Harlem Walking Tour [self-guided in 11 stops]
A Harlem walking tour is a must do experience when visiting New York.
Here below, you will find a map that you can follow for a self-guided walk to explore 11 iconic places and a few little gems.
The walk can take anything from half-day, if you take the subway between a few stops, to the entire day and night, if you plan to have your dinner there followed by a cocktail and some live jazz music.
For every place visited in this itinerary, I have added a full description that you can save or print.
Time to begin the walk
Table of Contents
- 1 Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church
- 2 “Royal Tenenbaums” house
- 3 The City College of New York
- 4 West 125th Street
- 5 Marcus Garvey Park
- 6 Ginny’s Supper Club
- 7 The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
- 8 The Astor Row
- 9 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
- 10 Strivers Row
- 11 Holcombe Rucker Park
- 12 Shrine
- 13 Organised tour with local guide
You can read also
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The walk begins at the Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church, in the upper West Harlem area, for one of the most characteristic experience, a gospel service.
Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church
Start your walk with a characteristic gospel service, unique in the New York area.
Visit this small church, founded in 1954, with a big heart and energetic services to feed your soul.
Ask any Harlem native and they will tell you that they always make sure they are present for the first Sunday Service.
You should attend one of the Reverend Crenshaw services at the Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church, to experience one of the most genuine gospel service in Harlem.
Just a reminder that you should attend the entire service.
Tourists that want to visit just a few minutes are not really welcomed.
“Royal Tenenbaums” house
Just meters from the Greater Tabernacle, you can find the gothic house used by the Royal Tenenbaums in the popular Wes Anderson movie.
If you are planning to visit Harlem, then watch the movie first. It will give you a good inside of the area.
In any case, it’s such a great fun film, with actors like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
You cannot access inside the house, so you will be limited with a few shots from outside.
Interestingly enough, the house was also listed on Airbnb for a really brief time.
The City College of New York
Follow Convent Avenue and you will cross the City College of New York.
This top university is well known for its liberal arts and architecture programs.
It is also known for its amazing architecture and this is why you must visit the area.
The first thing you will notice is the old-school exterior of towering buildings, especially the iconic Harris Hall.
You also get to see the statue of Alexander Webb, CCNY’s 2nd president.
It has a historic significance in that it was built on the ancestral homeland of the Munsee Lenape, Wappinger, and Wickquasgeck people.
West 125th Street
This is the shopping street of Harlem, where you literally buy all you need, with an African-American touch.
A few chain stores have now established in the street, however, the many remaining small shops still give the area such a characteristic touch.
Have a check to Jimmy Jazz on 239, for sneakers and urban clothes, Portabella on 243, for classy clothes, American Eagle Store on 100 for outdoor clothes or head to Baba Fashion Harlem, corner Madison Avenue for tailor made clothes.
Food wise, Daps Eats on 63 and Red Rooster, off Lenox Ave, are the best bet in the area.
Marcus Garvey Park
This is a great multifunctional part in the heart of the district, a perfect spot to seat and relax during your walking tour of Harlem.
You can find a couple of playgrounds which are perfect if you are travelling with kids, besides a basketball court and other green area to play all sorts of sports.
There is also an outdoor swimming pool, very popular in summer with the locals.
Ginny’s Supper Club
This is a great stop to have the Gospel Brunch or dinner with Jazz music, later in the day.
For brunch, you can take your food from a smorgasbord of selections.
The choir performance is one of the best you can get in Harlem, an experience to remember for a long time, so characteristic of Harlem.
This is a great spot if you are after a gospel, but you don’t want necessarily to attend a full service at the church.
Are you interested in exploring more of the Big Apple? Here are 5 unique self-guided walks of New York, including maps and little gems like the Ginny’s Supper Club.
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
Jazz was born in places like Harlem, and the iconic National Jazz Museum in Harlem is here to show you that history.
When you walk in, you will learn all you need to know about the jazz movement through listening parties, posters, recordings and pictures.
The museum offers at least 100 well-curated workshops accessible to students, artists and the public in general.
It is here that you can check out exhibitions like the Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis collection, graciously donated by his family.
There are jazz events held all year through, so you may be able to catch a show or 2 on your tour.
The Astor Row
One of the landmarks of Harlem, these 14 pairs of 3-story houses stand out on West 130th Street for their Victorian-style in red-bricks with a front porch, a small garden and beautiful ornaments all around on both the facade and the fences.
These houses were built back in 1883 by John Jacob Astor, that bought the piece of land for just $10,000 in 1844.
In 1981, the houses were listed as individual city landmarks.
All except one house have been refurbished and looked after.
Unfortunately, on November 2021, the house on 28 West 130th Street was razed after a long story of neglected work that has damaged the foundation in an irreparable way.
A walk in this street will take you back to the old Harlem.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
With its research library and historical exhibits about the African Diaspora and the people of African descent, the Schomburg is a wonderful place to visit.
The gallery has amazing images and paintings on the walls that draw the visitor’s attention to a part of history hardly studied in schools.
It is a highly recommended experience for anyone who is interested in the history of African descent and their contributions to the world
Of particular interest is the Photographs and Prints Division with over 300,000 photos that document people from African descent in the last 200 years.
You can even book your virtual consultation for a special discussion.
This well known stretch of houses was home to some of the greatest Harlem residents.
As you stroll along Strivers’ Row, you will see homes once owned by Eubie Blake, Scott Joplin, Tupac, Bojangles and many more.
Here, you can check out 3 different architectural designs of homes preserved to this day.
There is the yellow brick and white limestone with terra cotta trim homes and red brick and brownstone buildings (take note of the even numbers at the entrances).
The odd numbered homes are the dark brick, brownstone, and terra cotta buildings
Holcombe Rucker Park
Welcome to the most popular basketball court in the world, the Holcombe Rucker Park.
Every American basketball great has earned their ‘street cred’ on this court, built by Holcombe Rucker.
It was initially opened for the Rucker League back in the 1950s.
Come and check out local basketball players battle it out, and you can also try your hand at the game.
If you are looking for a place to close the day in a characteristic Harlem bar then the Shrine has to be
This is one of the best music places in Harlem, a great spot for live music (usually from Thursday to Sunday) or live DJ
Besides the usual drinks, they serve also some food, which is great for a late dinner.
They usually play Jazz music, Soul, R&B and other kind of music and jam sessions too.
They do have also comedy nights, which can be a great fun too.
You can check the scheduled nights on the Shrine website.
Organised tour with local guide
To have more of an inside of Harlem history, you can join one of these two tours
- Mecca of African-American Culture: lasting 2 hours, this very affordable walk is lead by a local guide and institution, that will give you a good overview of the area, including interesting and funny facts
- Harlem Renaissance Walking Tour with Lunch: lasting 3 hours, the tour will take you through the most amazing buildings, churches and theaters of Harlem with lunch offered in a local restaurant.
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