Harlem has become one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Manhattan. Known for its stunning prewar architecture, ample green space and relatively affordable housing, the neighborhood is full of options for where to live, eat and relax. Explore Harlem like a local through the eyes of Douglas Elliman’s agent, Brian Phillips.

What to Do

Between boutique shopping and active afternoons spent by the river, Harlem has much to do indoors or out, says Phillips, who has lived and worked in the neighborhood for nearly a decade. Here are some of Phillips’s top picks.

The Harlem YMCA

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With a pool, steam room and sauna, and gym that offers personal trainers, the Harlem YMCA on W. 135th St. is the perfect go-to place after work or on weekends, says Phillips who makes it a regular part of his schedule. There’s also group interest classes such as writing, drawing and other arts & humanities programs.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem


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Phillips recommends this museum—home of the Savory Collection, over 100 hours of New York City jazz legends’ live radio recordings—as a dynamic way to experience Harlem’s music scene. Check out events such as First Saturday Jam Sessions, or try a vinyasa flow session set to live jazz.

Harlem Haberdashery


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Combining elements of the historic Harlem Renaissance with a future-forward vision, this clothing store strives to make every shopper feel like a celebrity. Their locally inspired style features clothes, shoes and accessories—all with a custom experience in mind.

West Harlem Piers

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To bring the activity outdoors, Phillips suggests taking a scenic bike ride along the Hudson River from the West Harlem Piers to Battery Park. The Piers also have canoe and kayak launch sites so you can experience the neighborhood from the water. During the colder months, join in the festivities for Holiday on the Hudson event—this year, on December 8.

Where to Eat

“Harlem’s food scene just keeps getting better,” says Phillips, who loves the dining choices uptown. “You can find everything you want.” The area’s classic restaurants reflect neighborhood culture, while fusion restaurants bring in a combination of cuisines. From the inviting, soul food spots to the best brunch experiences, your restaurant wish list will never run out of options.

Seasoned Vegan

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For Phillips, who has been a practicing vegan for many years, this restaurant is the perfect place for gourmet vegan soul food. This restaurant believes that “soul food” is any meal that is prepared with not only delicious flavor, but with love and care. Featuring gourmet vegan soul food, this eatery highlights foods from a variety of cuisines: Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Carribean and American, and includes dinner, brunch and late night menus.


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Melba, the namesake of this popular restaurant, brings the flavor and culture of her native Harlem to the menu. Try the ever-popular chicken and waffles when you visit for a taste of authentic Harlem soul food.

BLVD Bistro NY

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Head to BLVD Bistro for one of the best brunch experiences in the city. The buttermilk biscuit sandwich is one of the many tasty options, while cocktails like Blvd’s Spiked Tea can add to a relaxing Sunday afternoon. But beware, Phillips advises, on weekends this brunch spot is so popular that you can often have a lengthy wait, but reservations are accepted in advance.

Lolo’s Seafood Shack

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This seafood restaurant boasts a “Caribbean BBQ & Cape Cod Mashup” as their inspiration. Thanks to chefs that are inspired by their cultural upbringing and the food of the New York City markets, you are bound to have a memorable culinary experience.

How to Give Back

“Harlem is all about giving back,” says Phillips, who participates in numerous charitable causes that help improve the neighborhood. “It’s a very tight-knit community, especially for New York City.”

Broadway Mall Association


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The Broadway Mall—aka ‘The Longest Garden on Americas Oldest Road’—is a non-profit that brings public art, horticulture and more to the strip of green on Broadway running from Columbus Circle all the way to the George Washington Bridge. “This is one of my favorite charities because it does so much to beautify Harlem and the surrounding neighborhoods,” says Phillips.

Where to Live

Between the nightlife, cuisine and proximity to all the rest of Manhattan, Harlem is a unique world unto its own. Because of access to main transportation routes, Phillips explains how Harlem is already the neighborhood to call home. Enjoy being right in the heart of the best eats, shops and culture that Harlem has to offer.

502 West 141st Street, 6A

Price: $425,000

2 Bedrooms | 1 Bathroom

16 West 119th St, 3D

Price: $270,000

1 Bedroom | 1 Bathroom

Find your home in Harlem.

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