24 Hours in Brooklyn with Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge

by Grace Bonney

This year we’re working hard to create a complete travel guide that compiles all of our favorite travel destinations and the must-visit spots within each. While we typically focus on longer-form guides, we thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit. So, starting today, we’ll be adding in additional city guides that are designed to show you one creative person’s ideal 24 hours in any given city. Today we’re keeping things at home, starting with my personal favorite spots in (North) Brooklyn. Brooklyn is far too big of a borough to see in 24 hours, so I’ve shared the places I actually go to on a regular basis. From the local dog park where I take Hope to the store where I pick up delicious ingredients for dinner, it’s all in here. So if you find yourself in Greenpoint or Williamsburg, I hope this guide will keep you well fueled (lattes at Five Leaves), well entertained (movies at Nighthawk) and well shopped (Moon River Chattel and Sprout Home, to name just a few). I hope to see you around the neighborhood! xo, grace

Illustration by Tuesday Bassen (download a larger version here)

Click through to read about my 15 favorite spots to hit up in a 24 hour visit to north Brooklyn…


1. Five Leaves 18 Bedford Avenue (at the corner of Lorimer): I get coffee at Five Leaves every. single. morning. Hope and I go to off leash at the same time every morning and then swing by to pick up my soy latte and Julia’s cappuccino. When I’m feeling like a little extra, I get a chocolate croissant. Say hi to Carlos and Austin, the main guys behind the coffee machines. One of our favorite waitresses, Frederica, just left, but our other favorites, Jackie and Lisa, are always there. You can never go wrong with their LEGENDARY ricotta pancakes or the pavlova for dessert.

2. McCarren Park: I’ve always been that weirdo that hung around and watched dogs play in the park when I didn’t even have one yet. Now I look a little less weird walking around with an actual dog by my side. Every morning between 8am and 9am, the cutest crop of dogs come to play without their leashes on. If you’re visiting and on your way to meet someone for breakfast, swing by and enjoy the explosion of cuteness that is off leash. In non-dog-related news, you can also ice skate in the McCarren Park Pool in the winter and swim there in the summer. I prefer just lounging under the trees in the summer with a picnic. Also keep an eye out for summer concerts on the tennis courts!

3. Catbird 219 Bedford Ave: I wasn’t the first person to fall in love with this store and I certainly won’t be the last. I go here, without fail, for Christmas gifts every year and trust it for any jewelry or super-girly need I may have. Lovey-dovey initial rings? Check. Sweet smelling bath salts? Yup. These girls also pretty much created the trend in stacking rings. I love this store so much I even got my wedding ring here. Hooray for Catbird!

4. Moon River Chattel 62 Grand street: This trusted shop is my go-to for bedding, tabletop and hardware. Everything has a “country home” sort of feel and has just the right amount of rustic mixed in. You can buy great new art and design books here, as well as reproduction antique hooks and baskets. Across the street at their Annex you can buy great salvage pieces like barn doors, old desks and beams.

5. Sprout Home and Floral 44 Grand street: This is one of the few shops in my neighborhood (besides Five Leaves) where I’d truly consider myself a regular. I buy flowers here on almost a weekly basis and hit up the separate plant shop in the spring and summer for new potted plants. Sprout has the best and most interesting selection of cut flowers in Brooklyn, period.

6. Nightwood 111 Grand Street: Nadia and Myriah’s woodworking and textile design has the sort of traditional-meets-contemporary feel that Brooklyn is so known for right now. I love their indigo-dyed wooden furniture and Nadia’s wall weavings. Look for special pieces from local artists like brass lighting, too.

7. Smorgasburg (Williamsburg waterfront): I’ve come to prefer the food version of the Brooklyn Flea over the actual flea itself. The vendors are new, exciting and full of great ideas. I love coming here for lunch any time, but it’s especially fun in the spring and summer when you can hop a ride to the Smorgasburg on the East River Ferry. (Don’t miss the Lumpia Shack- that’s my fav)

8. Brook Farm General 75 S 6th S: Brook Farm feels a bit off the main drag in Williamsburg, but is worth the visit. I love their selection of high-quality bedding and towels and their simple but timeless tableware. It’s a great place to go for a housewarming gift or just a little New Year cleaning gift.

9. Nighthawk Cinema 136 Metropolitan Ave: Amy turned me on to Nighthawk, a cool art theater that serves you food and drinks while you watch the movie (often theme-appropriate for the film). Come early- it can be tough to get a seat together with friends or a loved one if you’re too close to start time.

