrew but your 'Day in Harlem' was horribly weak and obviously not researched. A day in Harlem should be comprised of locations and experiences unique to solely Harlem. You got a few, but "levain bakery"?? really? What a joke! It's as unique to a day in Harlem as Starbucks is. Had you done your research properly you would have reccomended Mr. Lee Lee's Baked Goods on 118th off of Fredrick Douglas Blvd. An establishment that has been around for 30+ years. (Mr. Lee Lee's is just one of course). You missed out on alot of great places that many others have already mentioned in the comments section, which should have been included from the get go.

Anonymous
Anonymous

(sigh) Harlem, my Harlem.... it has become a true tourist attraction. Love the new restaurants and certain boutiques, etc that have been added but when I leave my house and head to 125th (east or west) to take care of some errands and whatnot I just want to hurry home. Feels like 34th street or Times Square.

@BXXIII
@BXXIII

Good suggestions except for one. If you do visit Marcus Garvey Park aka Mount Morris Park, DO NOT "head to the upper level" aka The Acropolis. There are some questionable individuals up there. I won't get into details but you can do a google search for more. The Dept. of Parks and Recreation need to step up and work with the community to make it safe to visit.

Lynn
Lynn

I'd definitely breakfast at Ambassades. Have a drink at Red Rooster--the bar scene is hot--but don't let anyone convince you to get food there. Head down Lenox to 120th and Settepani which has made the transition from cafe to a really excellent Italian restaurant (the most underrated spot in Harlem). Or back over to Fred Douglas to The Five & Diamond (the best of the new spots) or get Ethopian at Zoma. There's an intimate little bar next to Five & Diamond called 67 Orange, but go early-ish cause it gets supercrowded. Also, go up to Adam Clayton Powell and 133rd to Shrine for great live music.

Uptown Brown
Uptown Brown

What's funny about the last comment is that publications were always criticized for ONLY featuring the established places. Does Sylvia's really need more free advertising? I would add Bier International and shopping at some of the cute neighborhood boutiques like Swing, Brownstone, and Bebe Noir. Melba's is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or have a cocktail. A real neighborhood gem. And how did they forget the jazz? Seems there needs to be a part 2 to this article.

Harlem Resident
Harlem Resident

I would recommend Patisserie Des Ambassades (a West African/French bakery and restaurant) for coffee and croissant over Levain bakery. Their pastries are amazing and it's a block away. And one can't really stop by for dinner at Red Rooster. Reservations need to be made weeks in advance. They do have a nice happy hour though Monday through Thursday.

Harlem Resident
Harlem Resident

I would recommend Patisserie Des Ambassades (a West African/French bakery and restaurant) for coffee and croissant over Levain bakery. Their pastries are amazing and it's a block away. And one can't really stop by for dinner at Red Rooster. Reservations need to be made weeks in advance. They do have a nice happy hour though Monday through Thursday.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Glad to see that you have featured Harlem. However it would be great if you showcased some established restaurants and bars in Harlem as suppose to all the new places.