12 of the Best Neighborhoods in Brooklyn
Ahh, Brooklyn – the nexus of NYC’s coffee culture, a land of artistically-inclined loft-dwellers, and home to some of the prettiest damn brownstones in all 5 boroughs. With more than 65 neighborhoods to explore – Brooklynites can’t even name them all – it’s tough to know where to start. Here, we break down 12 of the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
If you’re searching for the Brooklyn brought to light by Millennial-favored shows like Girls, then let us point you towards the L train so you can make your way to Williamsburg. The somewhat-gritty, highly-hipster neighborhood is chock-a-block with young creative types who frequent the area’s converted artists’ lofts, hip coffee joints, and costs-more-than-buying-new thrift shops – organic green juice in hand. During the day, do some people watching or boutique shopping on Bedford Ave before skipping over to Brooklyn Brewery for a flight of seasonal and perennial craft beers. At night, head a few doors down to Brooklyn Bowl – one of the area’s favorite haunts thanks to a coveted trifecta of cocktails, bowling and live music.
North of Williamsburg, off of the Brooklyn-only G train, is Greenpoint. The once-predominantly Polish neighborhood is a mix of new and old – having staved off the brunt of rapid gentrification, but still welcoming unconventional pop-up galleries, indie bookshops and dive bars to rub shoulders with Old World eateries, historic storefronts, and other stalwarts. Follow Greenpoint-ers to the old-school (Tina Fey-approved) Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop for handmade varieties like toasted coconut, glazed blueberry buttermilk, and chocolate-drizzled S’mores. Post-calorie binge, McCarren Park is the go-to stomping ground for everything active – seasonal ice skating, pick-up baseball, and swimming. Not far from the 35-acre plot, the beer hall-style Spritzenhaus has gained a healthy following compliments of a strong draft beer and haus cocktails menu. On fair-weather days, you’ll find the industrial joint’s communal tables overflowing with people, all enjoying the fresh air let in by completely open garage-style doors and windows.
Multi-million dollar row houses and brownstones, high-class bodegas, and stroller-pushing Brooklyn moms and dads converge in family-centric Park Slope. An influx of young professionals and Manhattan transplants (all looking to start their own families) has turned the area into a hotspot for craft beer and cutting-edge cuisine. In the heart of it all, just off of 5th Ave, is Union Hall, a 5,000-square-foot bar that reads like an ultra-refined grandfather’s study, with leather couches, fully-stocked bookshelves and the pièce de résistance…indoor bocce lanes. Mornings are best spent lazily circling the 585-acre Prospect Park – basically Brooklyn’s version of Central Park, down to the same designers and everything. If you need a caffeine pick-me-up pre-walk, try out the Euro-style Cafe Regular (think: patterned tile floors, pressed-tin walls, and a chandelier). After opening in 2005, the spot carved out its own niche space on the crowded coffeehouse scene by paying particular attention to their regulars, even spotlighting them with bios on their site.
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Part of the ever-evolving Brooklyn landscape, the historic and culturally-rich Bed-Stuy (childhood home of Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G.) has gone through a slew of major changes. But some things – including its iconic Victorian architecture and affinity for block parties and street fairs – never change. In the mood for an organic, feel good meal? Eugene & Co. beckons with American staples, served as affordable small and large plates (nothing exceeds $25), in a cozy dining room with exposed brick, hanging plants, and wraparound banquette seating. Harold and Maude tops our list when it comes to vintage clothing shops; the tiny, eclectic boutique is bursting at the seams with rare pieces from every decade. As for late-night romps, Bar Lunatico often comes out on top. The dark, atmospheric space is simultaneously divey and highbrow, and hosts live music – nearly every night – that features any genre you can think up; bluegrass, electronica, modern jazz, big band swing, you name it.
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Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO
The Brooklyn of postcards and sweeping Hollywood shots, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (that is: down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) are where you’ll find some of the borough’s most scenic spots. Stroll along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade – following the East River and eyeing all of Manhattan’s most iconic buildings – en-route to the six piers that make up the waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park. All of this walking calls for a (cash-only!) coal-fired pie at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, a spot that’s been vying for the title of “NYC’s Best Pizza” since opening in 1990. Once you weigh-in on the debate yourself, walk a little further to the powerHouse Arena, home of powerHouse Books, a fine art, pop culture, and fashion publisher. The airy boutique bookshop (see: 24-foot ceilings) is a bibliophile’s dream; it houses a highly-curated selection of lit, NYC-centric totes and ephemera, and an amphitheater-style exhibition space which regularly hosts literary events and galleries.
Do a quick #BushwickStreetArt search on IG, and you’ll unearth close to 38K photos. The flourishing nabe – which shares borders with Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, Ridgewood, Queens, and a few others – is full of artist collectives, galleries, studios, and street art, all which can be perused on a gratis graffiti tour led by Free Tours by Foot. Hip cafes and restaurants have also moved into the tight-knit community, Falansai – which made the Michelin Guide’s affordable Bib Gourmand list – among them. The French and Vietnamese kitchen serves up bahn mi, pho, and killer happy hour drink deals in an adorably blue corner lot building. A couple blocks over, just a stone’s throw from the Myrtle Ave subway station (with JMZ access) is Syndicated. The hip bar/cinema/restaurant shows an eclectic lineup of cult classics, 80’s blockbusters, obscure indies, and critically acclaimed films in a 50-seater cinema that – in true Bushwick fashion – used to be an industrial warehouse.
Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens
Convening in BK’s northwestern corner are Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens, three neighborhoods that have collectively become known as BoCoCa – to everyone but locals, that is. Together, the trio are all 19th-century row houses, cozy cafes, boutique storefronts, and lively French and Italian populations. Looking to leisurely shop the day away? Head first for The Primary Essentials (Boerum Hill) to peruse designer accessories, coffee table books, and unique jewelry. Grab lunch at Colonie, on the line of Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. The open kitchen churns out inventive American fare (heavy on veggie options) – like squid ink spaghetti with rock shrimp, and brussels sprouts with hazelnut, pecorino, mint and apple – all sustainably sourced from local farmers and producers. If you’re in the market for a casual watering hole with deep neighborhood roots, the circa-1800s Brooklyn Inn is your go-to. Saddle up to the commanding dark wooden bar to order from a tap list of local craft beers.
Brighton Beach and Coney Island
Coney Island has been through the motions – while it started off as a weekend playground for wealthy Manhattanites and A-listers, post-WWII it fell into disarray and for a while, it toed the line of too seedy to bother with. Thankfully, a bunch of new businesses have breathed life into the far southern neighborhood, heralding something of a renaissance as they joined the long-standing Nathan’s Famous and Luna Park. Any trip to the beach-y strip requires walking the length of the boardwalk and feeding the demon that is your fried food-craving stomach. Once you’ve covered adequate ground, head back to Surf Ave. Setting up shop along the main drag is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Coney Island Brewery, which serves IPAs, pilsners, and hard root beer (all aptly-named after pieces of Coney Island nostalgia) in a street-front beer garden.
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