10. East River Ferry (for rides to and from Dumbo): This is the best thing that ever happened to Greenpoint. The G Train is notoriously slow and unreliable, so when the weather is warm, I prefer (no, LOVE!) taking the ferry to spots like south Williamsburg and Dumbo. It’s a gorgeous ride down the East River and a fun way to see the city and get some (relatively) fresh air. You can also bring your bike and take the ferry to midtown and downtown Manhattan and ride on from there.

11. Ash Box Cafe 1154 Manhattan Ave: At the tippy top end of Greenpoint is my favorite lunch spot. Run by a sweet team of people who all wear straw hats with floppy flowers on them, this Japanese cafe specializes in homemade tofu, fresh salads, onigiri and one heck of a killer egg sandwich. It is, without a doubt, my favorite egg salad sandwich around. Be sure to try their house made elixirs if you have time- they’re strong but tasty and helpful if you’re feeling run down.

12. Selamat Pagi 152 Driggs Ave: Selamat Pagi is owned by the same people who created Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream and it is DELICIOUS. We stumbled onto it earlier this fall and fell in love instantly. It’s tasty, affordable and full of great dishes to share. The fried rice is a must.

13. Rachel’s Garden (corner of Nassau and Eckford): This is my neighborhood grocery store. I know, a little odd to include, but it’s so delicious and so chock-full of fresh produce and incredible Polish specialties I couldn’t resist adding it. It’s where we go to buy almost everything we eat and if you spend over $50, you get a free giant chocolate bar.

14. Glasserie 95 Commercial St: This place is blowing up like CRAZY right now. The lines for dinner are super long, but I think it’s best at brunch time. Go early to avoid the line and get TONS of the flaky bread with labneh. It’s addictive.

15. Word Bookstore 126 Franklin St: My favorite local book store, led by an incredible team. They have a wonderful selection of art and food books, as well as great letterpress cards.

Suggested For You


  • Awe man, could have used this about a week ago! We skipped over most of Brooklyn because we didn’t know where to go and we’re overwhelmed by all the other things to do in the NYC area!

  • This is amazing, I’m visiting NYC in March and staying in Greenpoint – cannot wait to check these places out!

  • I bought my wedding rings at Catbird too! Satomi Kawakita <3
    I've lived in Greenpoint for 10 years now and even though it has changed so. much., I still love it to death.

  • I love this! I’ve been living near the Lorimer stop in Williamsburg for just over 6 months, so I know a lot of these places, and others have been on my list! I used to live in the Lower East Side, and I LOVED getting weekly arrangements at Flower Girl–but couldn’t find the same quality in Brooklyn. I can’t wait to check out Sprout! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Just great – tjis idea, concept and project. Do not hesitate to do your thing elsewhere as well. (fe Europe?)

  • I am often called to Brooklyn on business and end up sitting around the Hotel because I don’t know where to go for a meal, shopping, fun in my rare free-time. One of the problems is Taxi service (or lack of) in Brooklyn. All the cabs live there but work in Manhattan and all the car services charge a fortune (no two are the same pricing) to get around town. Your guide fills a nice need for me because now I can take walking tours. Thanks Grace.

    George Eastman

  • I love 24h travel guides, some of my favorite cities I’ve visited them in onde day the first time I went there (Amsterdam, Madrid…). Would you like to have a 24hours in Lisbon by a Portuguese? I’ve ligned up one months ago, because I’ve lived there many years and I love the city. I leave close now, in my small hometown, and go there whenever I can but started to have the need to have my personal “few hours but worth visiting” guide! If so, mail me!

  • We’re neighbors! I thought I saw you on Manhattan Avenue Sunday evening, and I guess I did! Lovely guide. If you don’t already know it, Spina (https://www.facebook.com/spinanyc) on Franklin St. at Greenpoint Ave. is a wonderful flower & coffee shop with a killer chai latte.

  • Another local flower option is NYC Farm Chic Flowers who specializes in selling US grown flowers displayed in USA made vases and recycled wraps. They even have their own backyard farm in Greenpoint. Typically, flower shops sell at least 80% imported flowers mostly from Columbia. Owner Debbie Demarse also teaches flower arranging at West Elm, Dumbo store. Feb 11th she will be teaching participants how to create a Valentine’s Day Ball Jar arrangement. NYC Farm Chic Flowers is online only and delivers M-F to Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. http://www.nycfarmchicflowers.com

  • Hi, I’m a creative :) and I would love to tell you about the best places in Tel Aviv.. or Jerusalem. Loved the illustration!

