Once known by the nickname “Little Odessa,” due to the large number of Russians and eastern Europeans that settled in the area, Brighton Beach is a delightful seaside town that has a lot to offer its residents. Take a walk through Brighton Beach and find a plethora of traditional ethnic restaurants offering Russian cuisine, as well as food markets where you can find the specialized ingredients to prepare these dishes in your own kitchen.
Brighton Beach provides a much calmer beach and boardwalk experience than nearby Coney Island, and you will find more locals than tourists at the locally owned markets, shops, attractions, and even at the ritzy nightclubs. The area was originally developed as a refuge for the wealthy, so they could flee the heat of the NYC streets. There were luxury hotels and even a racetrack at one time.
Now the area is filled with large apartment buildings, many offering ocean or boardwalk views. The area was immortalized by Neil Simon in his play, Brighton Beach Memoirs. If you walk through the neighborhood, you might get the feeling that you have been transported back to the New York of the 1930s, as the appearance of the neighborhood hasn’t changed all that much in the intervening years.
Living at or near the beach, which is free to the public, offers many opportunities for both relaxation and entertainment. City dwellers are rediscovering this little oceanside gem and are moving into the area in search of affordable housing and a more laid back pace of living. Although it might seem very far from the chaos and noise of Manhattan, there are two subways that make for an easy commute, so it is possible to work in the City and live at the beach.
Brighton Beach Boardwalk. Brighton Beach has more to offer than just a beach, especially if you are not one for taking a dip in the water. Take a leisurely stroll, stop in at one of the many cafes, watch a hotly contested chess match, or just sit on one of the many benches and soak up the seaside atmosphere. While many people only think about visiting the beach in the summer, the boardwalk at Brighton Beach is great in all seasons, if you dress accordingly. Located at 601 Riegelmann Boardwalk.
Russian Baths of Brooklyn. Russian baths, or banyas, have been known for centuries for their purported health benefits. The theory is that the excessive sweating that comes from prolonged exposure to high temperatures removes toxins from the blood, improves kidney function, clears and softens skin, and removes lactic acid from muscles, which reduces muscle fatigue and soreness. Take a sauna or steam, get a massage, or book a salt scrub or other spa treatment to pamper yourself. Located at 1200 Gravesend Neck Road
The National Restaurant & Nightclub. Brighton Beach offers many entertainment venues, but would you suspect that you could take in a floor show that would rival that put on in a Las Vegas casino? Not only does The National Nightclub, which has been open since the 1970s offer a great show, it also offers up authentic Russian cuisine. Located at 273 Brighton Beach Avenue.
Gulluoglu Baklava & Cafe. If you’d like a bit of sweetness while you’re out basking in the sun, wander over to Gulluoglu for some authentic Turkish baklava. They have a large selection of various types of baklava, as well as other Turkish delights, such as spinach and cheese pie and sesame bread. These products are made fresh daily in Istanbul, vacuum-sealed and imported. This ensures that you get an authentic product, made using ancient Turkish recipes, baked in the same factory where they have been produced for over a century. Located at 231 Brighton Beach Avenue.
Saint Petersburg Bookstore. If you want authentic Russian souvenirs or books, stop in at the Saint Petersburg Bookstore. There you will find many different versions of the popular Russian nesting dolls, matryoshkas. They also have a large selection of children’s toys, games, and puzzles. Located at 230 Brighton Beach Avenue.
What You Might See
Each summer, Brighton Beach holds a street festival, the Brighton Jubilee Festival, to celebrate the Russian heritage of the area. The festival is held on Brighton Beach Avenue and offers music, food, entertainment, and merchandise vendors.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are fireworks on the beach every Friday evening to celebrate the weekends of summer.
What’s In The Future
The Brighton Beach area has been undergoing a surge of development in recent years, adding new condo buildings and popular franchise stores. Development is expected to continue as people from other parts of the City discover the charms of Brighton Beach.
What You Might Not Know
Brighton Beach is a small part of a much larger area, that included all the land from Sheepshead Bay to Sea Gate, that was bought through a trade arrangement in 1645 from resident Native Americans in exchange for a kettle, a blanket, and a gun.
What We Love
What’s not to love about a place where the beach is no more than ten minutes away, no matter where you live in the neighborhood, and there’s a boardwalk that offers international cuisine, fresh air, exercise, and entertainment venues? If you add in a convenient commute to Manhattan, an increasingly diverse population, reasonably priced residences, and all the amenities needed to live comfortably within the confines of the neighborhood, you might discover that Brighton Beach is the perfect place for you, whether you are a professional working in the City, a young family in search of a healthy place to raise children, or a retiree, looking for a calm, inclusive, neighborly place to spend your retirement years.