Not until recently, Manhattan was the only place to really visit when checking out New York City. Brooklyn still had this stigma of being a notorious borough and no one would dare to step foot in the area. However, things have changed and because of the rising rent in Manhattan, New Yorkers started to look elsewhere for cheaper rent.
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That’s where Brooklyn (especially Williamsburg) came into play. With a mixture of these new residents and the culture of the borough, there are many things to do in Brooklyn. There’s a lot of history and culture within this borough and that becomes very apparent once you step foot into the neighborhood. In this guide, you’ll learn all about this striving area.
Getting to Brooklyn
There are so many ways to get to Brooklyn. It just really depends on where you want to go. There are definitely more options here compared to Queens and The Bronx. The lines that run through Brooklyn are as follows. The J Z M F B D N Q R A C 2 3 G 4 5 and the L.
What are our top things to do in Brooklyn?
Like we mentioned above, there are a lot of things to do in Brooklyn and there is something for everyone. Each neighborhood within the borough is unique. The food scene is great and the shopping scene is even better.
The Top 5 Things to do in Brooklyn
The theme park in Coney Island is a must for young and old. Opening hours vary depending on the weather. Inform yourself before you plan a trip there. Characteristic for Coney Island is the nostalgic charm of the amusement park, which attracts thousands of people – especially New Yorkers – when the weather is good.
The Brooklyn Bridge is used by over 120,000 vehicles across its 6 lanes, 4000 pedestrians, and 3000 bikes, per day. The views of NYC from the Brooklyn Bridge are spectacular and it is an absolute necessity that you walk across the bridge during your trip to NYC. Especially at sunrise and sunset this is one of NYC’s most photogenic spots. Just be prepared to be surrounded by a bunch of people.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
You will find the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge Park just below Brooklyn Bridge. With amazing views of the skyline across the water and some great places to sit and enjoy the view, this park is a must-visit! For those of you who like running, this is an amazing place to do so, especially with the amazing Manhattan skyline view. There are also tons of green spaces, basketball, volleyball courts, and soccer fields.
This beautiful park opened up in Williamsburg in 2018. It’s called Domino park because the former Domino Sugar factory was located at that very spot. Now, it’s filled with greenery, food vendors and a playground for kids. It is located directly on the East River and you have a great view of the city from here. The park invites you to play volleyball or have a picnic.
The Brooklyn Museum opened its doors to the public in 1897. Measuring around 560,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Museum, located in Park Slope is the second-largest art museum in the United States. You’ll have plenty of space to explore during your visit and the museum features a massive collection of over 1.5 million objects displayed throughout the five floors.
Many events are held at the Brooklyn Museum as well such as fashion shows.
Map of Brooklyn New York
Brooklyn, New York is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City and borders Manhattan and Queens. It’s pretty impressive that Brooklyn covers a land area of about 96 mi ² and a water surface of about 26 mi ² and is the largest of the five boroughs with approximately 2.6 million inhabitants. Over the years, people of all religions and backgrounds have found their homes in Brooklyn. About 35% of the population are Black and African-Americans. In addition, there is a growing number of Asians, Middle Easterns, Italians, Polish, Russians and Hispanics residing in the multi-cultural area. It’s not as diverse as Queens, but it’s slowly getting there.
Shopping in Brooklyn
Shopping in New York City is one of the best things to do for locals and tourists alike. You can find anything in this city. However, certain neighborhoods have a distinct style or aura. Also, in some cases, if you’re looking for something in particular, you’ll have to go to a certain borough. For example, if you want to do more vintage shopping, then you most likely want to head over to Brooklyn. Here are our favorite places to shop in Brooklyn.
Our Favorite Places to Shop in Brooklyn
Front General Store
Front Street General Store in DUMBO is a boutique known for its very unique vintage curated clothing from Japan and France. This second-hand store carries items that you won’t see anywhere else. You’ll find vintage Commes Des Garcon, Issey Miyake, and even Burberry trench coats. They also sell chinaware, home decor, and jewelry as well.
In God We Trust
Sword-Smith is located in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The store is beautifully curated and features an array of independent designers that are modern and fashion-forward. Designers in the store include Issey Miyake, Willy Chavarria and many more! The store selections reflect the fashion community in Williamsburg.
L Train Vintage
L Train Vintage is a second-hand chain store most prominently based in Brooklyn. There’s one in Manhattan and the rest are in Brooklyn. L Train Vintage sells second-hand clothing which has become a popular way to shop in order to save money and protect the environment. The best thing about thrifting is that you can possibly find rare items at a great price.
For almost 10 years, tourists and locals alike have been making the pilgrimage to Brooklyn to visit one of the most famous flea markets in New York. Antique household goods, vintage furniture and clothing, jewelry and all sorts of other knick-knacks are sold by the 60 vendors of the Brooklyn Flea market. Of course, Brooklyn Flea also has food! From Hong Kong Pork Buns to waffles, you’ll find everything here. Here is a little tip from us. Take a few minutes and just chat with the sellers. They often tell their own personal stories, how they put their ideas into practice or why they love New York. You meet a lot of great and creative people at the flea markets in New York!
