Neighbourhood: Harlem in New York

Harlem New York

Tourists often question the safety of Harlem New York: they think New York is a dangerous city. However, this opinion comes from the 80’s and early 90’s, when there was a huge crack problem. Since then, a lot has changed. These days, New York is one of the safest cities in America. Harlem, in particular used to have a very bad reputation, but now, it’s heading in the right direction. I don’t have any problems walking around alone or at night. Most noteworthy, Bill Clinton doesn’t have a problem either: his personal office is located in Harlem.

The History of Harlem

Harlem New York has a very interesting history with a lot of tragic twists and also some beautiful events. In short: it all started in 1626, when the Dutch named this area “Nieuw Haarlem” (New Harlem). Towards the end of the 19th century, it became a very chic area. This can be seen in its architecture: there are many beautiful houses. After the real estate crash in the 1930s, most of the wealthy residents left the neighbourhood. Soon thereafter, inhabitants from the South moved in to Harlem, looking for work in the area. The Hop on Hop off bus stops here so if you just want to get a feel for Harlem you can hop off there.

Harlem New York - Brownstones Harlem New York - Church

Apollo Theater

Harlem is of course well known for its musical history. And there is still a lot to do and see with regards to this. Certainly visit the illustrious Apollo Theater on 125th Street between Frederic Douglas and 7th Avenue. Every week there is an Amateur Night where you can help determine the winner by booing or applauding accordingly.

It is also very nice to do a Gospel Tour in Harlem. Walking into a church on a Sunday morning is certainly not done, so make sure to book before you go. Tours are every week on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Harlem New York - Street Signs Harlem in New York - Soul Food

Eric’s Tip: Harlem is made up of a lot of different areas, some of which are safer than others. As a guide, you can say that up to 125th Street and west of Park Avenue is safe to visit. If you want to go sightseeing here, do it during the day. If you want to go to another part of Harlem or you have plans for an evening visit to a Harlem restaurant or theatre, I recommend that you take a cab and don’t wander around.

Food and Drinks in Harlem

Go for the traditional African American cuisine called Soul Food. It is a lot like the food available in the Southern states of America (Louisiana, Mississippi etc.). With its fried chicken, sweet potatoes and beans it is not the kind of food to eat if you are on a diet. A new place and a hotspot (where Obama held a fundraiser) is Red Rooster Harlem on 126th Street and Lenox Avenue. I think you have to reserve at least a few weeks in advance, but I have also just dropped by and was seated within 15 minutes. Jam packed? Walk down a block on the same street to Sylvia’s Restaurant and enjoy real Soul Food with a rich history.“Shrine” on Adam Clayton Jr blvd and 134th Street. Live music and few tourists. Very good.

Harlem in New York - Apollo Theatre Harlem in New York - Sylvia's Restaurant

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