New York invented the wonderfully dismissive concept of the “bridge-and-tunnel crowd”, the weekend phenomenon of wannabes from the outer boroughs, desperate for a slice of Manhattan magic, pouring across the East River onto the Island.
Today, the direction of travel has reversed, with Brooklyn luring modish Manhattanites like moths to a flame.
So how did the originally Dutch “Broken Land”, previously famed for Saturday Night Fever Travoltas and GoodFellas wiseguys, become a mecca for hipsters? Several reasons contribute: property prices for warehouses and brownstones are (or were) way down on Manhattan’s; the rise and rise of local boy Jay Z; and the success of Lena Dunham’s Girls have also helped boost its cred. Other names have decamped here, too: Patrick Stewart, Martin Amis, Anne Hathaway and Steve Buscemi (obvs).
Tom Barber is a founding editor of award-winning travel company originaltravel.co.uk
Within easy reach of the Williamsburg Bridge (and Manhattan beyond), the Wythe Hotel is a converted factory looming over the surrounding warehouses. It’s new from the owner of hip local joints Diner and Marlow & Sons, so it’s no surprise that the restaurant, Reynard, is suitably excellent and always packed. The lofty rooftop bar has superb views back over the Manhattan skyline, as do many of its rooms, some of which include bunks, designed for visiting bands, natch. wythehotel.com
As its mash-up name implies, Smorgasburg is a self-contained foodie township, the culinary counterpart of the neighbouring (and uber-cool) Brooklyn Flea Market. When you’ve bought your fill of vintage and vinyl, refuel at over 100 food vendors. Try the “kugel double down” sandwiches (using egg-noodle slices in place of bread) from Jewish foodies Scharf & Zoyer. The trending filling? Caramelised onions, dill, cheese and fried chicken skin. Outstanding. smorgasburg.com
The oyster bar beneath Grand Central Station is arguably the greatest place to eat our favourite bivalve, but Maison Premiere on Bedford Avenue is Brooklyn’s best. Enjoy a compare-and-contrast platter of five local varieties, washed down with absinthe on tap. Then doze off. maisonpremiere.com
Williamsburg’s Radegast Hall is a classic beer tavern that merits a visit. But this being winter, you’ll want to grab a classic mulled brew and sit by the roaring fire at the low-lit and cosy Black Mountain Wine House on Union Street. blackmountainwinehouse.com
In the middle of Williamsburg, Cameo is a “kaleidoscopic arts hub”, that acts as both restaurant and venue. There’s the Lovin’ Cup Café out front and a high-ceilinged venue/exhibition space in the back where stand-ups riff, bands rock and DJs spin, depending on the night you go. cameony.net
Post-Wiggins 2012, cycling is booming in the UK. Keep ahead of the pack at home with a bike kit from Bamboo Bike Studio. At their Red Hook workshop, they’ll measure you up and a fortnight later will ship the parts to you so you can assemble your own bike. bamboobikestudio.useful-arts.com
After a big night out, the perfect hangover cure is a walk up to Brooklyn Heights Promenade for great views of Manhattan. The view from the less salubrious side of the river is always better than from its prettier side. And that’s true here more than anywhere. nyharborparks.org
Visit Red Hook, a lo-fi, low-rise westerly waterfront promontory of Brooklyn badly battered in 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. Enjoy the views of the Statue of Liberty, then hit shabby-chic Sunny’s bar, newly reopened after benefactors and regulars ran an internet campaign to raise refit funds. sunnysredhook.com
Go for brunch: NYC invented it and does it best. We nominate Buttermilk Channel on Court Street. The menu is a list of grills, well-made burgers and eggs every which way. Best of all are the Bloody Mary options: try a Star of the Sea – celery and pepper vodka with an oyster garnish. buttermilkchannelnyc.com
Manhattan. So over. OK, maybe not, but it certainly has some competition now.
Close to JFK, Brooklyn is perfect for Christmas shopping weekends and the competitive Christmas lights shows. Every December, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge welcome visitors who gawp at the festive displays adorning many homes. Some of this might be postmodern irony – but not every house belongs to hipsters, surely?
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both operate multiple flights daily.