Williamsburg is the home of hipsters who got bored of Manhattan and, at the same time, the orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of New York.
Thanks to this mix, this Brooklyn neighbourhood just across the East River is a place you have to see to feel like you’ve been to New York.
Billyburg -as it is also called- brings together those contrasts that make New York a unique city.
What to do in Williamsburg?
As I already told you, there are 2 parallel universes. The border between them is the Williamsburg Bridge: to the north of the bridge is hipster Williamsburg and to the south is the Jewish Quarter.
We will organize the places of interest in these two geographical poles.
1. Hipster Neighbourhood
Let’s start by identifying hipsters with some basic clues:
- they are young intellectuals who value counterculture, liberal politics, indie-rock
- they love irony, and it is their way of seeing life
- they wear vintage clothes, sport asymmetrical haircuts and pasta frames.
- Surely they already got the idea 😉
North of the Williamsburg Bridge, you will find them on every corner, as the avant-garde communities, previously concentrated in Chelsea, Greenwich Village and the East Village, have migrated to this neighbourhood with an industrial profile for years.
But don’t be fooled; these treeless streets, old facades and simple shops that you will see during the day are completely transformed during the night.
There are plenty of author shops, boutique restaurants, young people, and street art… It is one of my favourite neighbourhoods to stay in New York.
The centre of this cultural diversity runs along Bedford Avenue. The good idea is to start the route from McCarren Park to the south (Nassau Avenue Station on the G Line).
Throughout its blocks, there are boutiques, cafes, restaurants, gourmet shops, breweries and wine shops (a good opportunity to try California wines).
Another of Williamsburg’s attractions is its street art. As you walk through it, you will come across murals and graffiti by famous artists, but also hundreds of street advertisements painted on the walls of the neighbourhood.
Street art is ephemeral, but there are works that have endured and are already part of the Williamsburg landscape.
Among them, the Williamsburg Mona Lisa stands out, which decorates the facade of the building located at the intersection of Bedford Avenue, Broadway and South 6th Street.
This mural is based on a photo of a school contest winner (taken by Steven Paul). Colossal Media, an advertising company, would later decide to paint her.
Her real name is Lost Time, but she became popular on social media as the Mona Lisa, becoming one of the most photographed works of street art in New York.
Another well-known mural is that of Andy Warhol and Basquiat, made by Kobra, located on N 9th Street with Bedford Avenue.
East River State Park
It is a park on the banks of the East River. It’s worth a visit on Saturdays in April and October when the Smorgasburg Market sets up between 11 am and 6pm ( Bedford Station on the L subway line is the closest to get to).
In this market, you can try dishes from around the world and extravagant preparations such as noodle doughnuts.
It’s a hipster hangout, and the New York Times called it “the Woodstock of food.” As you can see, in addition to eating delicious food, you will be able to meet the cool fauna of Brooklyn 😉
On Sundays, this same market works in Prospect Park.
At the Brooklyn Brewery (79 N 11th Street), they brew beer in the tradition of the German and Austrian brewmasters who made Brooklyn their home.
The factory has a tasting room that you can visit on Thursdays and Fridays between 4 pm and 8 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 pm to 8 pm. There you have to try the classic Brooklyn Lager and its East IPA.
They also offer factory tours, which you have to book in advance on their website.
An interesting fact is that the Brooklyn Brewery logo was created by the famous Milton Glaser (author of iconic designs such as “I love New York”).
This park is one of those unique spaces in New York that give new meaning to abandoned places (the same is the case with High Line Park or Gantry Plaza Park ).
In this case, they repurposed industrial structures from the Dominó sugar factory that closed in 2004. They transformed them into a park, luxury condominiums, and offices in the iconic old factory building (a classic case of gentrification ).
It is a privileged place to enjoy views of Manhattan. The nearest tube station is Bedford Avenue Station on the L line
2. Jewish Quarter of New York
But before so much hipsterism, Williamsburg was already home to Orthodox Jewish immigrants – Hasidic – from Eastern Europe.
They arrived after World War II and made South Williamsburg their home.
Williamsburg is the neighbourhood of the Netflix series Unorthodox (2020)
This Hasidic community – one of the most orthodox in the world – is concentrated south of the Williamsburg Bridge, along Lee Avenue between Davison Avenue and Heyward Street.
Most come from the Satmar dynasty with roots in Hungary. They will distinguish the men by their traditional hat, kippah and black coat, their neat beard and the ringlets on both sides of the face ( payot ).
The women also wear dark tones, skirts below the knee and sleeves below the elbow. They are always surrounded by children and many others.
