Experience an electric part of Manhattan history when you stay at the best hotels in Harlem. Harlem, New York is a large, vibrant and exciting residential, cultural and business center, typified by beautiful brownstones, legendary food, and historic religious institutions. In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem was the focus of the “Harlem Renaissance”, an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American black community. In 1934, the Apollo Theater opened on 125th Street in a former burlesque house. During that time, between Lenox and 7th Avenues, there were more than 125 entertainment venues, including speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. More recently, Harlem residents have made major contributions to hip-hop, including Tupac Shakur, A$AP Rocky, Diddy and Azealia Banks. Today you can feast at the best Harlem restaurants, sip craft cocktails, and see a real slice of local life. The Harlem hotel market is small and remains largely untouched by the big chains, which in turn offers visitors the opportunity for a more unique and memorable experience.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best hotels in NYC
Best hotels in Harlem
Aloft is the first of two higher-end Harlem hotels. Part of the Starwood family, it offers a design-led, environmentally focused experience. Everything about this property is modern and hip, from the lighting fixtures, clean lines and color splashes in the lobby, to the oversized stylus-and-vinyl artwork adorning the guest rooms. Aloft offers 122 rooms, each decked with a plush platform bed, 42-inch flat screen, mini fridge, oversized shower, Bliss Spa products, ergonomic workspace and free WiFi. There is no restaurant as such, but Re:fuel is a cafe offering snacks on demand, and W XYZ is a trendy nightspot with cocktails, music, pool and even live performances. If you’re hungry, you could do worse than make the short trip to Sylvia’s or Red Rooster. And if you do, you’re going to need to use the Re:charge fitness center, which is open to guests 24/7. Aloft Harlem also offers one of New York’s greenest hotel experiences. Natural materials like cork and sustainable wood veneers are integrated into the hotel’s design. Showers feature product dispensers to reduce landfill litter from non-biodegradable bottles (unused soap is recycled and distributed to domestic homeless shelters or countries that are in need of it), and all rooms have recycling receptacles. Meanwhile, guests are encouraged to participate in the Make a Green Choice initiative in which they earn a $5 food/drink voucher for each night they decline housekeeping services and re-use towels. Aloft is located in the heart of Harlem, a block from 125th Street and just steps from six subway lines.
The first thing to note about Edge Hotel is that it isn’t in Harlem at all, but 30 or so blocks further north, in Washington Heights. Given that there are no other hotels in that neighborhood, and that this is a really good boutique property, we thought it should be on this list. The second thing to note is that Edge is not as “edgy” as Aloft. But it is sleek, modern, and teeming with art work. It’s also a brand new property. Each of its 54 rooms comes with a plush pillow top mattress, fine linen bedding, flat screen TV and free WiFi. Other hotel perks include a fairly well-equipped fitness center, complimentary continental breakfast and “grab and go” kiosk. Hotel art includes original silk screens in the lobby and meeting rooms by legendary local artist (and architect), the late Harold Krisel; and numbered, screen-printed pieces throughout the guest rooms and hallways by Brooklyn artist Chris Pieretti, inspired by upper Manhattan's historic stained glass windows. Edge Hotel is located on the eastern border of the Columbia University Medical Center campus, just steps from the adjoining New York Presbyterian Hospital and 168 St. subway.
255West is not so much a traditional hotel as a 130-year-old brownstone in the heart of Harlem offering four highly individual, immaculate (and irresistible) rooms that combine beautifully ornate furniture, exposed brick and bright, fresh decor. Each room is named after one of the owners’ four Chihuahuas—Guillaume, Lily, Calliope and Gino—and features a private bathroom, flat screen TV, free WiFi and complimentary tea and coffee. Because this is a guest house, the only other things you’ll get are free toiletries and a place to store your luggage. But you should at least get to take some great memories home with you. 255West is located within a couple of blocks of five subway lines.
Sugar Hill Harlem Inn represents a glorious slice of history, and an ode to some of the finest local musical artists that ever lived—but with a very modern twist. First, the historical stuff: The inn is a Victorian townhouse, dating back to 1906. In 2001, the owners did a complete renovation of the electrics and plumbing, taking great care to preserve the historical details. The result is eight gorgeous rooms with private bathrooms (some with private kitchens), each named for a famous artist: Satchmo’s Room (Louis Armstrong); Lena’s Room (Lena Horne); Miles’ Room (Miles Davis); Josephine’s Room (Josephine Baker); Billie’s Room (Billie Holiday); Dizzy’s Room (Dizzy Gillespie); Marian’s Room (Marian Anderson); and Nina’s Room (Nina Simone). Each unique room has been beautifully decorated by Carol Donawa, a graduate of The New York School of Interior Design. And the modern twist? Sugar Hill is as green as a historic inn could get: it uses solar power; all the food its serves is organic and all the tea and coffee is fair trade; it recycles all food waste as compost; it uses only non-toxic cleaning products. The Inn is located within a few minutes’ walk of five subway lines.
This is a newly renovated inn located in a beautiful 19th century building. Despite being clean, fresh and comfortable, it is really cheap. That’s because it’s not in the best part of town. If you don’t mind that, and you are okay with a lack of local dining options outside of fast food, then it might just be one of the greatest bargains in New York City. After all, you are only an 8-minute walk from five subway lines and the 125th St Metro North train station. There are 14 rooms, each with TV, WiFI, A/C, fridge, microwave and a private bathrooms/shower. The rooms have high ceilings and light decor, for a bright and airy feel.
Like its sibling The Park Ave North, The Central Park North represents great value for money—this time in the area directly above Central Park. Located just one block from the park, and within minutes of five subway lines, the inn is a newly renovated 19th century building with high ceilings and bright, airy decor. Each of its 12 rooms features TV, WiFI, A/C, fridge and microwave, and some have a kitchenette too. Be warned, however: none of the rooms has its own private bath/shower, and this is reflected in the price.