Williamsburg, America’s cool haven

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Heading to New York for its mammoth New Year’s celebrations? You might want to check out Williamsburg, America’s most achingly cool haven – and all the new bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels it has to offer. By James Wilkinson

Hopping on the L train to Bedford Avenue certainly isn’t a new thing to do in New York, but each time when visiting NYC, it certainly seems like something fresh, thanks to the constant flow of new eateries, bars and hotels opening in America’s hippest hood. If you’re thinking of joining the famous New York New Year’s celebrations this year, find some time to cross the East River, to check out the latest in cool…

See and do
Each weekend the team at Brooklyn Flea (winter location at 80 North 5th St at Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, brooklynflea.com) put on a series of markets across the borough. Held on Saturdays, Smorgasburg features stalls from vendors like Momofuku Milk Bar and the Red Hook Lobster Pound from Maine. The next day, Williamsburg Flea is home base for hipsters – expect to find vintage spectacle frames, band T-shirts and clever silver jewellery as well as a shedload of secondhand furniture and assorted junk. Normally held on the East River Waterfront, in the winter, the market moves indoors to a new location – and this year, it takes up residence in a new 50,000sq ft premises, with space for over 200 vendors and around 75 food spots.
If you are staying over in the city, a great way to get to Williamsburg is on a bike, traversing lower Manhattan and heading over the Brooklyn Bridge. Time Out recommends Bike and Roll (bikeandroll.com), a company that also offers tours of Brooklyn neighbourhoods and the challenging but fun New York at Night tour.

Shop
Rony Vardi’s Catbird is the first stop in the district for accessories, jewellery and house goodies (219 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, +1 718 599 3457; catbirdnyc.com), while for vinyl, music paraphernalia and homemade totes, visit record label owner Mari Ayabe’s boutique MeMe Antenna (218 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, +1 347 223 4219; memeantenna.com). Next door, hipster bookworms get their novels from Spoonbill & Sugartown, a shop where you’re bound to find a great secondhand treasure (218 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, +1 718 387 7322; spoonbillbooks.com) and at Ugly Luggage, browse through antique accessories from the 1930s to the 1980s (214 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, +1 718 384 0724).

Eat and drink
When you hop off the L, grab a Swedish coffee at Konditori and some kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) if you’re peckish (167 North 7th St, at Bedford, Williamsburg, +1 347 529 4803; konditorinyc.com) or if brunch is more your speed, grab a sandwich from Waffle & Wolf (413 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, +1 347 889 6240; waffleandwolf.com). In recent years, Brooklyn Lager has been a more regular sight in Hong Kong and to taste it at its best, hit the Brooklyn Brewery (79 North 11th St, Williamsburg. +1 718 486 7422; brooklynbrewery.com), where reservation-only tours cost $8 and are available 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday. 

From drinks with house-made ginger soda to Time Out’s top tipple, the Clams Casino (tomato juice and beer), they do it in a rocking way at Tender Trap (245 South 1st St, Williamsburg, +1 347 763 1825; tendertrapbk.com), a dive bar owned by a couple of well-heeled locals, nightlife tsar Ryan Virag and BMX pro Darryl Nau. Expect a beer and a shot for $6 and a few BMX riders in hoodies from the skate park around the corner.

For Sazeracs with a view, head to the Ides Bar atop The Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, +1 718 460 8000; wythehotel.com) where most drinks creep under the $15 mark. If you’re craving a beer, order a Brooklyn Radius or an Allegash White, but if it’s cocktails you are after then a Sazerac or Vesper it should be. Score a seat at the tavernesque Gwynnett St (312 Graham Ave, Williamsburg, +1 347 889 7002; gwynnettst.com), where chef Justin Hilbert serves up a rustic array of dishes including salads, slow-roasted lamb and brine-soaked chicken breast that’s served on edible dirt (hay ash). Before you start, kick your heels into a Crow’s Nest (El Dorado 12YO rum, Falernum, Amaro Sibilla, Dolin Blanc and Absinthe) and don’t go past the sponge cake for dessert.

Where to stay
The Aloft Brooklyn – think a W hotel minus the glam – debuted in the borough recently and offers value for money in the heart of downtown. 216 Duffield St, Brooklyn, +1 868 716 8143; aloftnewyorkbrooklyn.com

Over in Manhattan, bed down at the Gansevoort Park, a hotel that’s known for its hip, oversized rooms, and its rooftop, which features the best poolside bar north of Union Square. 420 Park Ave South, New York, +1 212 317 2900; gansevoortpark.com

Get there
Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com) flies direct from Hong Kong to New York several times daily from $8,680, exc taxes and surcharges. 

Stay in the know
For more hot Williamsburg tips, visit Time Out New York (timeout.com/newyork).

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