fter decades of being overlooked by New Yorkers, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood spent the early aughts reigning as the city’s emerging capital of hipster cool. Today, this bite of the Big Apple is every bit as glitzy as Manhattan, with a boom of high-rise apartments, high-end boutiques, and a powerhouse restaurant and bar scene. Whether you’re hopping on the L train to spend an afternoon in Billyburg or planning a long weekend, here’s what to do when you go.
When The Hoxton set up shop inside Williamburg’s Rosenwach water tower factory, it marked the British brand’s debut on this side of the Atlantic. While new hotels continue to crop up on busy Wythe Avenue, this one remains one of the best: The views of Manhattan’s skyline are arresting, the design is still eye-catching, and with Laser Wolf, Chef Michael Solomonov’s latest venture, up on the roof, The Hoxton is also a red-hot dining destination.
Guests are encouraged to embrace the outdoors at The William Vale, a high-rise hotel on N 12th St. It’s not just that all rooms have balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the contemporary-styled spaces with natural light. This flashy boutique also has Brooklyn’s largest (and splashiest) outdoor pool, an elevated promenade called Vale Park, and Westlight, a rooftop alfresco lounge on the 22nd floor.
For spice-lovers familiar with chile-spiked Sichuan cuisine, this restaurant is worth a trek for its superb Chungking fried chicken and poached wontons in chile sauce alone. Milder selections like fried eggplant accordions, pork and okra mini rolls, and Dan Dan noodles are also exquisite.
This snug Scandinavian-inspired wine bar from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy counts a Michelin star and James Beard Award among its many accolades. The emphasis here is on natural wines. While you might swing by to discover your soon-to-be-favorite varietal, don’t pass up a sampling of small plates from the kitchen.
Come to Francie for a fancy night out that’s free of pretentiousness—and full of decadent food. The dry-aged whole-roasted duck, elegantly served on beds of purple flowers, is the showstopping signature dish, but everything—from the Roman Army sourdough to the honeynut squash bomboloni—is a worthy order.
Tucked inside the Wythe Hotel, Le Crocodile is Williamsburg’s premier all-day French brasserie. Start by sidling up to the bar, a chic setting for an aperitif—so chic, you might be tempted to hang around for dinner to sample bistro mainstays with a twist, like escargot with parsley and pernod, steak tartare, and “skate frite” au poivre.
This groovy, neon-lit bar is run by a coterie of artists who’ve fused Latin and Asian flavors to craft one damn good cocktail menu. Tropical ingredients, like coconut milk and kiwi fruit, feature heavily throughout.
Part karaoke-cockatil bar, part Chinese restaurant, Chino Grande is a bonafide crowd-pleaser for its easygoing ambiance and shareable plates. Go for the lobster au poivre served atop a heap of fries, fried chicken with coconut ranch, and the banana miso custard as a grand finale.
The cozy East Williamsburg lounge does it all without trying too hard, offering boozy slushies with Prosecco, meticulously crafted lowball cocktails with flavored ice cubes, plus a solid selection of beer and wine.
Unlike some of the other hip bars emphasis at Fresh Kills is on adventurous out-of-the-box cocktails. The emphasis here is on adapting and perfecting the classics—a mission achieved with flying colors.
In 2018, the former Domino Sugar Refinery complex just north of the Williamsburg Bridge was overhauled into a public six-acre green space for recreation. Sited on the edge of the East River, Domino Park features vestiges of the site’s industrial past, like the Artifact Walk, an elevated five-block promenade surrounded by remnants of old factory infrastructure.
Stroll Williamsburg’s main retail thoroughfare for the neighborhood’s largest concentration of shops, including vintage clothing store Rugged Road & Co., antique furniture dealer Bedford Gallery Inc., and The Little Brooklyn Market, a mini flea market for fashion accessories.
Sitting inside a converted 1930s soda factory, this subterranean spa unites wellness traditions from around the world, including Russian banyas, Nordic saunas, and Turkish hammams. Opt for a day pass to enjoy the water therapies in the common areas, or sign up for a private treatment, like an hour-long session in a sensory deprivation tank. The street-level restaurant is also a stunner, designed with waxed canvas banquettes and ironwork.