For anyone who equates New York City with Manhattan, Brooklyn will come as a bit of a jolt. The most populous of the five boroughs has a very different feel to it.
Brooklyn has enough to merit its own trip if you plan to visit New York
For anyone who equates New York City with Manhattan, Brooklyn will come as a bit of a jolt. The most populous of the five boroughs has a very different feel to it. The two major parks reflect the boroughs they are in. Central Park in Manhattan is primped and showy, but Brooklyn's Prospect Park is wilder and more forest-like, feeling more relaxed and casually dressed.
Brooklyn has traditionally been no-nonsense and blue-collar. But recent influxes of artists and creative types have led to rapid infusions of youthful energy and, in turn, gentrification.
Unlike Manhattan, Brooklyn doesn't come with a ticklist of must-see attractions. But it doesn't have the pressurised intensity either - it's much more suited to leisurely-paced exploration. It rewards those who come to hang out and make their own discoveries rather than charge around taking photographs of someone else's.
A comfortable bed
The newly-opened Wythe Hotel (www.wythehotel.com; 00 1 718 460 8000) in Williamsburg is an astonishing example of industrial conversion. The exposed brickwork of the former sugar cooperage remains, but the high ceilings, huge windows and skyline views make it truly spectacular. Manhattan View rooms cost from $344 (Dh1,263) including tax.
If opting for Downtown Brooklyn, the Nu Hotel (www.nuhotelbrooklyn.com; 00 1 718 852 8585) is a smartly designed but unpretentious affair. Rooms are spacious by New York standards and little additions such as complimentary bikes for guests indicate a notably impressive service ethic. King rooms cost from $213 (Dh782) including tax.
The Aloft (www.aloftnewyorkbrooklyn.com; 00 1 718 256 3833) is a young, fresh-feeling option with large flatscreen TVs, oversized showers and loft-style high ceilings as standard. King rooms start at $232 (Dh851) including tax.
Find your feet
New Yorkers rave about the Brooklyn Bridge, and with good reason. It may be a tangle of cables, but it looks serenely beautiful as it spans the East River. The park underneath it merges into the Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) district, which has become a major arts hub. Old warehouses have become studios and galleries, whilst craft shops and cafes line Front Street.
From there, stroll south through Downtown Brooklyn and into the old subway station that now plays host to the New York Transit Museum (www.mta.info/mta/museum; 00 1 718 694 3451).
A dogleg to the south-west will bring you out at 5th Avenue as it runs through the family-focused area of Park Slope. There's a great mix of independent shops, bars and eateries here, while an uphill huff and puff past the handsome brownstone houses takes you to the edge of Prospect Park. At the north-eastern end of the park are the Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum (www.brooklynmuseum.org; 00 1 718 638 5000) - the latter is famed for its Egyptology collection, but has a strong smattering of European art masterpieces too.
Meet the locals
It depends what sort of local you want to meet. For the young, arty set and those that have followed them into Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Brewery (www.brooklynbrewery.com; 00 1 718 486 7422) and neighbouring Brooklyn Bowl (www.brooklynbowl.com; 00 1 718 963 3369) are excellent. The former is large, egalitarian and sociable, the latter has made ten-pin bowling cool, often having live bands and DJs in attendance.
For a taste of old world Brooklyn, however, the rickety fairground rides, hot dog stalls and seagull-strewn boardwalk of Coney Island offer a wonderful timewarp.
Book a table
Roberta's (www.robertaspizza.com; 00 1 718 417 1118) typifies the sort of joint that has transformed Bushwick into the new hip hub of Brooklyn. It's in an old garage, the pizzas are excellent, waits for a table are standard and a radio station broadcasts from the back. The pizzas cost between $12 and $17 (Dh44 to Dh62).
Peter Luger's (www.peterluger.com; 00 1 718 387 7400), meanwhile, is more determinedly old-fashioned with its wood-panelled walls and bow-tied waiters. It can afford to be - it's widely recognised to serve the best steaks in New York. Steaks start at $44 (Dh162).
Brooklyn's best shopping suits foraging types who are prepared to sift through the junk to find the treasure. Beacon's Closet (www.beaconscloset.com; 00 1 718 486 0816) is a high intensity swap shop, which buys and sells second-hand clothing and is preyed upon by fashion addicts attempting to get the perfect vintage outfit. The much-loved Brooklyn Flea (www.brooklynflea.com) goes beyond the clothing to sell just about everything - it's as much a social event as a shopping outing. It's held at Fort Greene on Saturdays and the East River Waterfront in Williamsburg on Sundays.
What to avoid
Don't try and cover too much across various areas of Brooklyn at the weekend. If there's construction work on the subway network (which there frequently is), seemingly simple journeys along one line can turn into tear-inducing, utterly confusing diversions via Manhattan and four different trains.
The most intriguing artworks in Brooklyn aren't in the Brooklyn Museum - they're out on the streets. The street art scene here is huge; murals, stencils and subversive guerrilla alterations of roadsigns crop up all over Williamsburg and Bushwick. Levy's Unique Tours (www.levysuniqueny.com; 00 1 877 692 5869) offers private tours around many of the best street art works. Prices start at $200 (Dh734) for two people, for two hours.
Etihad Airways (www.etihad.ae) offers return economy flights from Abu Dhabi to New York from Dh6,150 return, including taxes.