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I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for the best part of two years. Like many Williamsburg residents, I became a crazy plant lady and quickly ended up with about 20 plants all over my brick-walled bedroom. I had a great time living there and if you’ve just moved to New York, it’s a great place to start out.
While I’ve since moved out to Jersey City for more space and cheaper rent, I still have a soft spot for my old neighborhood and I know it really well, which is why I wanted to create this awesome list of things to do in Williamsburg, should you find yourself visiting.
If Williamsburg were to be summed up in one word, it’s “hipster”. You’ll find vintage stores and hipster beards a-plenty here. Uber drivers will tell you that due to crime, Williamsburg was once a neighborhood you didn’t want to go to, but since then it’s been gentrified and now boasts a Whole Foods, an Apple store and a myriad of boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Williamsburg is New York’s best area for nightlife after the Lower East Side. Step off the subway at Bedford Avenue and you instantly feel how vibrant and busy this neighborhood is. It’s an artsy place, full of creatives, bars, restaurants and unique shops.
Whether you’re visiting from overseas or you’re a local looking for something different to do, here’s my list of top things to do in Williamsburg:
Shop on Bedford Ave
Bedford Avenue is Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare and is lined with shops, bars and restaurants. It runs from North to South, starting at McCarren Park and running all the way down to Broadway. This street is always busy and great for a weekend stroll.
Relax in Domino Park
Built on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, Domino Park spans a quarter of a mile along Williamsburg’s waterfront. This 5-acre park offers great views of the Manhattan skyline and is great for sunbathing, picnicking and people watching. Within the park you’ll find a children’s playground, beach volleyball court, fountains, a dog run and a counter-serve Mexican restaurant called Tacocina. Domino Park gets super busy in the summer months, especially on weekends.
Grab coffee at one of Williamsburg’s best coffee shops
If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee, there’s no shortage of cafes in Williamsburg where you can order a flat white and work from your computer. The best coffee shops in Williamsburg include Copper Mug, Black Brick Coffee, Partners Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee.
P:53 Coffee House & Record Store (formerly Etiquette) is also great for working, since it boasts a large space with comfy couches and plenty of tables.
Have dinner at Lilia
Lilia is consistently listed as one of the top Italian restaurants in New York. It’s difficult to get a table here and it gets booked up months in advance, so plan accordingly. On the menu you’ll find a variety of modern Italian dishes, including pastas and wood-fired seafood.
Sprout Home is more than just a plant store, it’s an experience. While the plants are on the pricier side, they do get a good selection of succulents and plants such as money trees and elephant ears. They also have a nice selection of handmade plant pots that look stylish on any windowsill.
Catch a concert at Avant Gardner/Brooklyn Mirage
Love techno music? Avant Gardner is a huge 80,000 square foot entertainment venue in East Williamsburg with indoor and outdoor spaces. The open-air part, Brooklyn Mirage, is open in the summer months and welcomes famous DJs from around the world. This venue isn’t just a club, it’s an experience; an immersive space surrounded by towering walls that you can walk over to get the best view of the crowd.
Have a picnic in McCarren Park
Located at the top end of Bedford Avenue, McCarren Park is Williamsburg’s largest park. It’s a popular spot for picnics and running meetups, as well as sports such as soccer, baseball, kickball, bocce, handball, basketball, football, and tennis. There are also two dog runs for small and large dogs.
Have beers at Brooklyn Brewery
Love craft beers? Head to Brooklyn Brewery, which brews beers that you’ll spot in bars all over New York and the U.S. Try their year-round Brooklyn Lager, Pulp Art Hazy IPA, Bel Air Sour or The Stonewall Inn IPA. Or indulge in some of their seasonal and limited beers, such as the Brooklyn Oktoberfest or Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Stop by on Sunday for free tours of the brewery, or book a weeknight Small Batch Tour, which costs $23.63 per person.
Play arcade games at Barcade
Sometimes just going for drinks can get a bit same-old, so if you want to do something a little different with your friends, head to Barcade, which is a combination of a bar and arcade, with craft beers and vintage video games such as Pac-Man, Ghostbusters and Donkey Kong.
Bushwick Inlet Park
Located on the east river between North 9th and North 12th streets, Bushwick Inlet Park has a multipurpose field for soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, and ultimate frisbee, along with a covered viewing platform for bystanders. There’s also a playground, a dog park and a small beach where people like to let their dogs run around. This park is a hidden gem in Williamsburg.
Enjoy a Sunday funday at Radegast
Always a good time, Radegast is a vast German beer hall with long tables and live bands on weekends and some evenings. The menu features a variety of German classics such as Bratwurst, pretzels and schnitzel. Weekends get pretty rowdy and feel like you’ve stepped right into Oktoberfest in Munich. Due to its size, the hall is often a popular choice for birthdays and large groups.
