Harlem street sign

Harlem, a neighbourhood as rich in culture as it is in history, has provided fertile ground for New York’s creative scene through the decades, most notably during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, when the likes of Louis Armstrong and Langston Hughes helped to transform it into a buzzing artistic centre. This dynamic area north of 110th Street is starting to shake off memories of its infamous past. Like the rest of New York, Harlem reached its nadir in the 1970s, when the neighbourhood experienced its greatest level of poverty, crime and urban decay.

2015 however presents a very different scene. Now, among the landmark eateries, churches and residential buildings, a new generation of restaurants and bars are emerging, breathing fresh life into this iconic neighbourhood and tempting unfamiliar New Yorkers to travel Uptown. SUITCASE has hand-picked the best of old and new for our Harlem neighbourhood guide.


Where to sleep

Given that it’s so residential, there’s not a huge offering of hotels in Harlem, so the best option for staying here is through Airbnb. You can get amazing deals on beautiful townhouses at a fraction of the price of a Manhattan hotel. If it’s luxury you’re after, there’s no shortage of 5-star hotels further south on the Upper East Side. The more contemporary of these is The Surrey; filled with modern art (most notably the magnificent tapestry of Kate Moss in the lobby) the atmosphere is younger and less stuffy than your typical high-end hotel. Over on the Upper West Side, the Empire Hotel is a more cost-friendly option. While it lacks the charm of the hotels we typically suggest, it’s affordable, conveniently located and has stunning rooftop views of Manhattan, making it a viable option if you’re looking to spend time Uptown and, of course, in Harlem.

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