A Guide to Williamsburg, Brooklyn
I first visited Williamsburg, Brooklyn six years ago. Sam and I stayed in Airbnb there on our very first trip to New York, and while I’d love to claim that it was because we were super cool and ahead of the trend, the truth is that it was pretty much the only place where we could afford to stay as two broke kids in their early twenties. Back in 2013, Williamsburg was still relatively unknown to tourists, which meant we could rent an apartment there for about half the price of one on Manhattan.
But despite us landing there pretty much on a fluke, we both quickly fell head over heels with this hip area of Brooklyn. The epic Manhattan views, the quirky shops, the dive bars - we loved it all. In fact, we loved it so much that we went back to stay in Williamsburg again the following year, and even got engaged there the year after, Sam proposing with a ring that he’d made right in that tiny suburb.
It’s safe to say that since we first visited all those years ago, Williamsburg has undergone quite a transformation. An area that used to be pretty much centred around one street, Bedford Avenue, now sprawls for miles in each direction. The independent shops have now been joined by the likes of Apple and Wholefoods, and pretty much all of the trendy Manhattan restaurants are opening sites across the river.
But despite all that, Williamsburg still manages to maintain its charm. The dive bars are still packed on a Friday night, the hipster restaurants still thrive, and if you ask me, there can never be too many hotel rooftops with THAT view of the Manhattan skyline. It was for that reason that we chose to base ourselves in Williamsburg again for our most recent trip, and I thought I’d put together a little guide to my favourite New York spot in case you’re ever visiting.
A guide to Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The Hoxton Hotel
When we first stayed in Williamsburg six years ago, there was only one hotel there, The Wythe. Now though, you’re really spoilt for choice, with plenty of hotels offering rooms with a Manhattan view and a prime location to explore for.
For our trip, we decided to book The Hoxton. Whilst not cheap, it definitely sits at the lower end of the price range for this area, and yet it is still absolutely stunning. We opted to pay a little bit extra for a skyline view, and we didn’t regret it. Waking up every morning and seeing the Empire State building twinkling in the distance was kinda incredible.
The Hoxton also boasts exceptionally comfy beds, beautiful bathrooms, and plenty of onsite amenities, including workspaces and restaurants. We made use of their rooftop bar, Summerly, to watch the sunset with a cocktail one evening and it was absolutely beautiful.
Fun fact: this was actually the very first place we ate in Williamsburg when we first visited 6 months ago! We hopped off the plane feeling jet lagged and hungry, and stumbled into this BBQ joint that’s located in a garage. We devoured some of the best food we’ve ever eaten, and vowed to come back on every future trip, a promise that we’ve managed to keep!
The Meatball Shop
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced but delicious dinner, The Meatball Shop is for you. Pick your meatballs, choose your sides and sauce, and voila, a yummy bowl of comfort food will be winging its way over to you.
Famed for producing the best steak dinner in New York, Peter Luger is definitely one to earmark for a special occasion - in fact, it’s where we celebrated our engagement! Be warned though - you’ll need to make a reservation way in advance (around 6-8 weeks) or keep your fingers crossed for a walk in appointment at lunchtime.
Sunday in Brooklyn
A relatively new arrival in Williamsburg, Sunday in Brooklyn is the brunch spot of the moment. Go for their delicious hazelnut maple praline pancakes (which are as good as they sound!) and maybe treat yourself to a cocktail too.
It’s easy to dismiss this restaurant as novelty as it’s set inside a retro railcar, but the food will quickly change your mind. The menu changes every night, but one thing always remains - their burger. And what a burger it is!
Smorgasburg is basically the ultimate street food festival that also boasts an epic Manhattan view. Taking place in East River State Park every Saturday, you’ll find tonnes of delicious food vendors, buzzy bars and a great atmosphere.
Blue Bottle Coffee
My favourite way to start the day when we’re in Williamsburg is with an iced latte from Blue Bottle Coffee. They’ve expanded their site now which means there’s plenty of space to hotdesk with your laptop too if that’s your vibe.
The Four Horsemen
Owned by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, The Four Horsemen is the perfect place to grab a glass of wine and a small bite to eat. Their wine list is extensive, and the atmosphere is great.
Summerly is the new rooftop bar at The Hoxton, and believe me when I say it is beautiful. With views of the bridges and back across Manhattan, this is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail.
The Ides bar at the Wythe Hotel is very special to me as it’s actually where my husband proposed! Get there just before sunset to watch the sky turn golden and the skyline light up.
If dive bars are more your thing, head to The Commodore. With great music, frozen cocktails and some really delicious bar snacks, this is the perfect spot to spend a Friday night.
This beautiful jewellery store on Bedford Avenue is where my gorgeous engagement ring came from! As well as higher priced heirloom items, they also create more affordable pieces, such as stacking rings and pendants. My favourite candle ever also comes from here (it’s called Kitten), and I buy one every time we’re in New York.
The famous Soho bookstore have opened a branch in Williamsburg, and it’s a great place to stock up on some new reads. They also sell magazines and stationery, and they’re based just down the road from Blue Bottle Coffee, so you can curl up in there with your new book after browsing.
Being married to a musician means I go to plenty of record stores, but the Rough Trade in Williamsburg is hands down my fave. It’s so big and spacious, and it’s a nice place to be even if you’re not hunting for vinyl. They also put shows on there, and there’s a photo booth too if you want a cheap souvenir.
Hang out at Domino Park
Domino Park is a relatively new addition to Williamsburg, but oh my god is it a good one. The location of the park means that the views are incredible - you can see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building all from the same spot. Plus there’s a fun park for kids, a volleyball pitch and plenty of sunloungers. If I lived in Brooklyn, this would hands down be my favourite weekend spot.
Catch the ferry
One of my very favourite ways to see the city is from the water, which is why I so enjoyed catching the ferry from Williamsburg on our most recent trip. There are two ferry ports, with the North Williamsburg one being super close to all the hotels and shops, and you can either catch the boat over to Manhattan, or downtown to Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a really quick and scenic way to get around, and it’s cheap too, with a single ticket costing $2.75.
Visit the Brooklyn Brewery
You can’t visit Williamburg and not take a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery. Their brewery tour is brilliant and runs pretty much everyday - you’ll get to take a sneak peek behind the scenes as they brew the beer, and of course you’ll get to sample plenty of the good stuff too.
Watch a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg
I absolutely love going to gigs while I’m staying in a different city, and I can vouch that the Music Hall of Williamsburg is a great place to do exactly that. It’s a relatively small venue, but it still pulls in some pretty big names - we watched Johnny Marr perform there a few years ago and it was great.
So there you have it, a guide to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Have you ever visited Williamsburg before?