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Is Harlem Safe To Visit?

How Dangerous is Harlem Really?

Updated: July 11, 2023

This post answers a question that many visitors to New York City want to know, “Is Harlem safe for tourists?”

Below we explain what sections of Harlem are safer than others and share some safety tips.

Harlem is a fairly big neighborhood with multiple sub-sections, each with its own character and safety concerns.

To answer the question, you must know about the three main sub-sections, Central Harlem, West Harlem, and East Harlem.


Central Harlem is safe for tourists and also has the most sites of interest which is why we offer pay-what-you-like walking tours of the area.

Central Harlem runs east to west from 5th Avenue to St. Nicholas Avenue and from 110th Street to 155th Street. 

street signs in Harlem

Gentrification in Central Harlem has been rapidly growing since the 2000s.

In addition to some amazing historic sights, there are excellent restaurants and bars.


Generally, West Harlem is safe. Much of it is residential with beautiful brownstones.

It covers the area from Frederick Douglass Boulevard to the Hudson River between West 96th Street to West 155th Street. 

brownstones in West Harlem

Unless you have a specific place to go, it’s best not to wander around West Harlem at night. 


The neighborhood is also known as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem.

As the name suggests, this area is home to one of the largest Latin American communities in New York City.

East Harlem is not as safe as other parts of Harlem. This is due mainly to high poverty levels. 

East Harlem’s north-south boundaries are East 96th Street to 143rd Street, and from Fifth Avenue on the west to the East River on the east.

East Harlem does not have many points of interest to tourists.

Also, it is not a great idea to head to East Harlem at night without a particular destination in mind, like Patsy’s Pizzeria


Staying safe in NYC has a lot to do with where you go (or don’t go) and how you conduct yourself.

Here are some tips to stay safe: 

  1. Use the same precautions you would when visiting any other New York City neighborhood. 
  2. Be aware of your surroundings, especially on crowded streets.
  3. Don’t flash your valuables, keep your bags closed and with you at all times.
  4. Don’t carry your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket.
  5. Don't wander down dark, empty streets. Stick to populated areas.
  6. Especially at night, do not venture into any parks in Harlem at night, including the north section of Central Park at 110th Street.
  7. Don’t take the subway late at night. Yellow cabs and Uber are a better option if you’re out past 10 pm.
  8. Feel free to ask locals for directions if you are lost. Most locals will be happy to assist you, although not everyone who lives in Harlem is happy that their neighborhood has become a tourist destination. If someone does not respond to you in a kind manner, don't engage with them. Simply say, “Thanks anyway” and be on your way.

For more safety tips for all of NYC, read our full post, “Is New York Safe to Visit for Tourists?


About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: July 11th, 2023
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