A raucous, soulful affair, the superb Sunday gospel services here are the city’s most famous. You’ll need to arrive at least an hour before the service to queue up, and ensure you adhere to the strict entry rules: no tank tops, flip-flops, shorts, leggings or backpacks. The entry point for tourists is at the southeast corner of West 138th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd.
The church itself was founded by an Ethiopian businessman, beginning as a downtown institution before moving north to Harlem in 1923 (mirroring the migration of the city’s black population). Its charismatic pastor, Calvin O Butts III, is an important community activist whose support is sought by politicians of all parties. If you plan on visiting with a group of 10 or more, call at least two weeks in advance to check if space is available.