Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn
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16 Fun Things to do in Downtown Brooklyn (A Local’s Guide)

Check out all the amazing things to do in Downtown Brooklyn, the bustling heart of our borough full of action! From entertainment venues, eateries, bars, and all kinds of incredible things to do – I will showcase the best of Downtown Brooklyn!

This neighborhood is starting to look like Manhattan more and more every day. Over the last few years, the gentrification of this area has skyrocketed. A large portion of this gentrification is credited to the opening of the Barclays Center in 2012, which was highly controversial for longtime residents of the borough and has introduced alot more new development in the area, like the giant dark, ominous looking tower and lone skyscraper that looks like Sauron.

Downtown Brooklyn is now known as a great spot to stay if you’re coming to travel around Brooklyn because of its central location, proximity to popular venues like Barclay’s, Atlantic Terminal, BAM, and universities. Nearby you have Long Island University and New York University flooding the area with students, and all the can’t miss things to do in Downtown Brooklyn!

In this guide, we will cover all the awesome things to do Downtown Brooklyn. This includes all the places for entertainment, amazing eats, shopping needs, parks to visit, where to stay in Downtown Brooklyn, and more!

But first, where is Downtown Brooklyn?

Just like most neighborhoods in Brooklyn, it’s not always clear where the boundaries are. Although technically the delineation of Downtown Brooklyn, New York includes DUMBO and parts of Vinegar Hill, for the purposes of this guide we are going to zero in on Downtown Brooklyn that doesn’t include these waterfront sections of the neighborhood since they are also considered neighborhoods their own.

This area is in the northwestern section of the borough.

When you cross the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge, you’ll end up right here in Downtown Brooklyn. This area has easy access to and from Manhattan and in recent years Downtown Brooklyn reminds visitors more of Manhattan than the rest of Brooklyn with large skyscrapers, endless food, and shopping options, and variety of public transportation, one could hardly tell the difference between this neighborhood and Manhattan.

This area is served by many subway stations.

  • Dekalb Avenue B, D, N, Q, R, and W lines)
  • Atlantic Avenue (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, and R lines)
  • Jay Street—MetroTech A, C, F, N, R, and W lines)
  • Nevins Street (2, 3, 4, and 5 lines)

Needless to say, you will not struggle to find a train that will get you where you want to go.

Disclaimer: this post contains commisionable links.

What to do in Downtown Brooklyn

See a Show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

Brooklyn Academy of Music BAM

The Brooklyn Academy of Music, known as BAM, kind of falls between Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene. Since it’s close to the edge, I am throwing it in the mix here.

Brooklyn is widely known for its history of artists and musicians. In 1906 BAM opened its doors right here in Downtown Brooklyn, New York and it’s actually known to be one of America’s oldest performing arts centers. They are famous for their cutting-edge performances.

BAM is an amazing place for those who appreciate culture and art. They present a variety of art forms, such as music, dance, opera, film, and more.

You will want to check out BAM Rose Cinemas for a movie! Seeing the re-screening of Stop Making Sense  featuring The Talking Heads here was unbelievable and it was the perfect place to do so as the annual New Wave Festival is held at BAM each year!

Since the programming here changes frequently and they host an array of events throughout the year, the best way to see what’s happening is by checking the calendar directly on BAM. If you purchase a BAM membership, you will be able to view special screenings or even sit in on rehearsals.

While you’re in the area, check out our guide for things to do in Fort Greene!

See a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Performance

The-Brooklyn-Tabernacle-Choir-in-Downtown-Brooklyn by Katie Hinkle

Hearing this famous Grammy-Award winning choir is something you’ll want to cross off your bucket list while visiting Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

Based on their outstanding accolades, one would’ve never guessed that the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir actually began with only nine singers in the mid-1970s.

Since then, this choir now consists of 270 angelic voices and has performed at a variety of famous venues, other than their beautiful church of course.

Throughout their time, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, and more. Most notable was when they performed at the 2012 presidential inauguration, which had over 1 billion viewers.

The choir’s incredible commitment to their church has led them to five Dove Awards and six Grammy awards.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle is an evangelical non-denominational Christian church and was founded back in 1847. It wasn’t until 2002 that the church settled into a beautiful theatre in Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

This theatre seats 3,300 churchgoers and they have three two-hour services each week. It’s definitely a must on the list of things to do in Downtown Brooklyn.

Catch a Flick at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema


When thinking of things to do in Downtown Brooklyn, you have several great options for seeing a movie including might Alamo Drafthouse located on the 4th and 5th floors of City Point.