Brooklyn is home to some of the best museums in the world. The more well-known museums are in Manhattan but Brooklyn shouldn’t be overlooked. From really big institutes such as the Brooklyn Museum to more niche spots such as the Museum of Pizza, this borough has a great variety. There are numerous museums here and these are our favorites below.
Check out these Brooklyn Museums
The Brooklyn Museum is located right next to Prospect Park and measures at about around 560,000 square feet. The Brooklyn Museum is the second-largest art museum in the United States and has plenty of space to that you can explore. The museum features a massive and diverse collection of over 1.5 million objects that’s spread out through 5 floors. Besides, exhibitions, the museum hosts many events as well.
New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit museum focuses on the history and the development of public transportation in NYC. The museum covers and explores everything from the construction of the subway lines to the history of the bus systems in the city. It’s one of the oldest public transportation systems in the world. Here, visitors will get to explore the different train models that the city used and is a great experience for families with kids. Of course, there are great photo opportunities as well.
Museum of Food and Drink
The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) presented its first exhibition to the public in 2013 which all started through Kickstarter. The campaign raised more than $100,000 which was the most ever raised by a museum. The Museum of Food and Drink tells the story of different cuisines throughout the world. Visitors experience a hands-on approach and are encouraged to smell, touch and taste. The museum is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and is great for food lovers.
Museum of Pizza
The Museum of Pizza is exactly what it sounds like. It’s also the world’s only immersive art experience dedicated to the iconic pizza pie. The museum targets the “next generation of learners” and was started out by a youth media group called “Nameless Network.” The Museum of Pizza is located inside the hotel, William Vale.
Brooklyn Children's Museum
The Brooklyn Children’s museum was founded in 1899 and was the first museum developed only for kids. With many permanent exhibitions and attractions, there is always something to see or do here. Overall, it’s a great place for family outings with the young ones.
Children are encouraged to play and experience numerous activities and exhibitions.
Tours in Brooklyn
There are many tours that run through Brooklyn. It’ll take you to some of the more famous spots such as the Brooklyn Bridge or even popular neighborhoods such as DUMBO. During the holiday season, residents of Dyker Heights light up their houses with decorations. This evolved into a huge attraction that many tourists flock to. Make sure to book your tours in advance, because some of these sell out quickly.
The Bushwick Street Art Walking Tour will take you to the neighborhood of Bushwick and you'll experience street art like never before.
Discover the brewery scene in Brooklyn. The borough is is home to many breweries like the famous Brooklyn Brewery. You'll be taken on a 3-hour tour where you can experience this scenery where you can sample different types of beer.
Save 50% on all attraction tickets with this discount pass for NYC!
Christmas in New York is a very special time and everything in Manhattan is lit up with decorations. However, in Brooklyn, there is one particular residential neighborhood that takes holiday decorations to the next level.
Favorite Restaurants and Food in Brooklyn
The food scene in Brooklyn is very special. With gentrification hitting the borough, cafes and different conceptual restaurants have been popping up recently. You’re also starting to see more diversity and selection of cuisines in the borough. There’s a vast amount of restaurants to choose from and the borough even has a popular food event called Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Below are some of the best places to grab food and some of the best things to do in Brooklyn.
- Roberta’s– If you’re a pizza lover, then make sure to check out Roberta’s in Williamsburg. They arguably have the best pizza in New York and we’ve experienced this ourselves. (Address: 57 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206)
- Dekalb Market Hall – DeKalb Food Hall is considered the largest food hall in Brooklyn. It’s home to about 40 food vendors including classic names such as Katz to up-and-coming names. You can find pastries, pizzas and even ramen. It’s a good example of how diverse NYC is. (Address: 445 Albee Square W, Brooklyn, NY 11201)
- Fette Sau – If you are looking for some of the best BBQ in NYC, look no further than Fette Sau in Williamsburg. With a wide array of different meats and cuts you can choose from, as well as delicious sides, this is definitely not a place to miss if you’re a meat-lover. Another great honorable mention is Dinosaur BBQ. (Address: 354 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211)
- Noods N’ Chill– This small Thai Noodle Shop is a newcomer to the food scene in Williamsburg but it’s already making a name for itself. Space is limited, but if you’re looking for a quick bite, this is the place to be. (Address: 170 S 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11211)
- Salt + Charcoal – Salt + Charcoal is a Japanese Steakhouse located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is a little bit on the pricey side, but if you have the budget and want really great steak, then this steakhouse is worth a visit. The plus side is, we recommend this over Peter Luger’s which is even pricier, and in our opinion tastes better. (Address: 171 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11249)
Places to stay in Brooklyn
Compared to Manhattan where there are more commercial hotels, hotels in Brooklyn have more of a niche atmosphere. Also, depending on where you stay in Brooklyn, it can be just as expensive as it is in Manhattan, but you can also find really good deals as well. It all depends where you look. Williamsburg can be very pricey since it’s such a popular neighborhood, but if you stay in Downtown Brooklyn, it could be a little cheaper.
