Williamsburg is a neighborhood of contrasts. In this area north of Brooklyn hipsters and orthodox Jews coexist. In just a few streets, the atmosphere changes radically: from the most striking Street Art and old factories converted into restaurants to the austerity of the Jewish quarter.
One of the first tips that come to mind when a traveler is going to visit New York, is to warn that New York is much more than Manhattan, just as Brooklyn is much more than the DUMBO area. If you want to organize a trip to New York visiting the most authentic places I recommend you to walk around each area leaving the most commercial or touristic points.
Brooklyn is a 'must' on any trip to the city of skyscrapers (I tell you more in my guide on what to see and do in Brooklyn) and within Brooklyn, for me, Williamsburg is one of those authentic areas full of contrasts that is worth visiting.
1. Stroll through Domino Park
New York is the city that has best redefined its former industrial spaces and this park is a good example. What was once a sugar refinery is now a park and promenade along the river. The brick building with the huge chimney that guards the park gives an authentic touch to this area and its lounger area is perfect for a rest if the weather is nice.
If you are a lover of green areas, you should know that in the middle of the concrete jungle of New York you will find spectacular parks overlooking the river, the Skyline, mythical buildings... Check here which are the best parks in New York to choose where you will have your next picnic.
2. Admire the street art of Eduardo Kobra
Williamsburg is a hipster neighborhood with a very personal and alternative character. Despite the proliferation of fast food chains and luxurious residences (especially for Wall Street workers) over the last few years, its authentic works of art continue to adorn walls and walls, and walking through the neighborhood you will see many of them.
And speaking of Street Art, we can not fail to mention Eduardo Kobra, a Brazilian artist who signs the most spectacular murals you will see in the neighborhood. In addition, he has a very personal style, so I'm sure that after seeing a couple of his works, you will recognize him as soon as you come across another of his murals.
Specifically, "Fight for Street art" is probably his most recognized work (it's a tribute to Andy Warhol and Basquiat). I'm sure you've seen it in a thousand photos. You'll find it at 147 Bedford Avenue.
3. Have a cup of authentic Colombian coffee at "Devocion"
I loved this coffee shop with a Colombian soul and one of the best coffees I've tasted in New York to date. The place is super open, with lots of light and green details - try to grab the table next to the mythical Chester sofas to rest from your walk around the neighborhood!
The most 'foodies' will find in this area a paradise where to have the best coffees, brunches and menus of the city. If you want to organize your gastronomic route, take into account this list of places to eat in Brooklyn.
4. Don't miss the huge mural The Chronicles of New York
By now you will have realized that Street Art is more than just a hobby in this area. Throughout its streets you will find murals, graffiti and authentic works of art that you will want to keep in your retina.
Specifically, this spectacular mural is by the French artist JR. You will find it near Domino Park and you will be amazed by the combination of photographs of more than 1,000 New Yorkers and how he combines them with some of the most emblematic buildings of the city in black and white. You will want to take a thousand pictures, and the challenge will be to get such a work of art (the size is more than considerable) to fit completely in your lens!
5. Stop to recharge your batteries at Café Beit
If there is something that stands out in Williamsburg is the authenticity of its locals. A stroll through its streets will be enough to identify cafes and restaurants where you can have a good coffee or take out your computer to work in a relaxed atmosphere.
Café Beit: if in addition to a good shot of caffeine you feel like eating something (a toast or a good brunch) head to 158 Bedford Avenue and enjoy! Whatever you choose from Café Beit's menu, take it at the little tables in its interior patio.
6. Visit the Jewish Quarter, one of its main attractions
Certainly one of the main areas of the neighborhood that arouses the most curiosity is the Jewish Quarter. Within the Williamsburg neighborhood, the Orthodox Jewish community lives primarily in the South Williamsburg area, which is reached by crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Where the community's life is concentrated is on Lee Avenue, the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. This is where most of their temples and businesses are located.
I invite you to stroll through its streets and browse or buy local products in its stores, but if you want to read more about this particular area, I have written an article on How to Visit the Jewish Quarter NYC to help you navigate the key parts of the neighborhood.
7. Take a tour of contrasts
Yes, the famous New York contrasts tour passes through here (of course) and it is a good way to get to know the historical and cultural context of the neighborhood. Although it does not stop too much in this part of the city, I assure you that it will be a good introduction to the area and will give you the necessary brushstrokes for you to enjoy it on your own.
If you are thinking of doing the contrasts tour, you can read more information about the tour in my article on New York Contrasts Tour, but I can already tell you that there are many tours of New York in Spanish that are worth considering to tour the city with an expert guide.
8. Treat yourself to a designer souvenir from Home Coming
I warned you that you would find authentic places here, right? Well, in Home Coming you will find not only a super quiet place to have a good coffee (be careful, the coffee menu is huge and you will not know which one to choose) but also a place to buy flowers or even decorative and design elements.