Hunt for clothes and crafts at Artists & Fleas
Taking place on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 6pm, Artist & Fleas is a marketplace of over 45+ sellers showcasing art, clothing, jewelry and more. Housed in a former dry goods and provisions warehouse on North 7th street, this marketplace is a great spot to find vintage clothing and unique gifts.
Drinks at the Water Tower, Williamsburg Hotel
This circular bar on the roof of the Williamsburg Hotel offers views all over Brooklyn, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline. Inside you’ll find murals, velvet couches and a small bar serving somewhat overpriced drinks. But hey, it’s a great view! The Water Tower is a fun place to end up on a Sunday, since they often have DJ’s playing into the early hours.
Bike along the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
If you feel like biking, pick up a Citibike from Kent Ave & N 7th then ride along the Greenway bike path, which runs along Kent Ave past Domino Park and then all the way past Brooklyn Navy Yard to Dumbo. If you’re not a seasoned biker this is quite an easy route, as the bike path is wide and pretty straightforward to follow.
Get brunch at one of these brunch spots
If you love a good brunch then you’ll find lots of good brunch spots in Williamsburg. Sunday in Brooklyn is probably the most well-known brunch hangout, serving Shakshuka, avocado toast, pancakes and steak and eggs, among other dishes. There’s always a wait, so get there early.
Dine at one of these restaurants
Williamsburg is filled with restaurants on pretty much every street. My top picks would be:
St Anselm – Cosy spot with brick walls serving steaks and seafood.
Cafe Mogador – Amazing Moroccan restaurant serving tagines and lamb shanks that fall off the bone.
Llama Inn – Airy restaurant serving modern Peruvian food and craft cocktails. Portions are tapas-size and shareable.
Birds of a Feather – Chinese restaurant run by Yiming and Xian, the duo behind Cafe China (my favourite Chinese spot in Manhattan). The interior of this restaurant is beautifully designed with a long communal table in the middle and booths around the edge. The menu features a variety of mouthwatering Sichuan dishes to tempt your palate.
SEA Thai – If you dinner with a “vibe”, head to SEA Thai, which has an elegant interior complete with a pond, statues and floating chairs hanging from the ceiling. The music is always pumping in here, so it’s the perfect place to start your night out with some Thai food, sushi and Lychee cocktails.
Ako Sushi – My go-to spot for sushi in Williamsburg; Ako serves sushi rolls and sashimi in a relaxed setting. Dine indoors or outdoors in their intimate courtyard.
Tabare – Uruguayan restaurant serving empanadas, sandwiches, churrasco steak and other dishes in a dimly lit, cozy setting.
The Four Horsemen – Restaurant and wine bar serving small plates that change daily.
Peter Luger Steakhouse – An iconic Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger serves dry-aged steaks, chops and burgers in a German beer hall setting. Make sure you bring cash because it’s cash only.
Maison Premiere – The best place in Williamsburg for oysters, Maison Premiere has a $1 oyster happy hour from 4pm to 7pm Monday to Friday.
Indulge your sweet tooth
If you’re craving something sweet after dinner, Martha’s Country Bakery is open till midnight and serves a huge variety of cakes, pastries, cupcakes, pies and puddings. There are two stores – one at the top of Bedford by N 8th Street and one further down by Metropolitan Ave.
In addition to Martha’s there are tons of places to find sweet things in Williamsburg. Van Leeuwen Ice Cream serves ice cream and vegan ice cream made with choice ingredients, while Taiyaki NYC serves Instagrammable ice creams in adorable fish cones.
Also check out Milk Bar on Metropolitan Avenue, which sells a variety of quirky cakes, desserts and one-of-a-kind treats.
Grab a slice of Joe’s Pizza
Joe’s Pizza is a New York institution and no matter what day of the week, the Joe’s Pizza on Bedford Avenue always has a line. It moves quickly though and the pizza is delicious, so if you need something to soak up the alcohol after a night at the bars, stop by and grab a slice – you won’t be disappointed.
Watch a movie at Nitehawk Cinema
For an elevated movie experience, get tickets to watch a movie at Nitehawk Cinema. Start your night with a beer or a cocktail in the bar, then make your way to your seat, where servers walk through the aisles to take your food and drink orders.
Visit Elsewhere rooftop
You won’t rather be elsewhere when you’re at Elsewhere. Located in East Williamsburg not far from Brooklyn Mirage, Elsewhere is a multi-level music venue with several indoor spaces. Elsewhere’s rooftop is great in the summer months for a casual Sunday session listening to live DJs.
