Equal parts family-friendly and millennial haven/nightlife destination, Williamsburg offers the best of all worlds. Whether by night or by day, the ‘Burg has endless options for every type of personality and interest--which has only increasingly become the case after the neighborhood was rezoned in 2005. With the floodgate opened for more varied types of businesses, Williamsburg saw one of the highest rates of development in the past decade than any other part of Brooklyn.
Referred to as “Little Berlin” for its late night and club-oriented nature, Williamsburg works as hard as it plays. Apart from the Clubland concentrated around Wythe Avenue, there is also a slew of offices (like 25 Kent Avenue, a sprawling eight-floor, 500,000-square foot waterfront building) and co-working spaces such as WeWork, The Yard and Green Desk that make it an ideal location for the corporate-, startup- and tech-oriented set.
With more offices setting their sights on this part of Brooklyn, it only makes sense that more people want to live close to where they work. Apart from your average walk-up apartment, W-burg has famously become home to numerous condos along the waterfront that continue to grow and expand in concert with the businesses and corporate hubs that have entered the environment.
Even with its many and undeniable changes, however, Williamsburg remains an arts-friendly community, particularly with regard to music and literature. While DIY spaces have come and gone, certain staples have persisted to become institutions that still provide a place for up and coming musicians to perform. On the literary front, long-standing indie bookstores like Spoonbill and Sugartown and Book Thug Nation have paved the way for others to cross the river, namely McNally Jackson Books.
Williamsburg Waterfront. Take a stroll along the Williamsburg Waterfront and drink in the spectacular view of the city. While you’re in the vicinity, head over to Domino Park, designed the landscape architect behind the High Line, James Corner. And, if the season happens to be Spring/Summer, be sure to check out the waterfront on the weekends, when the largest open air food market in the country, Smorgasburg, has been a fixture since 2011.
Williamsburg Bridge. Frequented by everyone from joggers and bikers to skateboarders and rollerbladers, this bridge is a fantastic (and picturesque) way to get to and from Lower Manhattan.
Whole Foods . The recent addition of Whole Foods and the Apple Store to the neighborhood has added plenty of added convenience for locals getting their shopping done--and their tech gear on lock.
Nitehawk Cinema. For the casual moviegoer or ardent cinephile, Nitehawk Cinema is a must. With the concept behind the theater centered on being able to order food and drinks while watching a movie, the menu is tailored to correlate with characters and/or references to the current films being screened. Those seeking a more traditional, “no frills” approach to the theater experience can also look to Williamsburg Cinemas on Grand Street.
Skinny Dennis. For lovers of live music, Skinny Dennis is the place--especially for those who can appreciate the spirit of the honky tonk--to enjoy (as the window touts) “Hot Peanuts, Cold Beer.”
Union Pool. An old school mainstay from the days before condos, Union Pool is known for showcasing indie bands and longtime local fixtures like Reverend Vince Anderson and the Love Choir. The bar also famously appeared in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Maison Premiere. Frequently making the list of best restaurants in the area, Maison Premiere is not only beloved for its vast selection of absinthe, but also its dollar oyster happy hour on weeknights from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Baby’s All Right. Take in a live show from bands both on the brink of discovery and already well-known at venues like Baby’s All Right, Knitting Factory and Brooklyn Steel.
Brooklyn Bowl. Whether you’re actually bowling or there for a special event (e.g. dance party or concert), the spacious Brooklyn Bowl is worth a visit on your Williamsburg journey.
William Vale. Go for a bit of luxurious ambience at one of the many hotels that have settled into the neighborhood--favorites such as William Vale, Wythe Hotel and McCarren Hotel & Pool provide the ultimate Williamsburg watering hole experience.
McCarren Park. Shared with the border of Greenpoint, McCarren Park is an ideal spot for relaxation or recreation.
Metropolitan. Soak up nightlife at staples like Output and The Woods, as well as LGBTQ+ friendly places like Metropolitan and Macri Park, where drag shows are a common occurrence.