Instead of taking home the typical keychain, I am sure that here you will find more than one original and authentic souvenir to give or give yourself. Besides, the place is beautiful, so it doesn't cost anything to come in and take a look, right?
9. Go on a vintage hunt at the best stores in Williamsburg
Another thing you can do in Williamsburg is to go shopping. I'm sure that along your walk through the neighborhood you will find more than one stall on the street, or even see how some clothing or antique stores take part of their windows to the street (literally) to attract the attention of passersby.
But if you want to visit the shopping place par excellence in Williamsburg, visit Artists & Fleas, where you will find fashion and vintage art from emerging and renowned designers, second-hand items, decorative pieces... Definitely a good place to get an authentic souvenir of your trip to New York.
And before you start shopping, organize your budget and locate the best stores and flea markets. Here is a list of the best things to buy in New York, but if you want to find luxury items at bargain prices, it is best to visit Woodbury Commons, the best outlets in New York.
10. Don't miss the Williamsburg Bridge
Less known than its brother the Brooklyn Bridge, this bridge linking Williamsburg to Manhattan is worthy of a walk around its surroundings (and surely more than one photo). Also, you should know that when it was built in 1903, it became the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Best of all, you can still cross it on foot or by bicycle, so there's no excuse not to venture across it.
11. Taste an authentic craft beer Made in Brooklyn
In North Williamsburg you will be able to enjoy a delicious beer at the Brooklyn Brewery craft brewery. I recommend that you let yourself be advised by the experts and try the types of beer they offer. The place, moreover, could not be more authentic, so for me, it was the perfect place to take a break from the tourist life and feel like a New Yorker for an afternoon.
12. A music lover's paradise at Rough Trade
If you like music, I don't need to give you any more explanations. You have to go to Rough Trade, the musical paradise where you will find thousands of CDs, vinyls, books and posters of the most legendary artists in history, but also of alternative bands and groups that you will love to discover. I warn you that you may lose track of time in there, but I assure you it will be worth it. You will find it at 64 N 9th Street.
How to organize your visit
Spending an afternoon (or even a whole day, if you have enough time) in Williamsburg, will give you a very complete view of New York. You can walk through the most touristic part of the neighborhood, to the north, but you can also immerse yourself in its Jewish quarter, further south. The best way to get there is by ferry (here I leave you the practical guide to use the New York ferry) or directly by subway.
What to see in Williamsburg
In this area you will find alternative places to enjoy a good brunch or a really authentic coffee. You can also book a table for lunch or dinner in one of its hipster restaurants or stroll through one of its streets completely different from those of Manhattan, where industrial buildings of exposed brick and hotels and luxury and design houses prevail.
Last but not least, you can get to know the Jewish quarter where one of the largest communities of Orthodox Jews in the United States lives. Walking through its streets you can get an idea of how they live or what their customs are, in addition to buying or consuming delicious typical Jewish products.
Is Williamsburg safe?
Before you ask yourself if it is a safe area, let me tell you that it is. As the industrial area that it was, it should be noted that it lived through worse times, especially around the 60's, where crime was much more common in the area.
But when you get there you will see that, in general, it is a neighborhood full of life, with many New Yorkers going from one place to another (perhaps with less haste than in Manhattan) and full of cafes and curious stores that give a unique personality to the area.
Is it worth visiting with children?
Of course! Williamsburg has many areas suitable for strolling, green areas and outdoor terraces where you can sit and relax or have a bite to eat with the little ones.
If you travel to New York with children they may not appreciate the architecture of the area or the hipster atmosphere, but the parks, the huge murals of Street Art and the tranquility in contrast to the chaos of Manhattan will conquer them.
What if I go at Christmas time?
The best thing that New York' s winter leaves us with are the lights and the Christmas atmosphere. Take advantage of your visit to Williamsburg to visit the best of Brooklyn at Christmas: Dyker Heights. Starting in November and of course in December this Brooklyn neighborhood is decked out in the purest American style with millions of colorful lights and Christmas decorations that are worth a visit.
Frequently asked questions
Why is Williamsburg worth visiting?
Outside of Manhattan, it is one of the trendiest districts in New York: it is full of hipster coffee shops, vintage stores, quiet streets and a very peculiar architecture that is worth visiting as a contrast to the hustle and bustle and skyscrapers of Manhattan.
What to see in Williamsburg?
Both its parks and its famous works of Street Art are a must-see in the area. In addition to having lunch or brunch in one of its many cafes, take the opportunity to discover its Jewish quarter.
Is Williamsburg the Jewish Quarter of New York?
The Orthodox Jewish community lives primarily in the South Williamsburg area. You will find it around Lee Avenue, which you can access by crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge.
Which is better, Brooklyn or Williamsburg?
Williamsburg is precisely part of northern Brooklyn, one of the 5 boroughs of New York. That's why I recommend you to dedicate a whole day to get out of Manhattan and discover Brooklyn in its entirety, visiting DUMBO, Williamsburg and its Jewish quarter.