15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Brooklyn

Written by Jenny Hart
Updated on
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Downtown Brooklyn is a compact urban nucleus in the Brooklyn suburb of New York City. Nestled between Clinton Hill and Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn is an area which is, in general, dedicated to commercial and financial purposes and ranks as the Big Apple’s third-largest business district. Does that mean there’s not much to do there? It certainly doesn’t.

There’s a lot going on in Downtown Brooklyn both socially and culturally. Think fascinating underground museums, iconic towers, and seriously eclectic bars. Superb green spaces, street-length shopping malls, first-class theaters, and rooftop Zen-style restaurants, Downtown Brooklyn has them all.

Save yourself time searching for them when you get there. Check out the best fifteen things to do in Downtown Brooklyn here.

1. Fulton Mall

Fulton MallSource: Steven Pisano / Flickr
Fulton Mall

Walk the length of the Fulton Mall, and you’ll discover not just multiple retail outlets, eateries, and bars but the real Downtown Brooklyn vibe. You won’t be alone either; the mall has at least a hundred thousand visitors every day.

Shop at big name stores like Macy’s, Banana Republic or Gap then drop into some of the smaller stores and pick up anything from a hip-hop style dental grillz to the latest mobile phone.

The restaurants in the Fulton Mall are as diverse as the shops and serve everything from an Indian biryani to that staple favorite, the all-American hot dog.You won’t go hungry during your session of retail therapy at the Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn that’s for sure.

2. New York Transit Museum

New York Transit Museum, BrooklynSource: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum on, or rather under, Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn is dedicated to the history of New York’s transport system.

Head down the stairs into a de-commissioned, but beautifully renovated 1936 subway station to view an incredible array of vintage subway cars, exhibitions about the underground tunnel systems and the people who built them, plus antique street level buses and trolleys. There are also fascinating displays of ticket machines, fire hydrants, and signage.

If your visit to Downtown Brooklyn falls between Thanksgiving and New Year, don’t miss the Nostalgia Train and taking a ride on one of the vintage, but fully operational, 1930 R1/9 cars through nine stops on the subway system.

3. Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower

Williamsburgh Savings Bank TowerSource: Frank Romeo / shutterstock
Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower was constructed in the late 1920’s and is Downtown Brooklyn’s iconic landmark.

The photo-worthy building, at over five hundred feet tall, looms over everything around it and is topped by a domed, four-faced clock tower.

The tower, which has had many uses during its century of life including being the headquarters of several banks, has now been converted into luxury living space and offices.

4. Kimoto Rooftop Lounge

Kimoto Rooftop LoungeSource: www.kimotorooftop.com
Kimoto Rooftop Lounge

The Kimoto Rooftop Lounge on Duffield Street in Downtown Brooklyn serves delectable food in a Zen-style garden setting with incomparable views of the Downtown skyline.

Be seated at one of the wooden tables amid an indoor rock garden flourishing with over three hundred plants and bonsai trees. Then choose a dish like Tiger Shrimp Teriyaki or a Dragon Burger from the Japanese-influenced menu. They’ll set your taste buds alight brighter than the glistening lights of Downtown Brooklyn at night.

Just want a drink while watching the sun go down on Brooklyn? Try the Komodo Dragon cocktail, or if there’s a wintery nip in the air, a glass of hot Sake. Unbeatable!

5. Barclays Center

Barclays Center, BrooklynSource: T photography / shutterstock
Barclays Center

When in Downtown Brooklyn Head to the Barclays Center to catch a concert or some sporting action.

The massive indoor venue on Atlantic Avenue has a seating capacity for over seventeen thousand spectators and hosts ice hockey and basketball games as well as boxing and wrestling matches. Major concert performances at the center have included top bands and stars like Mumford and Sons, Coldplay and Marc Antony.

Art fans shouldn’t miss seeing the mural by Jose Parla, The Diary of Brooklyn, which decorates the venue’s Dean Street entrance.

6. Cadman Plaza Park

Cadman Plaza Park, BrooklynSource: appleblossom0706 / Flickr
Cadman Plaza Park

Take a stroll through Cadman Plaza Park for a change of scene and a breath of fresh air in Downtown Brooklyn.

This beautiful green space, named after a 1930’s minister of the district has meandering pathways lined with trees, lawned areas ideal for a picnic and is home to several important, historical monuments.

Stop by to see the Brooklyn War Memorial with its famous inscription dedicated to the heroes who lost their lives during World War II.

7. Crawl Brooklyn

Crawl BrooklynSource: crawlbrooklyn.com
Crawl Brooklyn

One way to find out where all Downtown Brooklyn’s top nightspots are is to go on a guided bar crawl.

Meet up with your Crawl Brooklyn host at a pre-specified location and have a drink while mixing and mingling with the other crawlers before hitting the town.

Destinations are kept a secret, so no one knows where they’re going until they get there. It could be a plush cocktail bar or a DT dive. That’s all part of the fun and a great way of meeting people if you’re traveling on your own-some.

