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Manhattan Neighborhood Guide: West Harlem
West Harlem Neighborhood Guide
The stretch of Upper Manhattan wedged between the Upper West Side and Washington Heights is broadly known as West Harlem, but you might be more familiar with the smaller neighborhoods that comprise it: Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, and Hamilton Heights. Morningside Heights, just north of the Upper West Side, is dominated by a smattering of academic institutions (including Columbia University, Barnard College, and the New York Theological Seminary) and overrun by multitudes of college co-eds. Farther north, 19th century brownstones and prewar-era apartments line the avenues of Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights, neighborhoods still greatly influenced by Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic-speaking immigrants who settled here in droves in the 1980s. More affordable than Manhattan’s southerly neighborhoods, West Harlem is a culturally rich area that’s increasingly popular as a haven for intellectuals, academics, and artists.
West Harlem Location and Transportation
Though many NYC guides lump Morningside Heights in with the Upper West Side, official city maps indicate that the area north of Central Park (110th Street) is part of Harlem. For our purposes, West Harlem spans from the Hudson River to Morningside Drive/St. Nicholas Avenue between W. 110th Street and W. 155th Street. This narrow swath of Manhattan is bordered by the Upper West Side to the South, Central Harlem to the East, and Washington Heights to the North. Noted for its excellent walkability (walkscore.com gives it a 96/100), West Harlem also has impressive public transportation options. Residents can choose one of the many bus lines or hop the 1, A, B, C, or D trains to easily get around.
West Harlem Neighborhood Landmarks
The best-known West Harlem landmark might be Riverside Park, which spans four miles of waterfront along the Hudson River. Residents come here for sport and socialization – whether that means jogging along the hike and bike paths, launching kayaks out of the 79th Street Marina, or playing fierce games of tennis on one of the park’s ten courts. At the northern end of the park sits the General Grant National Memorial, a monument and mausoleum built to honor Ulysees S. Grant, who served as the Commanding General of the Union Army during the Civil War, then later as the 18th President of the United States. Farther north, the 28-acre, multi-level Riverbank State Park offers Hamilton Heights residents easy access to myriad activities and amenities, including swimming, skating, fitness facilities, sport courts, a softball field, and playgrounds.
While West Harlem’s lush greenspaces and parks are undoubtedly a huge draw, the neighborhood also has incredible buildings and architecture, including the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, a massive Gothic Revival church started in 1892 that is still under construction today. Close by, the primary Columbia University campus sits on a 32-acre plot filled with Beaux-Arts architecture, a grand neoclassical library, and several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Best West Harlem Restaurants
Though long revered as a soul food destination, in recent years, Harlem has really stepped into the culinary spot light thanks to its increasingly diverse and impressive food scene. Though it might be a chain, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, with a location on W. 125th Street, gets loads of rave reviews for its pulled pork, fried green tomatoes, and other Southern-style offerings. Up on Broadway, the Harlem outpost of Jin Ramen (which also has a location on the Upper West Side) dishes up slurp-able bowls of soul-warming ramen, while the nearby Handpulled Noodle serves traditional hand-crafted noodles made in the style of the Xinjiang region in Northwest China. For those craving some hearty Italian, neighborhood favorite Pisticci, with its cozy vibe and homespun fare, always delivers. Right on the fringe of Columbia’s campus, Flat Top, a rustic American eatery, gets the nod for its dressed up take on classic dishes like the Flat Top Burger (organic Angus topped with aioli and a beefsteak tomato), New England Lobster Roll, and Three Mushroom Risotto.
Favorite West Harlem Gyms and Fitness Studios
If you need motivation to torch some calories, just jump into a local group fitness class. In Hamilton Heights, Bikram Yoga offers 90-minute sweat sessions designed to help yogis reap physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Close by, Brahman Yoga Harlem offers affordably priced vinyasa krama classes that teach mindful movement, controlled breathing, and meditation as students flow through a series of positions. Those looking for a more intense workout might want to check out Link Fitness in Riverbank State Park. Link offers a variety of group classes including boxing, circuit training, and strength & conditioning. For a more personalized approach to fitness, book a private or semi-private session at Riverside Pilates, where instructors focus is on strengthening and shaping the entire body.
Local Coffee Shops in West Harlem
For a caffeinated pick-me-up, West Harlem has more than a handful of delightful coffee shops. The small but cheery Sugar Hill Café, located conveniently close to the 145th Street Station, brews tasty espressos and serves up an assortment of pastries and small eats. Also in Hamilton Heights, the Chipped Cup offers a quaint indoor space for enjoying a cup of joe, as well as a lovely outdoor patio replete with lush potted plants, cozy string lights, and plenty of shade. A favorite among the City College crowd, Café One is a fantastic place for a coffee break or light bite between classes. At Monkey Cup, you can get your usual coffee fix served alongside a quiche, croissant, or other tasty treat, but the house specialty Monkeyccino decorated with adorable bowtie-wearing monkey latte art is pretty hard to resist (and Instagram-worthy to boot!). Last, but certainly not least, at Kuro Kuma Espresso & Coffee patrons enjoy expertly brewed coffee from Counter Culture and pastries from the iconic Balthazar bakery.
Best of West Harlem Night-Life
In West Harlem, there are plenty of places to grab a drink (or two) with friends or enjoy a quiet cocktail with your date. On Broadway in Hamilton Heights, the hip Harlem Public opens daily at lunch, but keeps drinks flowing well after sundown. Here, locals love to pair the legendary Peanut Butter Burger and Tots with a selection off the extensive menu of craft beers. Next door, At the Wallace is a lively spot for highly-spirited games of shuffleboard, giant Jenga, and Connect Four. Between rounds you can nosh on calorie-loaded but delectable bar food that includes grilled cheeses, hot dogs, and waffle fries and wash it all down with a beer or cocktail. At the Hogshead Tavern, another favorite with the craft beer crowd, the pork belly grilled cheese and sliders are beloved eats, but the joint is also popular for its weekday happy hour and bottomless weekend brunch. On a hot day, the Bierstrasse NYC offers relief in the form of monstrous refreshments – try the 2-liter glass boot (dubbed Das Boot) filled with a cold draught or enjoy a party-sized punch bowl or sangria pitcher with your entire posse. Grab your drink of choice and some grub and relax on the huge covered patio with views of the Hudson. For those looking for a quieter spot to imbibe, the Anchor Wine Bar has superb Italian fare and a fantastic selection of wines and hand-crafted cocktails.
What These Businesses Love About West Harlem
I love Morningside Heights because it has always had a strong sense of community. Small business is a vibrant part of what makes the neighborhood special. People know each other and look out for one another.”
– Liane Nikitovich, Owner – Riverside pilates
We love that West Harlem is a true community that supports one another and provides a platform for small businesses to thrive.”
– Ella Jane & Matthew Wells, Owners – Brahman Yoga
West Harlem Movers
If you’re moving Uptown to Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, or Hamilton Heights, then give us a call! With over a decade of Manhattan moves under our belts, our team of experienced movers has the know-how and muscle to make your relocation seamless and stress-free. Get the VIP treatment with our full-service packing and unpacking option or just hire us for a few hours to get everything quickly transported to your new residence or office. No matter what your moving needs, Imperial Movers is your go-to West Harlem moving and storage company.
West Harlem Neighborhood Infographic
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