New York: Highlights of Harlem walking route

Last summer I visited New York with a good friend of mine. She wanted to visit Harlem. To be honest, I was unsure if it would be safe for two girls. However, we decided to go and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our New York trip! I will tell you what places we visited in Harlem, so you can experience this vibrant and colorful neighbourhood as well.

We loosely followed the “Harlem Soul” walking route through Harlem from the most recent Lonely Planet, and started our walking tour on Amsterdam Avenue / W 110th St.

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Of course, being Dutch, we had to pose with this street sign 🙂

From Amsterdam Avenue, we went to see the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and the gardens around it. We did not visit the cathedral itself (this is possible), but mainly walked around the gardens. Here you will find the Peace Fountain, with around it several plaques with inspiring quotes and lots of small bronze animal sculptures, created by school children from NYC. I’m usually not that interested in sculptures, but the background story here was inspiring and I liked that the sculptures were not perfect, showing that they were not made by experienced artists.

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One of the plaques with a John Lennon song text
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A beautiful sculpture, made by a child. Unbelievable, right?!

We then walked to Amy Ruth’s restaurant on 116th St. for a well-deserved break and some nice food. This place has murals of celebrities painted all over the walls. On the menu you will find lots of waffles, which is what Amy Ruth’s is famous for. We opted for waffles with blueberries with some homemade lemonade. However, we were told that if you want to taste ‘real’ soul food, you should order the chicken and waffles.

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Blueberry waffles at Amy Ruth’s

After our stop we continued our walk. We walked past the famous Apollo theather (located at 253 West 125th St.), where many artists started their career. According to Lonely Planet, you can join tours here, but we didn’t do this.  There are also some nice shops in this area, so if you are a bit of a shopaholic (like us), make sure you have enough time to do some shopping!

To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what our route after this looked like: we just walked around in the area around the Apollo theather, enjoying the atmosphere and surroundings. In this area, there are many amazing murals. What interested us, was that these murals are not just ‘graffiti’, many of them are informative. For instance, there are murals informing women about breast cancer, and murals that tell you what your rights are in case you are arrested by police. We found murals almost on every street, so if you walk around I guarantee you will see some of them.

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I realize that many of you will be expecting that we also visited a gospel service. We did not go since I would feel like an intruder, visiting a service as if it’s a tourist attraction. Yes, I know these churches are used to having tourists there, but it somehow feels wrong to me. If you went, I would love to hear about your experiences with these gospel services though! I’m planning to go back to New York, so who knows… 😉

We then ended our Harlem visit and got on the subway to the Bronx, to see a Yankees game. If you are able to get tickets at a reasonable price, don’t hesitate for even a second and grab your chance! If I remember correctly, we paid around 25 euros for seats with a decent view. When you book your ticket and select your seats, you can see a ‘preview’ of the view from that particular seat, which is very useful.

Please let me know what you thought about this blog post.

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