Alamo Drafthouse is a luxurious movie theater with 7 auditoriums, which can serve nearly 800 people. This movie theater has incredible reclining seats as well as full food & drink menus (they even have an all-vegan menu), which you can order from throughout your film. It’s just like a restaurant, a two-for-one kind of deal.

When compared to regular movie theaters, the tickets are about the same price but instead you can sit back and enjoy the show in a comfortable chair and be waited on and enjoy your favorite beer or cocktail as you watch the movie.

Keep in mind seats are chosen and reserved by visitors prior to entering the auditorium. There is also a zero-tolerance policy for talking and texting during any film.

So just sit back, relax, and order some grub! Keep in mind that only the seats in the front row recline! Check out more of the best movie theaters in Brooklyn!

Eat Your Way Through Dekalb Market

dekalb-market-food-hall-in-BrooklynVisiting the Dekalb Market is easily one of the best things to do in Downtown Brooklyn for foodies. Since it opened in 2017, it has taken Brooklyn by storm.

As a downtowner, Dekalb Market holds a special place in my heart.

This iconic food hall has over 40 vendors from local and regional eateries (many of which are their second outpost), which provides a multitude of types of food representing cuisines from all over the world!

Whenever you’re unsure what to eat when visiting Downtown Brooklyn, this is the best place to go because of the variety!

Dekalb Market is most famous for their Taste of Katz’s, which is the only satellite location of the original Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston Street on the Lower East Side. Visit Katz’s in Dekalb to get a taste of some of the world’s most famous pastrami and most iconic places to eat in New York!

They also have some of the best places to eat in Downtown Brooklyn including Han’s Dynasty along with a handful of other vendors with all types of cuisine from around the globe represented in this food hall.

In addition to the amazing food, Dekalb Market has awesome bars and live music! Perfect for a night out with a group of friends since everyone can choose from different vendors and head to the beautiful Sixpoint Brewery bar here for drinks, one of the best breweries in Brooklyn!

Check out Dekalb Market on our guide to the most iconic places to eat in Brooklyn.

Get Creeped Out at The House of Wax


While you’re visiting the Alamo Drafthouse, check out The House of Wax, a macabre bar that’s truly unique. This spot definitely considered one of the hidden gems of Downtown Brooklyn. 

The House of Wax is what is sounds like, a place where you can see a rare wax collection that was called Castan’s Panopticum from the turn of the century in Berlin. The collection is grotesque to say the least, almost all of it are anatomical wax figures, many of which are quite shocking. 

But wait, there’s more.

The House of Wax is also a cocktail bar! They also have an extensive draft menu. It has a dark and intimate ambiance. It’s the perfect spot to grab a drink before or after catching a flick (or you can just visit without seeing a movie too).

But be warned, this place really isn’t for the faint of heart. Some of the wax figures are pretty graphic.

See A Performance or Sporting Event at Barclays Center

Barclays Center in Downtown BrooklynOne of the greatest attractions and things to do in Downtown Brooklyn is see a performance or sporting event at Barclays Center. Performances range from concerts to monster truck shows in this giant arena!

It is currently home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. NHL’s New York Islanders also used the Barclays Center as their home stadium from 2016-2020.

Getting to the Barclays Center is the easiest part. The Atlantic Avenue subway station right in front of the Barclays connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, R, & W lines as well as the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). This makes it much more quick and efficient when leaving a crowded event.

And plan your pre or post-event by checking out the best places to eat near Barclays Center just a short walk away! There are so many incredible food options, so take a local’s recommendation from our guide.

Shop Around Fulton Mall

shopping-in-downtown-brooklyn by Katie Hinkle

One of my personal favorite things to do in Downtown Brooklyn, New York is stroll and shop around the Fulton Mall.

This is an outdoor shopping center that is a huge attraction for Brooklynites. There are hundreds of small businesses and almost every clothing outlet you could possibly need. Who says you need to go to SoHo for shopping?

A couple of the most popular stores a TJ Maxx, Macy’s, American Eagle, H&M, Aldo, Steve Madden, Adidas, Old Navy, and more. It’s a great way to get outdoors even if you’re not looking to buy anything, I often find myself roaming the Fulton Mall just for window shopping.

If you’ve worked up an appetite while shopping, visit Junior’s or the Dekalb Market just feet away.

There’s usually a large outdoor seating area, which is perfect for a meet up with friends or just as a place to rest the legs after exploring all of Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

Read Next: Amazing Brooklyn Boutiques & Gift Stores in Brooklyn

See a Hidden Art Installation in the Subway: Masstransiscope

Hop on the B or Q Manhattan-bound trains from the Dekalb Avenue station (and look out the right-hand side of the window) to see Masstransiscope, an art installation by artist Bill Brand hidden in the depths of the subway.