- The William Vale (111 N 12th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249)
- Pod Brooklyn Hotel (247 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211)
- 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (60 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201)
- The Hoxton (97 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249)
- The Tillary Hotel Brooklyn (85 Flatbush Ave Ext, Brooklyn, NY)
More Things to do in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is continuously evolving, which means that more and more things to explore in the borough pop up. Here are some more things to do in Brooklyn. It’s almost impossible to cover everything in this eclectic borough and there’s always something to explore.
Creatives from all over the world come to Brooklyn and reside here. Creativity is in Brooklyn’s DNA and the Bushwick Collective is the perfect example of that. Street art fills up this Brooklyn neighborhood that it seems unreal. There’s so much color that perfectly gives you an awesome picture of what Brooklyn culture today is all about. If you’re ever in Bushwick, make sure to check this out.
Industry City is a unique shopping experience located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. What once was a commercial shipping port that started out in the early 1900s is now home to many offices, shops, and food vendors. It’s home to “Japan Village” as well. It serves as a store filled with Japanese products as well as Japanese food vendors. Here you’ll have the option of eating Japanese curry, ramen, and even sushi.
Explore Prospect Park
Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s version of Manhattan’s Central Park. Just like the latter, Prospect Park has tons of green space, a lake, playgrounds, and courts to play sports. It even has a zoo and a botanical garden! However, Prospect Park is much quieter than its counter-part which makes it a great place to get away from the busy life of Manhattan. It’s situated right next to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Stroll around DUMBO Brooklyn
DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”, is home to arguably the most photographed location in all of New York City. It’s the photo where the Manhattan Bridge in the foreground and right between the columns is the Empire State Building. At any given hour of the day and summer nights, there is always a crowd of people taking photos. But this isn’t the only reason why DUMBO is super popular. Movies have been shot here and the atmosphere is really special. DUMBO also gives you access to the Brooklyn Bridge and The Brooklyn Bridge Park. The neighborhood arguably has the best view of the Manhattan skyline as well.
The Brooklyn Mirage is an open-air event venue located inside Avant Gardner. Many music events take place here and is a wonderful experience for people that love to party. It’s a great time with friends as well. Brooklyn Mirage is only open during the warmer months.
Go Ice Skating on top of The William Vale
During the winter months, numerous ice rinks open throughout NYC, especially in Manhattan. However, one that we feel is overlooked is the ice rink on top of the Williamsburg hotel, The William Vale. You’ll enjoy a ridiculously gorgeous view of NYC and makes the perfect Instagram picture.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden
The best time to visit this beautiful garden in Brooklyn is during the Spring when the flowers start to bloom. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is located right in Prospect Park. In the spring, you get to see the amazing cherry blossoms, but make sure you do it quickly because they come and go. There are also many different flowers and plants that you can experience as well.
Domino Park in Williamsburg
Domino Park opened in 2018 directly on the East River. The park got its name from the former Domino Sugar factory which was located right at the same spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You can still see remnants of the factory today. Now, Domino Park is filled with small green spaces, a small food stand and a playground for kids. It’s a great place to take a stroll or even for a morning run. You also have wonderful views of Manhattan.
Grand Army Plaza
Do you know those arches you see in Paris and in Washington Square Park? Well, Brooklyn has one as well. It’s called Grand Army Plaza and it acts as an entrance to Prospect Park in Park Slope. The area took many years to built and construction started in the 1860s.
New York Aquarium
The New York Aquarium is located in Coney Island and is a popular attraction among the locals and tourists. The original aquarium was founded in Manhattan in 1896 and finally moved to Coney Island in 1957. The warmer months would be best since you can enjoy the Coney Island boardwalk and then experience the numerous marine life inside the aquarium. It’s a great place for families and kids.
Jane’s Carousel with the Kids
There’s something majestic about a carousel that overlooks the Manhattan skyline. Jane’s Carousel which gets really busy in the warmer months is a wooden 48-horse carousel located right next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It opened in 1922 where it was in use in Youngstown, Ohio. In 2011 it found its permanent home right in DUMBO.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is an 1826 foot long platform that hangs above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). It overlooks the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge Park. If you ever want to take a stroll in Brooklyn, then this is the place to be.
Enjoy an event at the Barclays Center
Barclays Center is the newest event venue in NYC. Manhattan has Madison Square Garden which is an iconic stadium and now Brooklyn has the Barclays Center. Major concerts and events are held here now. Also, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders play their home games here.
Prospect Park Zoo
Manhattan’s Central Park isn’t the only park that has a zoo. Brooklyn’s park has one too and its called the Prospect Park Zoo. This 12-acre zoo is located in Prospect Park and is a great alternative to the one in Manhattan. The zoo houses over 850 different types of animals and has about 300,000 visitors each year.
Is Brooklyn dangerous?
Brooklyn has been associated with crime thanks to the media for many years. Nowadays, Brooklyn is generally safe, but obviously make sure to stay alert. There are certain spots that you should probably still avoid. The British business magazine “Economist” annually determines the ten safest cities in the world. New York City was placed 10th worldwide and is the only US city that has managed to emerge in the Top 10.
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Being a photographer and creative in general, New York City, I think is the perfect place to be. I moved to NYC from Boston in 2013 and never looked back. Loving New York has given me the opportunity to do what I love and share those images with you all.