  • I am planning my trip, thanks to you. Do you know when the new Makeshift Society opens? I love all of your city guides–they help so much and are endlessly inspiring!

  • I just recently took my first trip to New York and while I was there I visited Dumbo and fell in love with it. The little shops and fun people really wowed me and I can’t wait to go back and see more of Brooklyn so your guide will definitely come in handy!

  • Ha! Love that name, DUMBO. I just learned the meaning of the section’s name on my last trip to Brooklyn. I’ll give you all a hint–It’s derived from an acronym and you’ll find a clue to the name if you look up.

    @TRACY – I share your love for the DUMBO area. I entered one hallway and found there was a labyrinth of interconnected hallways with foundation walls between buildings broken out to allow a shopper to literally meander through the basements of a whole city block of buildings. There are the coolest little shops tucked all over the place where small business artisans and merchants sell their stuff. And yes, I agree that the people are fun!

    I don’t mean to pontificate but I think NYC in general gets a bad rap about its citizens. I found folks in all five boroughs to be friendly and open to giving out-of-towners help and directions. I am sure there are some “bad” spots to avoid but staying in the main areas of NYC (with due caution to be maintained in any situation) it is generally a great place to be.

    George Eastman

    • george

      i couldn’t agree more. i’ve traveled all over the country and i think, outside of the midwest, new yorkers are the most helpful city group. they may be brash or quick to shout if they’re upset, but if you need help, they’re there for you in a hot second.


  • I love the illustrations! I can hardly wait to see more of these short guides. They remind me of my well loved NY Times 36 hours books. I hope my home, Austin, Texas, is on the list of cities to come.

  • what a wonderful post! i’m surprised though that more north brooklynites haven’t commented with their own favorites. i use the design*sponge guides as a starting point when visiting other cities and readers’ suggestions are often just as helpful as the guides themselves. in that spirit, here are mine:

    while there are a million new/amazing restaurants in north brooklyn, i’m most often out for brunch. a few favorites are allswell and julliette in williamsburg and northeast kingdom in bushwick. pies & thighs is also great but the wait is tremendous (fortunately they serve breakfast everyday). my go-to restaurants for dinner are usually dumont/dumont burger or five leaves. my husband and i also occasionally brave the line for incredible barbecue at fette sau (a fun place, for sure).

    my favorite beer bars in williamsburg are probably barcade and spuyten duyvil. brooklyn brewery is fun and relaxed on a friday night and radegast beer hall has a great german beer selection as well as tasty food and a sausage grill. torst in greenpoint is fantastic but a bit pricey. brouwerij lane in greenpoint is kind of half bar/half beer store with a lot of great snacks too. it’s also up the block from transmitter park which, in my opinion, has the best views of the skyline. (side note: i ran into grace & hope here once. grace was buying a pretzel and they were both totally adorable)

    my favorite place for coffee and people watching is black brick but honestly there’s a great coffee shop on every block

    as for things to do, i love bowling on the vintage lanes at the gutter. i’m also super into thrifting and l train vintage has a couple of great locations in bushwick. i’m not big into shopping otherwise but catbird and species by the thousands are a couple of favorites.

    i hope someone out there finds this helpful. have fun!

  • Love Pies N Thighs in Brooklyn….killer fried chicken & waffles and the doughnuts are awesome too!

  • Love this! I moved to Brooklyn in October and now having survived the winter I’m so happy to finally explore it. I went to smorgasburg this weekend which was delicious and now I have more fun places and things to try. Thank you for the wonderful guide!

  • Perfect timing! Leaving for a family reunion on Long Island soon and my husband wants to visit his childhood neighborhood in Williamsburg when we down there. Too bad his family sold their 3- story family home a few decades ago. Can you imagine having a second home in the Williamsburg area now!

  • Perfect timing! Leaving for a family reunion soon on Long Island & my husband wants to visit his childhood neighborhood in Williamsburg while down there. Too bad his family sold their 3-story home a few decades ago. Can you imagine having a second home in Williamsburg now! The informative guide will come in handy.

  • Grace! I’m several years late on this but will be staying in this hood for a month. Thanks for the guide!!!