A trip to midtown and the Upper East Side to tick off the famous sites is like a right of New York passage, but those in the know stay on the other side of the bridge.
Brooklyn is like Manhattan’s eccentric little sister – the one you actually want to hang out with. She’ll show you what life in this city is really all about. Significantly more chilled, a little grittier, and brimming with charisma, it’s no wonder those who move to NYC for work often gravitate this way to live.
Mention you’re visiting and anyone who’s anyone will have a list of recommendations filled with things you absolutely must do. To make things easy, we’ve rounded up just some of the best places to stay, eat, drink, and shop if you’re feeling overwhelmed with choice and want to know you’re making the most of just a few short days in Brooklyn, New York.
There’s little doubt the Hoxton is the coolest place to stay in Brooklyn; if you’re looking for somewhere familiar enough to feel like home, this is it. Locality is at its core. All artwork on the walls is chosen to reflect its surroundings and champion the area’s creative talent. Rooms are bright and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows, most of which overlook the river and the Manhattan skyline: a constant reminder of the city’s scope and your location’s welcome departure from the mayhem of Manhattan.
The William Vale
If you’re keen to be downtown but want a little luxury, book into the William Vale. Some rooms have a balcony, and there’s even a Vale Garden Residence with two bedrooms and a hot tub outside if you’re really feeling fancy. It’s home to Westlight – Brooklyn’s glossiest rooftop bar, which offers panoramic views across the city, and Leuca, the ground-floor restaurant serving delicacies from morning ‘til night. For summer, the pool will open to day-pass guests from Monday to Thursday.
Wythe Hotel is a transformed industrial factory with exposed brick walls and restored 19th-century features. When it opened its doors in 2012, it helped solidify Brooklyn’s reputation as the place to stay for an urban-cool city break. It was the area’s first boutique hotel and everything about it is just that little bit more creative than you’d expect. Case in point – the art on the walls isn’t just sourced locally, but comprises framed outtakes from sketch books as opposed to final pieces; a bid to capture the personality of the artist behind them.
EAT + DRINK
Le Crocodile strikes the balance between prestigious and unpretentious, making it one of the most memorable dining experiences in Brooklyn. Situated on the ground floor of the Wythe Hotel but boasting a host of its own glowing credentials, this French dining destination is worth working into your schedule. Rich interiors (wood panelling and plush leather) counteract the brightness of the high ceilings and oversized windows, and there’s not a white table cloth in sight – modern fine dining at its best. Oysters and fresh seafood feature alongside menu classics like onion soup, steak frites, and crème brûlée, but if there’s one dish to try it’s the crab and avocado starter.
A seat at Laser Wolf is one of the hottest in town. It’s new for summer 2022 and it created a buzz before it even opened its doors. The Israeli restaurant originated in Philadelphia and it brings its celebrated concept to the roof of the Hoxton hotel, serving a sharer-style menu with a side dish of skyline views. It’s perfect for big groups and celebrations, and equally appealing for a party of two dedicated to working their way down the NY-specific cocktail list on a seat at the bar.
Downtown Brooklyn is a metro or Uber ride from Williamsburg and a treasure trove of discoveries in itself. For cocktails and tapas, head to Bohemien Bar on Atlantic Avenue, where drinks are served in artfully shaped cups to align with their ingredients and inspiration. For pre-dinner drinks and a light snack, it’s perfect. Open booths surround the bar, which is an architectural beauty, creating a feeling of privacy whilst being among the action.
When it comes to New York brunch spots, you can’t get much better than Heath Ledger’s old kerbside establishment, Five Leaves. There’s something for everyone and the menu works any time of day or night. The pancakes come highly recommended, but with alternatives like the grilled chicken sandwich and feta-topped veggie burger, it’s a toss-up. Step aside, Jack’s Wife Freda, this is the place to know in Brooklyn now.
Don’t be fooled by Emily’s instagram handle ‘@pizzalovesemily’, there’s a lauded burger on the menu that rivals its namesake dish. The double-stack is topped with cheese and special EMMY sauce, and comes with a side of waffle fries that taste like childhood memories. But back to the pizza for a moment… the dough is rolled with mozzarella to give the crust a special kind of crunch and offer a cheesy experience like none other in the city, let alone the suburb. In short: order both.
The beauty of New York restaurants is that they genuinely can be all things to all people. Leuca at the William Vale is an exemplar. For breakfast, the opulent dining room takes on a relaxed guise and offers avocado toast, granola, and freshly ground coffee, much like the city’s celebrated brunch spots. By midday, the menu transforms to serve pasta and pizza to rival the best Italian restaurants. The dish to savour? Honey and ricotta with a side of crisp bread.
WHERE TO SHOP
Whether streetwear is in your style repertoire or not, the American Kith stores are always worth a visit. The Brooklyn outpost is significantly less busy than the one on Lafayette Street (no ropes to queue behind at the door here) and it has its own cereal ice-cream bar in the front window for those less into the fashion and more into the novelty aspect of a cult brand like Kith.
‘Homeware store come coffee shop complete with outdoor terrace’ isn’t a rare concept in New York – it appears one theme is never enough – but Homecoming does this mix particularly well. Plant and dried flower lovers will be in their element, and those more attuned to waiting while someone else browses will also be happy to stay awhile. Look out for suitcase-friendly keepsakes and try the freshly baked sweet treats alongside your caffeine fix.
The most exciting thing about Catbird is its infinity bracelets, which are welded to your wrist in store instead of functioning with a clasp. They’re a commitment between friends or loved ones, and once you’re wearing a Catbird bracelet, the hope is that you’ll treasure it for life. Add a delicate star or diamond charm or keep things simple, and carry your NYC memento wherever your travels take you.
You’ll stumble across Awoke Vintage stores throughout Brooklyn but the one to beeline for is on 5th Street where the collection of Levi’s jeans spans every size and colour, and includes a selection of the ever-relevant 501s. Stock is replenished daily (spot the plastic boxes of uncovered delights at the back of the room), so a repeat visit is always worthwhile – it might just unveil the perfect pair of 90s denims.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information.