Walk in NYC # 13, from East Harlem to Central Harlem, is a 3 miles self-guided tour to experience Latino culture then a gentrified and trendy area.
It will take you about 2 hours of strolling and taking photos, much more if you visit the galleries along the way.
You’ll see plenty of local restaurants, street art and graffities, small and colorful shops, impressive brownstones, art galleries, and a jazz museum.
Highlights: street art, murals, community gardens, Demolition Depot, murals, Crak is Wack, the National Jazz Museum, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Strivers’ Row, Harlem School of the Art.
Metro: 110 St on line 6 (start) and 135 St or 145 St on lines B or C (end).
Bus: use an app like Citymapper to find the best options with bus #, waiting time, list of stops, and where you are in the city once you’ve boarded. Your Metrocard or OMNY account will work and will be valid for transfers to the Metro and other buses. Express buses are more expensive but you can buy your ticket at the stop. The drivers are generally very helpful!
Good to know: you’ll find different kind of restaurants along your way, especially in the main avenues. Restrooms are available in the galleries and museums, as well as places to sit.
A: Your tour starts out of the 110 St Metro.
It immerses you right away in the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood and for about half of this trek, street life will be the main attraction.
Before you start, though, don’t miss the murals on 110th St, on the right when you go to 3rd Ave.
Then take 3rd Ave on your left.
People are talking in front of small shops of all kinds; elderly men sitting on folding chairs, seem to guard their entrance; kids in uniforms are walking to or from their schools; small restaurants don’t bother to cater to nearly non-existent tourists; you imagine there could be some illegal activities going on here and there. In any case, you feel right away the underlying energy of the area.
B: After E 113th St., then at the corner of E 115th St. you’ll see more murals worth a look.
A bit further, at the Silberman School of Social Work, you’ll find an art gallery open from Wed to Sat, 12-5pm.
It exhibits works often related to Latin America and the Caribbean, but it’s not always sure the guys at the front desk will know about it. Be persistent!
C: Once out, keep walking on 3rd Ave until E 120th St. Take it on your left: you’ll pass in front of Harlem Art Park, yet the art here is still scare, and it’s not easy to enter the park!
Then turn right on Lexington Ave and right again on E 121th St.
D: You’ll be next to the Harlem Community Justice Center, a problem solving court established quite a while ago. For you, it’s an imposing building with a Romanesque Revival façade and Victorian Gothic elements of decoration
E&F: Once back on 3rd Ave, take it left and keep walking until E 125th St.
125th St. is the main Harlem artery. If you’ve heard of the Demolition Depot and Irreplaceable Artifacts, a building full of reclaimed stuffs for the house, it is here, a bit further on your right. Go inside if you can, it looks like the Ali-Baba cave. Otherwise, look at its façade to have an idea of what can be inside.
A bit further, after you take 2nd Ave on the left and reach the end of 128th St., you see the mural “Crak is Whack” on your right, in a handball court.
Painted illegally in 1986 by Keith Haring, it was then protected by the City. It’s now visible again after 4 years of work in the area and some renovation.
Next, take W 128th St. until Lexington Ave. Turn right until E 129th St. on your left.
Your destination, the Harlem Rose Garden, is a community garden and an historical landmark. It’s not often open, though, so it’s also mainly an excuse to go to E129th St. as the street is always pretty with its trees on both side.
You’ll soon see a row of house with blue porches, a view more reminiscent of the South than NYC. A bit further, an imposing church: the garden will be on your left once you cross Park Ave.
The neighborhood looks wealthy and quite gentrified compared to the 1st section of your trek. It looks like it has been invested by an often young and trendy crowd. You are now in Central Harlem.
G: The National Jazz Museum will be on your right just before Malcolm X Blvd.
It celebrates Harlem jazz history with exhibitions, photos and records. Yet inquire beforehand about its opening hours if you want to visit it.
H: To keep in the vein of Harlem history, the Schomburg library, just before W 135th St. once you take the Malcolm X Blvd on your right, offers exhibitions centered on Black Culture in at least two different galleries.
I: Next, you’ll want to go to Strivers’ Row, rows of brownstone houses in Georgian, Colonial or Italian Revival Style depending where you are.
Built in the late 1900 and originally intended for upper-middle-class whites, they circle private courtyards. The signs “Walk Your Horses” at the entrance of their gated alleyways speaks of another time!
To reach this place, find W 138th St. and take it on your left.
J: At the end of the street, you’ll be on St Nicholas Ave.
Turn right to reach your last stop, the Harlem School of the Arts.
It has a gallery whose exhibitions are often organized to challenge your perceptions or assumptions and it’s on this note that this Walk in East and Central Harlem will end.
Now, if you want to keep walking, you are also at the beginning of Walk in NYC # 14, from Hamilton Heights to Morningside Heights.
Otherwise, to feel the atmosphere of Harlem in a different way, what about some movies or books about it?
Before you go, don’t forget your guide and see how to thank him at the bottom of the page. Then enjoy the rest of your day!