Living in Williamsburg: Things to Do and See in Williamsburg, New York

Williamsburg, New York—The Hipster Capital of the World

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Over the last 50 years, this small neighborhood has evolved from a waning industrial hub on the East River to an artist’s enclave to the upscale hipster colony it is today. After years of neglect, Williamsburg’s meteoric rise from a neighborhood in decline to hipster central was cemented. In 2005, new zoning laws opened the doors to luxury residential and commercial development and the construction of numerous public spaces. Since then, a slew of high-end storefronts and luxury condominiums popped up on the main thoroughfares, such as Bedford and Grand streets, and along the North Brooklyn waterfront, drawing “creatives,” fashionistas, techies, and the 21st-century counterculture crowd relocating from Manhattan and beyond. Despite the rapid gentrification of the streetscape and its transformation into one of the outer boroughs’ most affluent enclaves, Williamsburg has managed to remain what Thrillist magazine called “the No. 1 Hipster neighborhood on Earth.”

Where is Williamsburg Located in NYC?

Williamsburg is in the New York borough of Brooklyn, between Greenpoint to the north, Bedford-Stuyvesant to the south, Ridgewood (Queens) to the east, and the East River to the west.

  • East to West Boundaries: East River to Varick Avenue
  • North to South Boundaries: Nassau Ave to Flushing Ave
  • Subway: G, J, L, M, Z
  • Ticket out of the City: The Williamsburg Bridge, NY Waterway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

What to Do in Williamsburg?

Williamsburg residents take pride in their carefree, confident attitude, where everyone is welcome to their own style, as long as they’re creative about it, ironically, of course. Residents include Millennial professionals, artists, tech entrepreneurs, young families, and empty nesters, who are all seeking a progressive, creative community. The neighborhood retains its perception as a counterculture hub within easy reach of Manhattan—but without the business-oriented hustle and bustle of Midtown. Despite its gentrification, it’s still the center of Brooklyn’s trendsetting nightlife, a place to see and be seen, especially in the ultra-hip bars and clubs along Bedford Avenue.

The artists began arriving in the 1970s, driven across the Williamsburg Bridge by rent increases in the vanishing art colonies of Greenwich Village, Tribeca and SoHo. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Williamsburg became an incubator for new bands, record labels, avant-garde design and performance art. They set up shop in the neighborhood’s abandoned industrial spaces and reimagined them for the 21st century.

Williamsburg’s trajectory from industrial hub to one of New York City’s most sought-after residential enclaves fits the historic redevelopment pattern of the trendy neighborhoods across the river, such as Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and the East Village. Those neighborhoods, especially Chelsea, are chock-full of influential contemporary galleries, yet Williamsburg has its own emerging art scene: Art spaces, such as Front Room Gallery and cultural institutions such as the City Reliquary, a nonprofit museum and civic organization dedicated to New York history, are leading influencers.

Williamsburg is perhaps best known for its indie music scene and boasts more live music venues than any other neighborhood in the city. It has also been home to a number of celebrities over the years. Henry Miller, Mel Brooks, and Barry Manilow grew up there; actresses Winona Ryder and Zoe Kravitz maintained utterly hip apartments there; and Betty Smith’s novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was set in Williamsburg—before “hip” was hip.

What to See in Williamsburg?

Gentrification, rezoning for residential use, and an influx of affluent urbanites have fueled Williamsburg’s rapid rise as a luxury destination. The highly sought-after real estate inventory includes factories and warehouses which have been converted to Tribeca-style lofts, complete with airy interiors and high-end amenities. New developments along the waterfront are a particular draw—boasting views across the East River to Midtown Manhattan and access to promenades, cycle lanes, and green spaces. The luxury buyer looking for a larger, single-family home can opt for a historic, yet fully refurbished townhouse for a taste of old Brooklyn.

Among the developments in the works are the famed Domino Sugar Refinery on the East River. The refinery closed in 2004 and its structural remnants and original refinery equipment gained landmark status in 2007. The redevelopment will include mixed space (retail, office, and residential) units and a public waterfront park. One of New York City’s largest condominium developments, the Edge offers exclusive waterfront apartments and townhouses along with deluxe amenities, including a resort-inspired pool atrium. Away from the river, quieter residential areas can be found farther afield in East Williamsburg or towards Greenpoint—but without the retail density that makes prime Williamsburg property such a hot commodity.

Where to Eat in Williamsburg?

Williamsburg is famous for its experimental and eclectic farm-to-table restaurants, bars and coffee shops as well as pop-ups, old-time establishments and hole-in-the-wall eateries that offer authentic ethnic cuisine. Williamsburg also has more than its fair share of local breweries, distilleries, and wineries, which host numerous food festivals during the summer.

The neighborhood’s most famous restaurant is the one-star Michelin-rated icon Peter Luger Steak House, established in 1887. Gastronomes can also head to chef Fredrik Berselius’s two-Michelin-star Nordic-themed Aska or the one-starred Meadowsweet and regional American cuisine of Delaware and Hudson.

What Schools are in Williamsburg?

The neighborhood’s top-ranking schools include the state-funded Midwood High School and the private Williamsburg Northside Lower School and the Guidepost Montessori School.

How Many People Live in Williamsburg?

Population: 33,000

What Languages Are Spoken in Williamsburg?

Language: English

What is the Currency in Williamsburg?

Currency: USD

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