There’s more to Brooklyn than just a famous bridge and bearded hipsters. Visit this New York borough and you’ll discover a community that has a thriving foodie scene, independent boutiques for shopping and plenty of culture at its local museum. If you only have a weekend in Brooklyn, here’s how to do it like a local.
Illuminated by a neon “hotel” sign on the corner of 11th Street and Wythe Avenue, the red-brick Wythe Hotel overlooks the East River like a stylish sentinel. As you enter the lobby, you’ll be struck by the height of the ceilings and the lofty square-paned windows, a theme that continues in the guest rooms.
With floor-to-ceiling windows and concrete floors, the suites could feel cold, but timbered ceilings create a cozy atmosphere in this century-old former factory. Vintage touches include retro-style phones and radios, with walls accented in a Victorian-style print. Each room features works by local artists, with a framed print providing information about them.
With a jigger, shaker, Fever-Tree tonic and a variety of premium spirits, the fully stocked minibar allows the aspiring bartender to create your own concoctions. After clambering out of the spacious shower, slip into a lightweight blue denim cotton robe, designed and produced locally, and drift off to sleep while gazing at the glittering lights of Manhattan.
The Wythe, in the heart of trendy Williamsburg, is the perfect choice for the fashionable traveler looking to experience the city like a local; it’s surrounded by eye-catching graffitied advertisements, boutique stores, vintage shopping and restaurants to suit all palates.
A dog park is just a few blocks away, and the hotel provides a dog bed, bowls and a toy – so your furry friend is most welcome here, too.
After grabbing breakfast from the charming European-style café Bakeri on Freeman Street, take a six-minute walk to the bookstore of dreams, McNally Jackson. The two-level store is done out inside in warm, treacle-colored wood, with plenty of tucked-away corners giving opportunities for exploration. Spend time in the stationery section, where notebooks are left open for you to to doodle on, with a rainbow buffet of pens provided. The friendly, knowledgeable staff are on hand to make book recommendations.
There is no other way of saying it: Rough Trade is cool. This expansive warehouse-style music store is laid out with industrial shipping containers that are arranged to create rooms, walkways and a café. Filled with an extensive collection of new and second-hand vinyl spanning all genres, the store also stocks books, cassette tapes, CDs, record players and other music-related merch. The space functions as a performance venue, too, with live events from up-and-coming artists as well as mainstream performers.
End your first day in Brooklyn with dinner at the elegant Crocodile. The greenery-filled restaurant is warm and inviting, with exposed brick walls, dangling industrial-chic lighting and black-and-white tiled flooring. The restaurant has an extensive liquor menu – try the luscious cocktails (the French 75 is especially good). Dinner is modern French fare, such as melt-in-your-mouth scallops, decadent gruyère and onion soup and confit duck. Finish the evening with the crème brûlée – cracking the caramelized sugar top is particularly satisfying.
Pro tip: Le Crocodile also does a mean brunch. Sip a bellini before you tuck into one of many pastries (the maple cream donut is a must). Main courses including eggs benedict or omelet with provolone picante.
Brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn and stroll in Domino Park
A scenic 15-minute stroll from the Wythe will bring you to the local neighborhood fave Sunday in Brooklyn, for a Brooklynite’s favorite pastime, brunch. The sidewalk seating under the striped awning makes for great people-watching while chowing down on classic American staples with a twist. The cocktails are innovative: the Sunday Bloody is an interesting take on a bloody mary, with a smoky finish. The menu changes seasonally, but dive into the pancakes if you can, and the triple stack if you’re feeling indulgent. Walk off the calories by exploring nearby Domino Park.
Bordering lush Prospect Park, the Beaux-Arts-style Brooklyn Museum wouldn’t look amiss on the streets of Paris, with its impressive pillars and ornate sculptures. Opened to the public in 1897, it has five floors with permanent and rotating exhibitions. American art is best represented with works by Norman Rockwell, Max Weber and Georgia O’Keeffe. Possibly the most intriguing room is the Visible Storage Study Center. The 5,000sqft (465sqm) space is like walking through a glass-walled maze, with more than 2,000 pieces on display in temperature, light and humidity-controlled cases.
With the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, the retro Skyline Drive-In sits on the border of Williamsburg and hipster Greenpoint. Viewers need to arrive one or two hours before the movie, but don’t worry about the wait. The friendly staff will direct you on where to park, and then you’re free to stroll over to one of the nearby wine bars for a drink – do leave yourself time to snap a pic of the striking city views across the river before you head back to your car. The concession stand offers traditional movie snacks such as hot dogs, fizzy drinks and buttery popcorn.