Situated along the East River, Williamsburg is a historic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City. This diverse district is home to large populations of Jewish, Eastern European, and Caribbean residents. Some notable attractions in the area include the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center and Continental Army Plaza. Click to book your From Grit to Hip, a Williamsburg walking tour.
Williamsburg Sightseeing & Recreation
Occupying approximately 7 acres, East River State Park is one of the premier green spaces in Williamsburg. As the name implies, this riverfront public space overlooks the East River. Originally used as a dockyard in the 19th century, the waterfront promenades now provide great views of the skyline of Lower and Midtown Manhattan.
Located just north of East River State Park, Bushwick Inlet Park includes a well-maintained field that’s used for soccer, football, lacrosse, and other sports. This athletic-oriented park also has some walkways along the river. Additionally, Grand Ferry Park and North 5th Street Pier and Park define the redeveloped waterfront of Williamsburg.
If you’re interested in architecture and engineering, you should find a spot on Kent Avenue to admire the Williamsburg Bridge. Built in 1903, this suspension bridge has dominated the scene of the neighborhood for generations. This historic infrastructure over the East River still has operational rail tracks for rapid transit.
The eastern terminus of the Williamsburg Bridge roughly ends at the Continental Army Plaza. This public square includes an equestrian statue of the great George Washington. As the name suggests, the plaza honors the victory of the Continental Army over British forces during the American Revolution.
One of the premier cultural venues in the neighborhood is the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center. This institution occupies a restored property that was once home to the Kings County Savings Bank. Art galleries, lectures, seminars, performing arts, and other interesting events are held at this center that’s located in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Williamsburg was established as a small village with three districts in the 1820s. Having a riverfront location, the community was perfectly suitable for the thriving maritime industries of the New York City area. The village was absorbed by the city of Brooklyn in the 1850s. By the end of the century, Brooklyn became an official borough of NYC. Since then, Williamsburg has seen an influx of immigrants from all over the world.
Immediately after World War II, a large wave of Hasidic Jews from Europe came to this already diverse neighborhood. Williamsburg is considered one of the largest Jewish enclaves in North America. Polish and Caribbean immigrants have also defined the face of the area in recent decades. Gentrification along the waterfront has dramatically transformed the traditional character of the neighborhood. For example, high-rise condominiums now dominate the scene near the North Williamsburg ferry terminal.
The Williamsburg Bridge connects Williamsburg with the Lower East Side district of Manhattan. Consisting of eight lanes, this bridge is one of the busiest in terms of daily vehicle traffic in New York City. The crossing merges with Interstate 278, an important highway that runs through Brooklyn and Queens. Additionally, the Williamsburg Bridge carries trains of the New York City Subway system. The J, M and Z lines cross the bridge and spread out into various neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
More than a dozen subway stations are scattered in Williamsburg, making it easily accessible from Manhattan. Most of the subway stops are located on Broadway, one of the busiest commercial thoroughfares in the district. You can also use Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses to reach Williamsburg. Having a traditional grid layout, the neighborhood is easy to navigate by foot and bicycle. The NYC Ferry also stops at the North Williamsburg dock between 5th and 6th streets.