Harlem is known throughout the world as a vibrant center of African American culture, music, and life. The neighborhood invites visitors to see historic jewels such as the Apollo Theater, architecturally splendid churches and brownstones, and cultural magnets like the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, as well as an ongoing list of new and renovated sites and buildings.
A stroll along Harlem's 125th Street reveals the electric energy of the neighborhood, from impromptu drum circles to a bustling farmers market to sidewalk vendors hawking bootleg DVDs, incense, and African shea butter. This east–west stretch is the heart of the neighborhood, and home to some of the best people-watching in Manhattan. Bill Clinton's New York office is at 55 West 125th Street, and the legendary Apollo Theater stands at No. 253. A large number of chains (Starbucks, Red Lobster, H&M) make it hard to distinguish 125th Street from the city’s other heavily commercialized areas, but there are still a few things that set it apart: the wide number of languages spoken, the aroma of West African spices for sale, and stylish locals who take pride in their fashions.
To get a feel for Harlem, spend time visiting its past and present. On 116th Street, particularly between St. Nicholas and Lenox Avenues (aka Malcolm X Boulevard), you’ll find some of the area’s most interesting religious buildings, from ornate churches to a green-domed mosque. Along Lenox Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 110th and 130th Streets are chic restaurants, bars, and a few boutiques offering everything from bespoke cocktails and live music to Harlem-inspired gifts and high-end menswear.