A neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough that straddles the old and the new, Williamsburg is one of New York’s most spirited cultural enclaves. Amidst steady gentrification over the past decades, this former working class and industrial neighborhood has evolved into a vivid hipsturbia on the river.
A mecca for young creatives, this kitschy locale hosts a flourishing art scene, an incredible array of restaurants, fashion boutiques, and a thriving night life. Beyond normcore, electroclash and artisanal gin bars, this nugget of mismatched vistas is a traveler’s delight!
DO THE VINTAGE CRAWL
9:00 am: Start your day with a precious cup of coffee at Blue Bottle on Berry Street. Micro-roasting and organic beans, this café is artisanal coffee at its best. With their expressos and pour-over brews ground and prepared to order on a vintage Probat roaster, served on a restored 1958 Faema Urania lever espresso machine, and cold-brewed iced coffee served through Oji-style slow-drip brewers, Blue Bottle café promises one of the most theatrical drip bars in the country.
10:00 am: Head over to the local flea markets like Artist’s and Fleas and the Brooklyn Flea to find eclectic products by local artisans. With Vintage stores dotting the streets, try Amarcord and Awoke Vintage for a well-edited selection of clothing, and Catbird and Verameat if dainty, heritage-grade jewelry is your calling. Furniture lovers be in heaven as you browse through beautiful mid-century modern furniture at Repop, Junk or Brooklyn Reclamation. Visit Roughtrade for records, Desert Island for Comic merchandise and Spoonbill & Sugartown for a fantastic selection of coffee-table tomes, postcards and some bookshop serendipity. For a hunt-and-find experience, head to Grand Street where you can walk through a plethora of shops that are by turn arty, off-beat, thoughtful and green.
12:00 am: Exhausted with all that binge shopping? Take a stroll by the waterfront as you enjoy the delicious vittles that Smorgasburg has to offer. A good place to start is along the intersection of North 4th Street and Bedford Avenue. A food flea with some of the best that gastronomy can proffer, be sure to be flooded with delightful options — all the while overlooking the East river and Manhattan beyond.
3:00 pm: Pleasantly removed from the hustle and bustle, head to Maison Premiere as you relax and indulge in fine Parisian cuisine. Reminiscent of bygone New York hotel lobbies and the charm of New Orleans’ Olde Absinthe House, this intimate restaurant offers a unique dining experience. Part bistro and part rawbar, this high-end establishment boasts over 20 varieties of oysters and a horse-shoe shaped cocktail bar where you can get your evening started with an absinthe or choose from their selection of cocktails.
Alternately, imbibe your way through the streets, by stopping at the New York Distilling Company, before you begin a legendary bar crawl through some of the best in Williamsburg — proudly local and offer free beer tastings and tours over the weekends.
5:00 pm: Choose to partake one of many sights that Williamsburg has to offer — head to McCarren Park, with its pop-up events and gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline or walk along the iconic Williamsburg bridge.
Although gentrification has relegated many artists to adjoining areas, Williamsburg still remains a haven for creativity. Check out the Sketchbook project at the Brooklyn Art Library — a collection of sketchbooks from thousands of artists across the world, watch a screening of an Indie documentary at Union Docs or head to Nitehawk Cinema — Brooklyn’s first dinner and movie theater with global fare and craft cocktails served at patrons’ seats. True to its creative distinction, the neighborhood also offers various Paint Nite BYOB events.
7:00 pm: What better than a glorious view of the Manhattan skyline and where better than The Ides on the eighth floor of the Wythe Hotel. A sweeping roof deck and stunning panoramic views, this hotel bar offers great photo-ops as the sun sets behind the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in the distance.
8:00 pm: If you choose to dine in elegance, head to 1OR8, a Japanese establishment with stunning presentations, fresh selections and an impressive wine and sake list; or the critics’ favorite Reynard, downstairs from The Ides. Crave protein? The Michelin-starred top steakhouse Peter Luger reigns supreme, renowned for its old-school style and perfectly cooked cuts of meat.
Although the neighborhood’s upscale restaurants receive the lion’s share of attention, Williamsburg is teeming with more affordable options as well. Pies ’n’ thighs raves sumptuous fried chicken, Allswell boasts seasonal unpretentious fare, Llama Inn highlights Peruvian culinary deliciousness and Snacky presents low-key hipster fusion. One of the area’s worst-kept secrets, Williamsburg Pizza oozes lusciousness with its ‘old school Brooklyn’ crust and top-quality ingredients.
9:00 pm: Kick-off the night in spectacular fashion with live indie music at any of these hip venues — Knitting factory, Union Pool or Music Hall of Williamsburg. Electro-music lovers head to Output or Verbotem, some of the city’s premier music spots. If R&B is more your speed, Brooklyn Bowl — bowling alley, dance club and performance stage rolled into one; hosting Soul Clap and Dance Off with DJ Jonathan Toubin — is the place to be.
Chockablock with unpretentious bars, Crown Victoria is a neighborhood favorite, housed in a former police car repair shop. Spuyten Duyvil and Radegast are great to throw back those beers while, if you are in the mood for a more upscale offering, try the modish Hotel Delmano, and cozy up over exotic concoctions.
If you still haven’t had your fill, go on over to Bembe, beneath the Williamsburg bridge for festive Latin music and salsa, usually with live percussions, or an Afro-Carribean jam, where the party doesn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning!
If you are in New York with a day or two to spare, be sure to make a trip to this treasure trove of eccentricities. Luggage weighing you down? Vertoe presents a unique and exclusive solution to the short term luggage storage problem. Vertoe has a new partner store in Brooklyn where you can store your luggage and roam hassle free.
Submitted by Shwetha Shanthakumar. To see her work, you can visit her blog here.