A Couchsurfer’s Guide to… Williamsburg (NYC)

Mike is the Community Manager at Couchsurfing and has lived in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Virginia) for 3 years. He is here to give you his hot tips so you can finally relax now that you’re out of the stress of Manhattan!

Williamsburg Bridge by Ryan DeBerardinis / shutterstock

Best breakfast in town!
In New York City we take brunch (and breakfast by extension) very seriously. So most restaurants will have a kick-ass breakfast. I love Egg and Sundays in Brooklyn for a sit-down moment, but if you’re on the run, Bedford Cheese Shop does a great Lox Bagel. And have you even been to New York if you haven’t had a Lox Bagel?

An experience not to miss!
Smorgasburg is a must-do if you’re here for the 6 months it’s open! A ton of food vendors all set up in this large parking lot on Saturday and you just walk from place to place getting unique foods like ramen burgers and delicious ice cream! The park is right on the water, so you sit on picnic tables (or the grass) and just eat, hang with friends and enjoy the burg!

Smorgasburg by Gregorio Koji / shutterstock

Best place to grab a drink!
Oh, wow. Ok. Now we’re talking. If you want cute, not-crowded, cocktail bars – you have come to the right place. St. Mazie has a great atmosphere and live music on Thursday and Friday. The William Vale Rooftop bar (22nd floor) is a great view of Manhattan, and my personal favorite dive bar is Lucky Dog which is a dog-friendly bar with a huge backyard. Metropolitan is our local gay bar if you’re looking for an LGBT space with some truly terrible Karaoke (I would know, I have done it!)

Family Fun!
If you’re here with family, check out Domino Park. Recently opened on the East River in the shadow of the former Domino Sugar Factory, it is a beautiful waterfront park with a jungle gym, fountains and grass to lay in! There’s also a volleyball court and eventually the Factory is opening a museum. It’s a must-see for all, families and singles!

Domino Park (and factory) by solepsizm / shutterstock

Where to dance!
The Woods and Baby’s Alright are popular dance bars but if you want to get WILD then House of Yes and Elsewhere are what you’re looking for.

Cute cafe!
Where to begin. To get my recommendation for a cafe it must meet three expectations. 1) They serve drip coffee (I’m sorry, I’m American!) 2) They have a good vibe that is conducive for writing a memoir (I am not writing a memoir). 3) I can sit on my laptop without judgmental stares. The 4 that come to mind immediately are: Freehold, Partners, Black Brick and Hungry Ghost.

Bedford Av is the main street through Williamsburg and where many great cafes and restaurants are. Photo by jumis / shutterstock

A treat-yourself meal!
Honestly, everything in New York is pretty expensive so everything will be a treat yourself – but I think the chicest local joint is Maison Premiere if we’re talking quality and ambiance. Go early for happy hour or be prepared to wait.

Where to sweat!
You can run across the Williamsburg Bridge if you want to practice your hills (enter at Bedford and S5th St.)! If not, then take a run along the East River, start at Domino Park and head north. There are various sections that are completed and connected making a beautiful path up through Greenpoint. BUT if you want the true New Yorker sweat – you gotta take a class! Sync, Soul Cycle, CorePower and Alo Yoga all have studios in Williamsburg and offer cycling, HIIT, Yoga and many others.

Cycle and Pedestrian lane on the Williamsburg Bridge by Nielskliim / shutterstock

A tourist-trap to avoid!
I honestly think that rooftops are very overrated. They are expensive, crowded, and after you see the view you’re just at a bar that has little character. There are so many amazing places to hang out in Williamsburg that will give you a chance to talk with locals (like any bar listed above), Domino Park has a taco place with margaritas and micheladas, and after you see the William Vale, keep going and check out the VERY cool Brooklyn Barge (technically in Greenpoint, but hey, it’s not like you need a passport!)

The perfect picture!
I am assuming you have enough photos of the skyline at this point, so I would say walk around and get some photos in front of the awesome street art! Although our neighbor to the east, Bushwick, has the much more famous Bushwick Collective we also have some amazing graffiti on our streets. Stop. Take a pic. Do something embarrassing. No one will judge you. (JK they will, but who cares!)

Me (Mike Joy) jumping in front of a Naveen Shakil Mural in Williamsburg

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