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.

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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 (, 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 ( 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 (, also in Williamsburg, are just £5 and include a tasting session. Impressed? Explore more of the US of A’s craft brews at Barcade (, 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 (

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THE VIBE: Arguably the area that kicked off Brooklyn’s reputation revamp, DUMBO – which stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass – is the borough’s artsiest district.

This industrial relic blends shabby-looking factories and warehouses, once manufacturing complexes that churned out everything from coffee and spices to boots and shoes in the late 19th century, with world-class views of Manhattan’s waterfront. Real estate developer David Walentas is credited with inventing DUMBO after he turned the neighbourhood’s derelict buildings into artists’ studios and desirable loft apartments in the Eighties. However, even though DUMBO has long been considered ‘cool’, it has retained its gritty looks rather than gentrified completely.

DON’T MISS: You can’t get much further Off-Broadway than at St Ann’s Warehouse (, which puts on avant-garde theatre in a cavernous edifice – January’s show, Opus No. 7, is a Russian production featuring puppets, dancing pianos and acrobats, for example.

The streets around here are great for discovering indie boutiques selling locally crafted clothes and ducking into artists’ lofts for a peek at their wares. A walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park is also essential ( Though not quite the right spot for a quiet picnic, thanks to the subway trains rolling noisily over Manhattan Bridge nearby, the views of the Manhattan skyline across the river are unmatched.

Walk in the direction of the Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn and you’ll arrive at Jane’s Carousel (, a historic carnival ride from the Twenties that the wife of DUMBO founder David Walentas, Jane, painstakingly restored over 27 years. It’s just £1.20 to pony up and relive your childhood.

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Crown Heights

THE VIBE: Even a Brooklynite might baulk at this pick, but the once-grotty neighbourhood of Crown Heights is fast becoming the borough’s best-kept secret. The more tense times of CH’s past – its large African-American community and smaller Jewish population clashed most severely in the Crown Heights Riot of 1991 – now seem long-forgotten and, while ever-more signs of gentrification pop up along Franklin Avenue in particular, only a handful of hip folks seem to have copped on.

DON’T MISS: A stroll down Franklin Avenue will unveil any number of treasures these days – where once you found discount stores, cheap salons and palm readers, now you can’t avoid spotting brand-new indie fashion boutiques, vintage stores, cute coffee shops and craft brew bars.

Don’t miss Dutch Boy Burger (, which is a go-to spot for restaurateur Tom Byng, the man behind the UK’s Byron burger chain, when designing his own menus. Along with mean burgers and beers, you can really rack up the calories with their bourbon milkshake or pop in on ‘Duck Fat Sundays’, when everything on the menu is fried in – you guessed it – duck fat. If you’re keen on absorbing more than just grease, a short walk from Franklin is the brilliant Brooklyn Museum (, which showcases grassroots art and only asks for a suggested donation on entry, a far cry from the £15 entrance fee at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

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Downtown Brooklyn

THE VIBE: This district feels more commercial than most, dominated as it is by the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower – an architectural icon from the Twenties and one of the tallest four-sided clock towers in the world – and legions of high street shops, including Target (, which New Yorkers are fond of pronouncing “Tarjay” in much the same way a Londoner might refer to Primark as “Primarni”. Expect a better bargain here than at Bloomingdales.

DON’T MISS: There are two crucial stops to make in this ‘hood. One is Junior’s (, famous for baking the best cheesecake in Brooklyn (or, as they insist, “the world’s most fabulous cheesecake”) since 1950 – one story even has it that the diner caught fire in 1981 and attracted a crowd of people chanting “save the cheesecake!”.

The other is the Brooklyn Academy of Music, better known as BAM ( The multi-arts centre, at 150 years old, is America’s oldest and has a great programme of film, theatre, dance and music. A recent run of Faust: A Love Story – an aerial circus reimagining of Goethe’s Faust set to music by Nick Cave – is typical of BAM’s edgy offerings and tickets to most shows start at just £15, making it a far more affordable option than Broadway.

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Park Slope

THE VIBE: This neighbourhood in western Brooklyn is the picture of middle class suburbia, NYC-style; far from coming off as dull, the clichéd effects of increased affluence (farmers’ markets, community food co-ops, yummy mummies) are offset by a creative culinary scene and lots of green spaces. It’s also a great spot for seeing historic Brooklyn brownstones – the streets are lined with the borough’s distinctive terraced housing, built from brown sandstone.

DON’T MISS: An entrenched New York tradition is going out for brunch at the weekend – always paired with a bloody mary or a mimosa – and Park Slope offers some of the city’s best.

Try hot new opening Talde (, the brainchild of Asian-American Top Chef contestant Dale Talde, which offers a breakfasty riff on classic Asian dishes. Sure, breakfast ramen (buttered toast broth, honey-glazed bacon, six-minute egg) and spicy Korean chicken wings with waffles drenched in coconut brown butter syrup might sound weird, but boy, do they work.

Then walk it off at Prospect Park (, designed by the guys behind Central Park. It’s a more manageable space than its big brother (585 acres to Central’s 843), perfect for a mellow stroll or a game of Frisbee, or stopping by the baseball fields to spectate in the sunshine. Bliss.

You can’t completely ignore Brooklyn’s not-so-cool neighbour. Here are our essential picks from Manhattan. 

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The High Line

A public park, but not as you know it, the High Line is built on a disused freight train line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. It’s ingenious because you can stroll around the city and admire the views without the street-level traffic mayhem. There’s also a regular programme of art on the High Line, from exhibitions to performances, and even free sun loungers for you to laze on if it’s a summer’s day – our favourite way to soak up the views.

Guggenheim museum

Worth a visit for the building itself, which is designed in the shape of a spiral that you ascend and descend while viewing the art on display. Right on Fifth Avenue, this is an iconic-looking part of the city, and Central Park is just across the road for a contemplative wander afterwards.

Empire State Building

While its stature has long been overshadowed by the likes of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the ESB still has the best views. See the island reduced to the appearance of a toy town model from the open-air, 360-degree observation deck on the 86th floor.

Getting there

You can fly direct from London Heathrow to JFK Airport from £380 return with Delta, if you’re flexible with your dates. Visiting NYC around the Christmas period can cost twice as much. 

When to go: There’s no bad time to visit New York City. Sure, summer gets crazy hot (up to 38ºC), but there are open-air concerts and the like to enjoy. Winter can be freezing (below 0ºC), but the prices drop, too. This, however, is not true of Christmas, when rates rocket.

Currency: £1 = US$1.61

Accommodation: For a cheap bed in Brooklyn, head to ZIP112, a brilliant hostel in trendy Williamsburg. Beds from around £30pn. In Manhattan, the hotel @ times square offers doubles from £84pn this January.


Want to take a bite out of the big apple? Great deals are waiting for you at TNT Tour Search.