City Reliquary Museum. The community-centric City Reliquary Museum is known for its exhibits of ephemera, with an emphasis on tracing the origins of NYC’s five boroughs through the lens of historical relics. The museum also plays host to rotating cultural events and discussions.
Amarcord. In the market for a vintage piece? Try Amarcord, Awoke Vintage or 10 ft. Single by Stella Dallas.
The Mini Mall. As the only “mall” in Williamsburg, it wouldn’t be worthy of this area if it wasn’t slightly unconventional. The Mini Mall is a hodgepodge of ever-changing vendors and businesses offering wares that seem to stay on the pulse of whatever is on-trend (CBD lollipop anyone?).
Spoonbill & Sugartown. If you’re looking for a good book or want to happen upon a reading, try one of every Williamsburg bookworm’s go-tos: Spoonbill & Sugartown, Book Thug Nation or McNally Jackson.
Lilia. In between exploring, shopping, bar hopping and clubbing, there is no shortage of award-winning food options to please the taste buds. Some options to scratch the surface include Lilia (Italian fine dining), Marlow & Sons (New American), M Shanghai (Asian dim sum), Fette Sau (Southern BBQ by the pound), Peter Luger (classic steakhouse that’s been around since 1887) and Pies ‘n’ Thighs (hipster take on Southern soul food).
Motorino. For the pizza lover, Williamsburg has an array of options in the form of Motorino (thin crust pizza and other fare), Best Pizza (pizza known for being served out of a century-old brick oven), Joe’s Pizza (by the slice import from Bleecker Street) and Emmy Squared (signature square sliced of Detroit-style pizza).
Museum of Food and Drink. Speaking of all this food, pop into the Museum of Food and Drink. Favoring sense-oriented exhibits that make use of taste and scent, MoFAD’s mission is to show people just how important food is to culture, making Williamsburg the perfect neighborhood for it to roost in.
What You Might See
Condos. Mocked as they might be, condos are the linchpin of the neighborhood, bringing in as many jobs as they do new residents.
Parents pushing strollers. Move out of the way or risk getting run over.
Construction. Still in a state of expansion, there’s always some iteration of a new building being formed.
Street art. Though somewhat at odds with its present iteration, graffiti and murals remain a common sight.
What’s In The Future
More changes. The shape of Williamsburg continues to evolve as work on the subway stop at Bedford aims to further beautify the overall look of the nabe.
With both the L and JMZ train lines readily available, in addition to buses that make getting across Brooklyn relatively easy, Williamsburg is constantly attracting new acolytes, so to speak.
What You Might Not Know
The influx of Hasidic Jews that created the tight-knit enclave of South Williamsburg began in the post-World War II era, when refugees fled from the aftermath and destruction of the Holocaust.
Celebrated novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith explores the coming-of-age tale of Francie Nolan, who lives in the then tenement-heavy Williamsburg neighborhood.
Brooklyn legend Barbra Streisand grew up in Williamsburg, attending the Bais Yakov School at Bedford Avenue and Rodney Street.
Police officer Frank Serpico, subject of the Al Pacino-starring 1973 biopic Serpico, was shot in Williamsburg during a stakeout for an intended drug bust at 778 Driggs Avenue.
A strong Italian American community exists toward the east side at Graham Avenue, where influence from the Naples-originating residents are present in the markets, restaurants and the yearly Festa dei Gigli (or Feast of the Lilies) that surrounds Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for two weeks in July.
Death by Audio (now occupied by VICE), the DIY venue that helped launch artists like A Place to Bury Strangers and Future Islands, was the subject of the 2016 documentary, Goodnight Brooklyn.
Before the high-rises and the Whole Foods, Williamsburg was known for being seedy, to say the least. Even as late as the early aughts, a bar like Kokie’s on Berry and N. 3rd (where the Levee bar currently stands) could exist. Called Kokie’s specifically for the small bags of coke you could buy for twenty bucks at the back of the bar, it was eventually raided by the police in 2001.
What We Love
There truly is something for everyone to enjoy in this neighborhood. No matter what your interests, you’re sure to find just the thing that will wet your whistle. From foodies to athletes and artists to families, Williamsburg is that rare everything to everyone entity.