Morningside Heights, the neighborhood surrounding the University, is one of the most vibrant, vital centers of social, cultural, and intellectual energy in Manhattan. It encompasses the area on the West Side of Manhattan between 106th St. and 125th St. and borders Harlem at 125th Street. While some insist the neighborhood belongs to “Greater Harlem” and others claim it as part of the Upper West Side, the unique rhythm and character of Morningside Heights, especially during the school year, is beyond dispute! Learn about the history of the neighborhood and some of Columbia students’ favorite spots.
For insider tips, check out these guides to Morningside Heights from Columbia students, staff and alumni:
Food and Drink
“These rings of delight manage the perfect balance of light and dense, chewy and crispy-crusted, with a texture and flavor that's delicious on its own but next-level when paired with the assortment of cream cheeses, meats, and toppings they offer.” – Travel + Leisure
“Right outside the main campus gates on Broadway, you’ll find all types of foods, gadgets, tapestries, and jewelry at the market. If you’re planning on cooking, you can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as baked goods and cheese.” – Columbia Spectator
Known for its specialty “Milk Foam,” Gong Cha also sets itself apart from other bubble tea purveyors by brewing fresh tea and cooking pearl bubbles every four hours and only sourcing tea from Taiwanese estates.
Right across the street from campus on Amsterdam Avenue, this spot boasts huge specialty sandwiches, breakfast all day, soups, salads, burgers, groceries and more.
“This is a shop that trades in slices of epic proportion, colossal triangles of cheesy-greasy deliciousness that could more rightly be described as slabs.” – Columbia College Today
“The deli, which takes up an entire wall, is filled to the gills with Italian salamis and hams, as well as heat-and-eat dishes like homey meatballs and crispy chicken cutlets. It’s the hefty sandwiches that are truly outstanding.” – New York Magazine
Wu and Nussbaum
“The restaurant will carry on the tradition of serving bagels during the day but will transition to serving Chinese food at night.” – Columbia Spectator
Silver Moon Bakery
“The no-frills shop offers as many as 71 different breads (not all at the same time), including many invented by Ms. Norell, such as an orange-chocolate baguette and corkscrew sourdough rolls.” – New York Times
“Seinfeld fans snap photos outside and Suzanne Vega BC’81 immortalized it in song, but for Columbia students, Tom’s is simply their neighborhood diner. … Tom’s serves the kind of comfort food that undergrads consume in spades: cheese fries, Broadway shakes, eggs any way you like them.” – Columbia College Today
Morningside Heights is bordered by no fewer than four iconic parks. These green spaces just beyond your doorstep offer copious opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and escape the city bustle. As always when moving about the city, be aware of your surroundings. Refer to the Campus Safety section for more resources and tips.
Riverside Park is regarded by many as Manhattan's most spectacular waterfront park. Stretching for four miles along the Hudson, the park features a range of sports courts and fields, a skate park, a number of food carts and cafés, a large portion of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway (for running and biking) and a marina where visitors can launch kayaks and canoes. Riverside Park is two blocks west of the Columbia Gates.
Morningside Park blends a scenic hilly landscape with the vibrancy of a community park with winding paths, flower gardens, a waterfall, baseball fields and multiple playgrounds. Parents bring their children to play in its playgrounds and learn in its after-school program, and on Saturdays local farmers sell their goods in an outdoor market. Morningside Park forms the east border of campus, one block east of College Walk.
This park needs no introduction. A 15-minute walk from campus, Central Park’s North End boasts a 40-acre forest called the North Woods — a complex ecosystem with stream-side hiking trails, stone bridges, historic ruins, waterfalls, scenic vistas and some of the best birdwatching in the U.S. It also features the Harlem Meer recreational lake, the Lasker Rink and Pool, the Conservatory Garden and The Great Hill, known for its jazz concerts. Picnicking, sunbathing, nature walks, leaf-peeping, fishing, swimming, ice skating and sledding are just a few of the year-round activities this quieter end of the park provides.
Sakura Park features more than 2,000 cherry blossom trees, which bloom in spring. Only two blocks away from campus on Claremont Avenue and 122nd St., this scenic spot is a Columbia favorite for running, studying or holding hands on a romantic spring evening.
Morningside Heights is a community where living and learning go hand in hand: Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg did a lot of their writing at the West End, F. Scott Fitzgerald lived on Claremont Avenue, and William Burroughs lived on 115th Street. Isaac Asimov, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston all lived in Morningside Heights and Simon and Garfunkel met here as well.
Harlem is also home to some of America's greatest musicians, artists and writers. Award-winning poet Langston Hughes, novelist Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B Dubois and musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were just some of the names to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance. This forum for emerging writers and artists that grew out of the Roaring Twenties also saw famed artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Archibald Motley. The Renaissance was a literary and political movement with links to Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and other parts of the world.
Morningside Heights is one of the city’s most architecturally distinguished neighborhoods. In 1887, Episcopal Bishop Henry Potter announced plans for the construction of a great cathedral: St. John The Divine. This was soon followed by Columbia College, St. Luke’s Hospital and later by Teachers College, Barnard College, Jewish Theological, Union Theological and the Riverside Church. Thus, Morningside Heights became indelibly associated with New York’s educational, medical, and religious foundations, and was appropriately dubbed "the Acropolis of New York."
Harlem remains a very vibrant community and is the third most popular tourist destination in the city, after Times Square and Wall Street. The neighborhood includes outstanding architecture, several landmark historic districts, renowned churches, and cultural institutions. Among these are the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the world's leading research facility devoted to the preservation of materials on the global African diaspora.
Revolutionary War Era
Located on Broadway around 118th Street, a plaque commemorates the Battle of Harlem Heights during the Revolutionary War, which served as a serious morale boost and allowed the patriots to keep northern Manhattan. Under Commander-in-chief General George Washington, Major General Nathanael Greene, and Major General Israel Putnam, The Continental Army held a series of high-ground positions with more than 9,000 men and forced the British to retreat. It was Washington's first battlefield success of the war.
The Subway Stop
The 116th Street – Columbia station was constructed as part of the city's first subway line and designed by a Columbia alum! The station opened on October 27, 1904 as one of the original 28 stations of the New York City Subway.