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Once upon a time, a Manhattanite would probably have preferred to bed down with the city’s army of subway rats than move to Brooklyn.

Think of the haughty horror that met Miranda’s fate in the final episodes of Sex And The City, when her emigration to the borough prompted aghast howls of “Brooklyn?!” from the accompanying trio of vacuous fluffheads. 

But in recent years Brooklyn has emerged as the capital of cultural cool in the US. Where once it was considered a collection of immigrant slums and a stronghold for organised crime, it is now the undisputed epicentre of New York’s counterculture. King’s County has grabbed the baton from the East Village with its cutting edge art, too-cool-for-school bands and impressive indie food scene (Bon Appetit magazine named two Brooklyn eateries, Blanca and Battersby, in this year’s ‘Best New Restaurants in America’ list, and none from Manhattan). 

Still, while even the infamous Manhattan pride has succumbed to Brooklyn’s thrall – young couples, media types, hipsters, artists and restaurateurs are flocking over the bridge thanks to the borough’s fresh appeal and affordable rents – tourists continue to content themselves with the Statue of Liberty and Bloomingdales. Sure, Manhattan has its must-see gimmicks, but you’ve got to cross the East River to see where the real New York City is at. Here, we highlight five Brooklyn neighbourhoods you can’t afford to miss.

Williamsburg

THE VIBE: Pretty much the birthplace of the modern world’s understanding of the word ‘hipster’ – though don’t let that put you off. The borough is known for its ‘three H’s’ – the Hasidics and Hispanics who once characterised the neighbourhood, and those darned hipsters now more often associated with it (2003’s satirical guide The Hipster Handbook was penned by Williamsburg resident Robert Lanham in response to the phenomenon). Young dudes in plaid shirts and Elvis Costello glasses are par for the course, but the resultant bar, music and food scene more than makes up for it.

DON’T MISS: Catch the next big Brooklyn band – MGMT, Grizzly Bear, TV On the Radio and Vampire Weekend all hail from the borough – at Brooklyn Bowl (brooklynbowl.com), a bowling-alley-meets-live-music-venue. The menu here goes big on fried chicken, which is something of a theme in Williamsburg, where a number of happening places serve up gourmet takes on southern soul food. The Commodore (366 Metropolitan Ave; tel. 001 718 218 7632) is where you’ll learn how to add honey and hot sauce to your chicken and biscuits (the latter, a southern staple, is essentially a savoury scone).

Pies ‘n’ Thighs (news.piesnthighs.com) is the place that will seriously ruin KFC for you forever, though, and rounds everything off with down-home cooking classics including Key lime and bourbon pecan pie. Probably Brooklyn’s best global ambassador is Brooklyn lager, the brew that changed the rest of the world’s attitude to US beer (its deep malt and hops flavours are the antithesis of light lagers such as Budweiser).

‘Small batch’ tours at the Brooklyn Brewery (brooklynbrewery.com), also in Williamsburg, are just £5 and include a tasting session. Impressed? Explore more of the US of A’s craft brews at Barcade (barcadebrooklyn.com), a wonderfully understated brew bar with more than 20 rotating beers on tap and walls lined with vintage arcade games. Plus, while they don’t do food, they do provide takeout menus from their favourite Williamsburg eateries so you can order in. Do your tastebuds a favour and order the sausage fennel pizza from Fornino’s (forninopizza.com).


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Big Trip: Forget Manhattan - Mosey over to Brooklyn for a real New York experience
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