8. BAM Harvey Theater

BAM Harvey Theater, BrooklynSource: www.bam.org
BAM Harvey Theater

The BAM Harvey Theater is an early 1900’s historic building which has hosted everything from vaudeville to cinema to opera since its opening.

Completely renovated in the late 1980’s, the building has retained many of its original neo-classical features both inside and out.

The nine-hundred seat theater continues its long-standing tradition of having varied performances grace its stage, and it’s still the best place in Downtown Brooklyn to catch the latest dramas, musicals or ballet.

9. Junior’s

Junior's CheesecakeSource: facebook.com
Junior’s Cheesecake

Any visitor to New York just has to try a slice of the city’s famous cheesecake. There’s only one place to do that in Downtown Brooklyn, and that’s at Junior’s.

Junior’s on Downtown’s Flatbush Avenue has been serving up delicious slices of New York Cheesecake since the 1950’s as well as a whole range of deli-sandwiches, burgers, and ribs.

Go for an original NY Plain, a Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake or a slice topped with strawberries – the list is endless and so scrumptious they’ll leave you wanting more.

10. DeKalb Market Hall

DeKalb Market Hall, BrooklynSource: danielcgold / shutterstock
DeKalb Market Hall

Don’t expect to find your standard market stalls at the DeKalb Market Hall; this marketplace is all about food, food, more food, and the culinary experience.

The DeKalb Market Hall is located in Albee Square in Downtown Brooklyn and is home to over forty different pop-up eateries selling everything from Colombian arepas to Chinese noodles.

The market is open seven days a week from early until late, and the food is often accompanied with live music performances from upcoming local artists. It’s a real Downtown Brooklyn social hub.

11. Jazz 966

Jazz 966Source: facebook.com
Jazz 966

Friday night in Downtown Brooklyn is jazz night. Drop into Jazz 966 on DT’s Fulton Street to catch first class performances from the city’s top jazz musicians.

The club was originally opened in 1990 as a get-together place for the district’s senior to have somewhere to enjoy live music and dancing. Jazz 966 is now one of the top jazz clubs in New York and attracts guests of all ages.

There is no cover charge at the club, but they do operate a “suggested donation” scheme which helps fund the performances.

12. Walt Whitman Park

Walt Whitman Park, BrooklynSource: Charley Lhasa / Flickr
Walt Whitman Park

Take a literary break in the Walt Whitman Park just off Downtown Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza. Walt Whitman was a political campaigner and civil rights activist whose works celebrate his life and times.

The three-acre park is dedicated to “America’s Poet” as he is now known and there are various examples of his work displayed throughout the grounds.

The park is also a popular summer meeting place for chess players as games tables have been installed in one of its tree-lined plazas.

13. Green Market

Green MarketSource: Patrick Fleury / shutterstock
Green Market

While buying fresh fruit and vegetables might not be high up on your agenda of things to do when vacationing in Downtown Brooklyn, the Green Market is still worth a visit.

Held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year, and on Thursdays too from April to December, outside of the Brooklyn Borough Hall in Columbus Park, this market is a hive of local activity.

As well as produce stalls, there are cookery demonstrations and lots of food trucks with bistro-style terraces. There are several statues and a three-tiered fountain in Columbus Park which are worth a look too.

14. Brooklyn Academy Of Music

Brooklyn Academy Of MusicSource: Osugi / shutterstock
Brooklyn Academy Of Music

The Brooklyn Academy Of Music is a group of venues in Downtown Brooklyn dedicated to the performing arts in all the genres.

The Howard Gilman Opera House is a plush auditorium with tiered seating which can accommodate over two thousand people. The Fisher Building in DT’s Asher Place houses an intimate two-hundred and fifty seater black-box theater, the Fishman Space and the Fisher Hillman Studio. BAM also encompasses the Harvey Theater.

Don’t miss the BAMCafe in Lepercq Square which operates when there are shows at the Opera House and presents live music performances without an entrance charge.

15. House Of Wax

House Of WaxSource: thehouseofwax.com
House Of Wax

If opera and jazz or the theater are just not your thing, then the House of Wax probably will be. Diverse doesn’t even begin to describe this eclectic drinking hole in Albee Square in Downtown Brooklyn.

Sip on a drink while contemplating the macabre waxwork exhibitions of body parts which vary from torsos to bodiless heads to intestines. The décor has a touch of Victoriana, and there’s live music too.

It’s grotesque, but fun and definitely a different sort of place for a night out in Downtown Brooklyn.

15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Brooklyn:

  • Fulton Mall
  • New York Transit Museum
  • Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower
  • Kimoto Rooftop Lounge
  • Barclays Center
  • Cadman Plaza Park
  • Crawl Brooklyn
  • BAM Harvey Theater
  • Junior's
  • DeKalb Market Hall
  • Jazz 966
  • Walt Whitman Park
  • Green Market
  • Brooklyn Academy Of Music
  • House Of Wax