Brooklyn's many exciting neighborhoods, packed with cultural institutions, restaurants and shops, make the borough a top New York City destination. Downtown Brooklyn provides the perfect starting point for experiencing an eclectic area full of energy and brimming with culture. Its centrally located streets serve as an introduction to the surrounding neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, BoCoCa, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Williamsburg and Bushwick—all a short train ride or walk away. Read on for more about what to do and see in these neighborhoods. And for more about Brooklyn, see our guide to highlights throughout the borough.
Three pretty neighborhoods near Downtown Brooklyn are Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, forming what's affectionately known as BoCoCa. This charming area is surrounded by a blend of old-world shops and restaurants plus an exciting range of dining options. Among them is Bar Tabac, a festive French bistro furnished with a foosball table. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, specializing in old-school egg creams, cupcakes and pies that can be taken home. For barbecue and whiskey, Char No. 4 is cozy with a private sunroom. Settle into a Cobble Hill café or browse the shops along Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill and Court Street in Cobble Hill and it becomes instantly clear why locals love calling this area home. BoCoCa combines an exciting retail, dining and bar scene with that quintessential laid-back Brooklyn vibe.
Visitors staying in Brooklyn Heights will be drawn first to its photo op–friendly streets of impeccably restored row houses and spectacular view of the Lower Manhattan skyline from the newly revitalized Brooklyn Bridge Park. But let yourself wander and you'll find a vibrant neighborhood with thoughtfully curated stores, innovative restaurants and such energetic cultural institutions as the Brooklyn Historical Society, Bargemusic and the New York Transit Museum. The Heights wears its rich history on its sleeve, with stately architectural styles, august churches and schools and literary landmarks.
Bushwick has become synonymous with new music and trendy eateries, cutting-edge artists and skinny jeans. It's also the epitome of an up-and-coming neighborhood—the latest place to be that only gets better with each exciting new venue that opens up shop. Bushwick has come a long way from its roots as an area named Boswijck, colonial Dutch for "town in the woods"—a name given by Peter Stuyvesant in 1661. In recent years, Bushwick's industrial past has given way to galleries, performance spaces and restaurants like Roberta's that draw crowds from all over for a slice of the local culinary scene. Stationed inside a renovated textile mill, Shops at the Loom packs yoga, haircuts, vintage wares, coffee and more under one roof, while Circo's Pastry Shop serves up a throwback for those in search of a sugar rush, whipping up the same cannolo recipe used when the shop opened in 1945. And Bushwick's arts scene comes alive at venues like 56 Bogart, a commercial gallery and studio space featuring new and emerging artists.
Bordered by Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn is truly at the center of it all. The area is a hub for businesses, but it’s also a place to relax and enjoy Brooklyn's arts, culture and entertainment offerings. Classic brownstones dovetail new modern structures and several college campuses bring a lively student population to the area. For those looking for arts and entertainment, outdoor space MetroTech Commons is the site of exhibits, performances and special events. Downtown Brooklyn is also home to low-key restaurants, delis and coffee shops where locals drop in for Shake Shack's celebrated burgers, fries and beverages or a sweet slice of cheesecake from Junior's. Downtown Brooklyn's nightlife scene is similarly relaxed, with established drinking dens like O'Keefe's Bar & Grill serving up pints and classic bar food while the game plays in the background. From here, the best of Brooklyn is right at your fingertips. For even more details, check out the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's online walking tour of the area.
Nestled between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO has transformed during the past few decades from an industrial zone into an enclave of airy lofts, unique galleries and fashionable boutiques. DUMBO has a little bit of everything in precisely the right proportions—you can browse through a hip bookstore or two, visit several galleries, pick up some Japanese pop-culture magazines and then catch an avant-garde theatrical performance. The eastern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park provides the perfect place to unwind and take in striking, iconic views of the East River and a spin on the newly restored Jane's Carousel right on the water's edge.
The sense of community is strong in Fort Greene, a vibrant neighborhood surrounded by Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights. Undeniable charm resonates from cafés, bike shops, bakeries and family-owned stores, meshing seamlessly with the area's rich history that dates back to the American Revolution. Easily accessible from all of NYC, it's no wonder visitors flock to this welcoming neighborhood to relax, play and fill up on culture and incredible eats. Don't miss Brooklyn Flea, a weekend destination for one-of-a-kind handmade wares and irresistible culinary creations, or the Fort Greene Park Greenmarket, brimming with fresh, local flavors. And restaurants like The Prospect and Stonehome provide a sit-down dining experience and dishes made from local ingredients. If it's world-class, cutting-edge entertainment you're after, feel the energy of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a dynamic destination for performing arts and cinema. Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts also keeps visitors and locals entertained with dance showcases, music events and plays taking place inside its 320-seat space. For a look into Fort Greene's past, discover the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard at BLDG 92, home to artifacts, photos, ship models and videos. The streets of Fort Greene are also filled with charming stores like flower and craft shop Stem and Yu Interiors, selling carefully chosen home accessories.
When people think of Brooklyn, typically what comes to mind is Park Slope: leafy streets lined with historic brownstones, intimate eateries with Manhattan-caliber menus and kid-friendly parks and playgrounds. The neighborhood also offers a wide-ranging live-music scene, where you can see everything from emerging indie acts at the cozy Rock Shop to established rockers at The Bell House. Along Fifth Avenue, the neighborhood's main shopping district, you can seek out vintage clothing, affordable fashion from local designers and a range of trendy footwear.
Park Slope's quiet, brownstone-lined streets give way to the spirited blocks of Prospect Heights. Wander beyond the bike paths and picnic spots of Prospect Park's northern stretch and you'll be greeted by Grand Army Plaza's towering arch and the Brooklyn Public Library's picturesque entrance resembling a book binding with striking black and gold detailing. The neighborhood's versatility is clear. It's home to the lush, 52-acreBrooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum, with globe-spanning exhibitions. Brunch spots and bars line the streets, beckoning passersby to spend a few hours mingling with the locals. Nights in Prospect Heights are made even more exciting by the brand-new, state-of-the-art Barclays Center—the home of the Brooklyn Nets has already displayed its flair for booking the music industry's hottest names.
Once a scrappy neighborhood, Williamsburg now draws artists, young professionals—and, yes, it must be said, hipsters. The recent addition of the East River Ferry has made traveling to and from the neighborhood even more appealing during the warmer months, especially on Saturdays in summer when Smorgasburg's food vendors are set up to serve a range of delicious artisanal snacks and organic treats. Other dining options range from the classic steak house Peter Luger to Texas barbecue at Fette Sau and fried chicken at Pies 'n' Thighs. La Superior is another can't-miss spot, serving up Mexican specialties from its Berry Street stand. For dessert, grab a mouthwatering treat at Brooklyn Cupcake—available in flavors like peanut butter & jelly and French toast—or a less sugary creation at Saltie. Shoppers will find plenty to browse inside the boutiques along Grand Street, among them Fresthetic, Live Astro and Rebelution Ink. Visitors can enjoy a drink at a nearby bar before checking out live music at the Music Hall of Williamsburg or the Knitting Factory—or heading to Brooklyn Bowl to knock down a few pins (and pints).