EXPLORE WILLIAMSBURG

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Widely regarded as the crowning jewel of Brooklyn's “hipster” quantifier, Williamsburg has a reputation that precedes itself. With its buzzing music scene and food vendor population, the artistic and trend-setting neighborhood constantly beckons Manhattanites to make the short trek into the borough, either by hopping on the L train or boarding the East River Ferry. Home to plentiful cocktail bars, fun artisanal shops, a dynamic art scene and diverse restaurants, present-day Williamsburg is definitely worth the visit, or better yet – a residency.

One of Williamsburg's most prized destinations is Brooklyn Flea, which has racked up numerous accolades since its debut in 2008. Situated along the East River waterfront, the flea market invites vendors each weekend of the year to showcase and sell furniture, vintage clothing, antiques, art, jewelry, food and more. Perhaps best known of all at the site is Smorgasburg, the outdoor food festival that has grown to dominate Saturdays in Williamsburg during the spring and summer, offering over 100 local and regional vendors.

Renowned for its many longstanding and up-and-coming restaurants, Williamsburg has also evolved into a widely acclaimed culinary destination. The neighborhood hosts options for the most adventurous and the pickiest of eaters, with five-star restaurants specializing in Peruvian, Japanese, American, BBQ, Italian and more. In true New York City fashion, Williamsburg offers hip tapas bars and young music venues down the street from Peter Luger, the most longstanding of upscale steak restaurants.

Though full of many chic nightlife venues, the area has increasingly seen more and more action during the day, particularly in the warmer months. Promoters have been known to advertise daytime pop-up parties wherever the opportunity presents itself, whether a parking lot, rooftop, patio or park. The bar scene does not disappoint at any time of day, however, with a constant influx of modern establishments including bars with built-in arcades, video screening rooms, and outdoor patios.

An influential center of culture as well, live music venues abound across the neighborhood, at locations for all ages including bowling alleys, beer gardens, cocktail bars and concert halls. Williamsburg is also home to many art galleries, maintaining those with deep community roots as well as constantly welcoming new talent and flair.

HISTORY

Williamsburg's history dates back much further than this acclaimed bridge, however. In 1638, the Dutch West India Company purchased the region from local Native Americans. The area remained predominantly farmland until the late 18th century, when wealthy New Yorker Richard Woodhull purchased it with the intent to suburbanize, hiring Colonel Jonathan Williams to construct a street grid and honoring him in the neighborhood's new name, Williamsburgh. Over the course of the next century, the town was officially incorporated as a village, consolidated into the City of Brooklyn, and annexed by Manhattan along with the borough in 1898. Somewhere along the way, the "h" was dropped, and Williamsburgh became Williamsburg.

At the turn of the 20th century, Williamsburg saw an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and its population quickly doubled. Rapid public housing projects sprung up to accommodate the newcomers, who were drawn to the area's budding industrial lifestyle and factory jobs. Over time, the area grew to be largely poor, a setting that Betty Smith immortalized in her acclaimed novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Immigration continued throughout the 1960s, until a decline in work led to widespread unemployment, social unrest, and increased crime.

In more recent history, Williamsburg became home to a budding community of artists, who were drawn to the area by the low rents. The newcomers made lofts out of the spacious, former factories, and began opening galleries, shops, and restaurants, and are largely responsible for what the area has become today. Now, Williamsburg is regarded as a cultural mecca with ongoing new development and cutting-edge innovation.

In the past few years, Brooklyn has gained worldwide recognition, surpassing its status as a neighborhood and becoming a distinct brand. In line with this thriving image, Williamsburg has specifically seen increased traction due to both its proximity to the waterfront and its rich retail, restaurant, bar and hotel scenes. The past few years alone have seen in influx of new development in the area, including both full-block condominiums and LEED-certified rental buildings alike.

LANDSCAPE

The area is bordered to the north by Greenpoint; the east by East Williamsburg and Ridgewood, Queens; the south by Bedford-Stuyvesant; and the west by the East River and Fort Greene.

McCarren Park reigns as the largest park in Williamsburg, with a running track, baseball fields, dog parks and a Greenmarket. Rounding out the neighborhood's outdoor recreation department are East River Park, Grand Ferry Park, McGoldrick Park and Northside Piers.

Way back before the L became the prevailing means of travel into Brooklyn, the Williamsburg Bridge did the trick. At the time of its opening in 1903, the structure reigned as the largest suspension bridge on earth, and was named a National Historic Engineering Landmark over a century later in 2009.

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