Married women wear sheitels and scarves, and no one outside the family can see their hair (watch Unorthodox before you visit Williamsburg! It will help you not miss these cultural details)
They are a very closed community that speaks Yiddish and ignores tourists. In fact, they dislike us.
They don’t like to be photographed or considered a tourist attraction (I had a really hard time taking these photos of them!).
The recommendation is that they be prudent and respectful when visiting its streets (a discreet way to see them is during the Contrastes de Nueva York tour ).
If you want to learn more about the Jewish community in New York, visit the Eldridge Street Museum -located in a synagogue- and the Jewish Heritage Museum.
How to get to the Jewish Quarter?
A good route is to get off at the Bedford Avenue station of the L line, which will leave you in the “hipster” area and, from there, walk south of the neighbourhood. You will notice how it changes.
Another idea is to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge 🙂
Cross the Williamsburg Bridge
Few tourists know that you can walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. It is not a walk as famous as crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, but it is an experience that will help you understand the development of this city that fascinates us.
This bridge has connected Williamsburg with the Lower East Side since 1903, allowing the neighbourhood to become a thriving industrial area, which today is once again transformed before our eyes. The best example of this is Domino Park.
The crossing is not as charming as the Brooklyn Bridge, and the pedestrian crossing is fenced; it is not made to contemplate. It is a place of passage…
But in my view, it is a tour to the bowels of that New York that the typical tourist tours leave aside.
Ride the NYC Ferry
Another recommendation to get to know the neighbourhood is to take the NYC Ferry, which has two piers in Williamsburg (in the link, I leave you all the details to navigate the ferry).
I promise you views of the New York Bridges that will be the envy of your social networks.
Buy in Williamsburg
I already mentioned that hipsters love vintage or second-hand clothing, and this is the reason why these stores in Williamsburg have thrived.
But be careful; vintage fashion has made retro expensive; in New York, it is much more expensive to buy elephant boot pants from SEARS from the seventies than a new one at DKNY.
But nothing costs to enter to browse and take “old-new” ideas home. Closet, Buffalo Exchange, and Mini Mini Market are some of the most recognized stores.
But walk around and find them for yourself; that’s the fun of walking around Williamsburg.
Music in Williamsburg
Williamsburg also has a lot to offer music lovers. Many of New York’s indie bands hail from Brooklyn, so it’s not uncommon to find tremendous bands at any corner venue.
Williamsburg is considered a leading band incubator in the music industry, so what you hear as you pass through the neighbourhood may be the new global trend.
The Glasslands (289 Kent Ave), Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N 6th St), Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St), Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave), Sound Fix (110 Bedford Ave), Union Pool (484 Union Ave) and Studio B (259 Banker St), are some of these venues that offer live concerts.
If you are looking for where to buy concert tickets for your favourite bands in New York, we recommend the super ticket office search engine, which is complete and serious.
Pop culture in the neighbourhood
Now we have to talk about the celebrities of Williamsburg:
The first to stand out is gangster Al Capone, who was born in the neighbourhood and lived until 1919 when he fled to Chicago to escape murder charges.
Also hailing from Billyburg are musicians Barry Manilow, Kiss’s Gene Simmons, and celebrity Jew Barbra Streisand.
An interesting fact is that the Italian-American film by Sergio Leone, Once Upon a Time in America (1984), starring Robert De Niro and James Wood, is set in Williamsburg between the twenties and the sixties.
Where to sleep in Williamsburg
This new influx of nightlife has attracted many tourists to Brooklyn, especially young people who are looking for new trends and a more authentic experience during their trip to NY.
For this reason, modern housing complexes and hotels have been inaugurated with the same characteristics as those found in Manhattan but at very competitive prices.
So far, I have told you what to see in another of my favourite neighbourhoods in New York. Maybe we’ll run into bagels for breakfast one day 😉
Williamsburg is bounded by the East River to the east and Buschwick Ave to the west, N 12 St and McCarren Park to the north and Flushing Avenue to the south.
How to get
L Line. Bedford Ave Station.
Patrick Bannett is a profound writer and content producer embarking on his digital journalism journey with Global Web Wire. He is knowledgeable on various daily life topics, including politics, personal finance, travel, lifestyle, and relationships. Apart from writing, Patrick is also an accomplished communicator and networker. He always seeks new opportunities to collaborate with like-minded individuals and businesses. Bannett enjoys hiking, practicing yoga, and exploring new cultures when he is not writing. Bannett holds a Ph.D. in English and Communications and continues expanding his knowledge through ongoing education and research.
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