Visit one of these bars
While you won’t find any boujis clubs in Williamsburg, you will find plenty of nightlife in the form of dive bars, speakeasies, pubs and cocktail bars. These are some of my top picks:
Freehold – Fun place for a boozy brunch or a night out on weekends, Freehold is a large bar and restaurant with high ceilings and a leafy outdoor space. Fridays and Saturdays get pretty rowdy here.
The Levee – Dive bar that allows dogs inside and serves cheese puffs with every drink. There’s also a pool table and dart board to keep you occupied.
Horses and Divorces – Friendly neighborhood bar on Bedford Avenue with $3 Budweisers and cheap cocktails.
Lucky Dog – Have a canine companion? Lucky Dog is Williamsburg’s most dog-friendly bar and all the local residents bring their dogs here. There’s a courtyard out back plus a shuffleboard table inside.
Midnights – If you’re looking for a bar close to the Bedford Avenue L-train, head to Midnights, which serves good cocktails and the bartenders are super friendly.
The Commodore – Low key bar on Metropolitan Ave serving fried chicken, biscuits and Southern food.
Spuyten Duyvil – One of my favorite bars in Williamsburg, Spuyten Duyvil serves a huge selection of Belgian beers along with cheese and charcuterie plates. It also has a pretty outdoor courtyard where you can sit out in the summer months.
TBA – Great spot for techno. Best on Sunday nights from 10pm.
Gran Torino – If you’re looking for a place to sit outside in the sun, head to Gran Torino, which has a large outdoor garden out front with long benches for groups. This restaurant & bar serves wood fired pizzas, beers, wines and cocktails.
Union Pool – One of Williamsburg’s most popular bars for a night out, Union Pool boasts a large outdoor patio with a taco truck that stays open till last call. There’s also a black and white analog photo booth, a pinball machine and DJs spinning tunes every night of the week.
Fresh Kills – Stylish cocktail bar serving meticulously crafted cocktails with fresh ingredients, housemade syrups, quality booze and hand-out ice. Has a speakeasy-style vibe.
Hotel Delmano – An upscale bar with a hotel lobby bar with an “old New York” vibe that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the lobby bar of a hotel. Hotel Delmano offers a 100-bottle wine list and a menu of seasonal cocktails crafted by the bartenders. Pair your drinks with items from the raw bar, which serves items such as oysters, shrimp, clams, caviar and crab.
Bembe – Love dancing? Check out Bembe, a small bar with live salsa music. Make sure you bring cash as there’s often a cover charge to get in.
Hunt for murals
Lots of brands often paint murals to advertise their companies on the walls of buildings in Williamsburg. Walk around the neighborhood and you’ll find lots of them. They change regularly but you can also find permanent murals. The most famous is the “Mona Lisa of Williamsburg” which towers over 4 stories high at a busy intersection on the corner of Broadway and Avenue and Bedford.
Getting to Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Getting to Williamsburg is super easy and fast from Manhattan! Just take any subway to one of the stops along 14th Street (8th Ave, 6th Ave, Union Square, 3rd Ave, 1st Ave) and then hop on the L train in the Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy direction. Get off at Bedford Ave and you’ll be right in the thick of all the action.
Where to stay in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Williamsburg Hotel – Situated on Wythe Avenue, The Williamsburg Hotel boasts a rooftop pool with views of Manhattan and stylish rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies. There’s also an on-site restaurant serving dishes by Chef Alberto Gomez.
The William Vale – Offers 183 rooms with private balconies, custom artwork and incredible views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel also boasts an outdoor pool and a rooftop bar called Westlight.
The Hoxton – Hip hotel with 173 rooms with comfy beds, modern bathrooms, brass details, plush velvets and linens by local Brooklyn designer, Dusen Dusen. For drinks with a view, head to the hotel’s rooftop bar, Summerly, or for a brunch with friends, check out the lobby bar, Klein’s.
Wythe Hotel – Housed in a historic brooklyn factory building, this boutique hotel offers rooms with exposed brick walls and high-ceilings. Book a Manhattan View King or a loft and you’ll wake up to beautiful views of Manhattan through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Is Williamsburg Brooklyn Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Williamsburg is totally worth visiting on your trip to New York. Don’t skip it! It’s a really artsy and fun neighborhood with lots going on. As you can see from this extensive list you could spend a full day (or more days) here exploring the bars, restaurants and parks. It’s also a great place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere a bit more laid back than Manhattan.
Is Williamsburg Brooklyn a good area?
Williamsburg is a great area to visit or stay in when you’re in New York. The artsy neighborhood is known for its hipster culture and myriad of bars, restaurants and cafes. Years ago Williamsburg wasn’t a very safe neighborhood but it has since been gentrified and is now a very popular neighborhood to live, particularly for people in their 20s and 30s. The L train is fast and makes it very easy to get into the city, since it cuts right through the center of Manhattan.