Ask just about any New Yorker—even the die-hard Manhattanites—and they’ll tell you that crossing the bridge every now and then is the only way to truly experience New York. Since 1903, the Williamsburg bridge has made the trek from Manhattan possible for the everyman, encouraging scores of diverse communities to make Brooklyn their home. Williamsburg’s history as a cultural melting pot has painted the neighborhood as a dynamic, creative enclave that continues to draw young Manhattanites to its trendy shops, quirky bars, and Instagram-worthy restaurants. Once you’ve walked across the bridge, here’s how to spend the afternoon soaking up the local flavor on a walking tour of this Brooklyn neighborhood.
First off, you probably need to fuel up! After descending from the bridge, stop by Rabbithole (352 Bedford Avenue, t: 718/782-0910, open daily, 9AM–11PM) on Williamsburg’s main drag, Bedford Avenue, for an easy, delicious lunch—the burger and fries are popular, but if you’re looking for lighter fare, this homey bar/cafe offers delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches. Added bonus: the garden out back is a serene spot to enjoy your lunch.
Now that you’re well-fed and ready to roam, check out some of Williamsburg’s shopping: the area around Bedford is jam-packed with trendy boutiques and unique shops. Bird (302 Grand St., t: 212/792-9001, open Monday–Friday, 11AM–8PM; Tuesday–Thursday, noon–8PM; Saturday–Sunday, 11AM–7PM), founded by a former assistant buyer at Barney’s, has an excellent selection of designer threads for both men and women. For edible treats, check out the Bedford Cheese Shop (229 Bedford Avenue, t: 718/599-7588, open Monday–Saturday, 8AM–9PM; Sunday, 8AM–8PM)—a rare gem selling cheeses from around the world—or Mast Brothers Chocolate (111 North 3rd St., t: 718/388-2625, open Saturday, 10AM–7PM; Sunday, 10AM–5PM), a cocoa-lover’s dream offering unusual flavors (serrano pepper, for one) in cute little packages. Awoke Vintage (132 North 5th St., t: 708/387-3130, open daily, 10AM–9PM) is a perennial favorite among the Brooklyn hipster crowd, and overflowing with vintage treasures. Somewhere in the racks of secondhand dresses and beat-up leather jackets could be that special piece you never knew you always needed.
To avoid shopping till you literally drop, treat yourself to a little pick-me-up. Toby’s Estate (125 North 6th St., t: 347/457-6160, open Monday–Friday, 7AM–7PM; Saturday–Sunday, 8AM–7PM) is an Australian coffee house with some of the best brew in the neighborhood, as evidenced by the hordes of locals sipping, chatting, and enjoying the sunny, open-concept space. If you’ve got a little extra time, their Brew School also offers a variety of classes, including a public cupping class every Saturday. Order the espresso or the brew of the day—or one of their special seasonal drinks!
Feel free to take your coffee to go, and head over to the East River State Park (3236 North 8th St., open daily 9AM–sunset). This riverside destination makes for an incredible photo-op, and a beautiful place to relax for a beat. If you’re there on a Saturday, checking out the Smorgasburg Market (East River between North 6th and North 7th St., open Saturday, 11AM–6PM) is an absolute must; 50 or so local vendors set up shop here for the day, selling everything from lobster rolls to pressed juices to Nutella-filled churros.
If you’re a little too stuffed for the food extravaganza, walk a few blocks to the City Reliquary Museum (370 Metropolitan Avenue, t: 718/782-4842, open Thursday–Sunday, noon–6PM). This tiny place packs a punch, and definitely isn’t your run-of-the-mill museum. Founder Dave Herman started off displaying odds and ends in the windows of his ground-floor apartment, and soon enough, passersby began donating their own quirky items for display. Once the collection grew, Herman opened the official museum at its current location. It’s packed with rare artifacts relating to the storied history of New York City, and the gift shop is full of fun, unique pieces from local artists.
There’s no better place to cap a day well-spent in Williamsburg than Reynard (80 Wythe Avenue, t: 718/460-8004, open for dinner Sunday–Thursday, 6PM–11PM; Friday–Saturday, 6PM–midnight), a stylish bistro inside the immaculate Wythe Hotel. The menu is focused on fresh, well-prepared American standards, and innovative spins on classic cocktails. Be sure to head upstairs to end the evening with a drink at the rooftop bar (The Ides, 80 Wythe Avenue, 6th floor, t: 718/460-8006, open Monday–Friday, 4PM–1:30AM, Saturday–Sunday, 2PM–1:30AM) overlooking the iconic Manhattan skyline.