To prove that you really have to look out for this zoetrope, I’ve had friends who had lived here in Downtown Brooklyn, for years and didn’t even know it existed. Most people are looking down on their phones or distracted while on their commute, so it’s easy to miss!

Wondering what a zoetrope is? A zoetrope is a sequence of drawings and/or photographs to show motion used in pre-film animations.

Masstransiscope has been here since 1980 and it was created by the artist Bill Brand. The zoetrope is 300 feet long and has actually been restored twice! It’s currently in great shape, you just have to hope that you don’t get an annoying delay on the train as that will make it hard to see the zoetrope in full action.

Make sure you board the B or Q Manhattan-bound train and look out the right side window!

Wander Around the New York Transit Museum


This is without a doubt one of the coolest museums in New York City. Located on the edge of Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn is the New York Transit Museum, which is actually in the decommissioned 1936 Court Street subway station.

This underground museum was founded in 1976 and visitors can view and even board vintage subway cars that date back as early as 1907!

In addition to the awesome trains, visitors can learn about incredible stories and the history stemmed from New York’s amazing mass transit system.

Visitors can learn about the history of New York City transit through exhibits, there are plenty of areas for kids to play too, making it one of the best museums in New York City for kids!

But the best part is being able to walk through all the vintage trains and seeing the different styles, and advertisements fitting of the year they were in service, and wondering what it was like to ride these gorgeous old-school cars.

The annual Parade of Trains where New Yorkers can ride vintage subway trains

Pay attention to when they partner with the MTA to do their nostalgic train rides and the Parade of Trains where they bust out their old fleet and let passengers ride on their daily commute all for the cost of a single subway ride! Oh, and people dress for the part too in their best vintage apparel! They have a few throughout the year, but the most famous one is probably the holiday nostalgic train rides. 

Check out more of the amazing museums in Brooklyn too!

The New York Transit Museum is wheelchair accessible at the corner of Schermerhorn and Court Streets.

Pay Homage to a Literary Great at Walt Whitman Park

A visit to Walt Whitman Park is one of the best things to do in Downtown Brooklyn when you just need a breath of fresh air or some inspiration.

This park is named after a famous Brooklyn resident, Walt Whitman, who is known for his work as a writer, poet, and essayist. He is known to be one of the country’s most influential when it comes to literary work.

Whitman lived and worked in Brooklyn and a lot of his famous work was published here, one of his most famous being, Leaves of Grass. If you’re familiar with his work you may even recognize locations in Brooklyn that are mentioned in his works like the Fulton Ferry Landing.

Although most people don’t visit this park to get active, like some of our other Brooklyn parks, it’s a great space to take a walking break on a bench or bring a book and just enjoy a nice day.

While you’re walking around the park, keep an eye out for some Whitman excerpts from his poems and be sure to check out the rest of the Walt Whitman Brooklyn sites nearby.

Hang Out at Cadman Plaza Park

This park is right on the border of Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. Every time I pass this park on my way to DUMBO, there are plenty of people soaking in the gorgeous day, some walking their dogs, and some using the park for their fitness activities.

This park has a large central lawn that’s a common gathering space for demonstrations, events, and politcal events. When those things aren’t happening, people relax on the lawn and use it as an urban greenspace.

Cadman Plaza Park was named after a minister in the Brooklyn Congregational Church, Reverend Doctor Samuel Parkes Cadman.

Something that makes this park special is the Brooklyn War Memorial, it’s dedicated to the 300,000 Brooklynites that served during World War II.

Once you’ve checked this Brooklyn park off your things to do in Downtown Brooklyn bucket list, check out our guide for things to do in DUMBO! I mean, since you’ll be in the area.

Take a Peek at Brooklyn Borough Hall

Brooklyn-Borough-HallIf you’re a sucker for some New York history, this building is a good place to start. Next on our list of things to do in Downtown Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Borough Hall.

This building served the original City Hall for nearly 50 years before Brooklyn merged to become part of New York City in 1989. It’s also a National Registered Historic Place, which means the government has deemed the building worthy of preservation because of its historical significance in Downtown Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was once its own city, until 1898 when Brooklyn became included in the New York City Hall on January 1st. Thus Brooklyn’s City Hall changed its name to Brooklyn Borough Hall.

This building is recognized as one of the city’s best Greek Revival buildings. Other notable features include the gorgeous rotunda atop of the building, the checkered marble floors, and the elegant Courtroom.

This area is also usually flooded with some pretty talented skateboarders. If you’re lucky you might just catch a show.

Dine at the Iconic Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery

Juniors Cafe and Cheesecake in Downtown Brooklyn by Katie Hinkle

If you know anything about Brooklyn, it’s probably that it’s home to the most famous slice of New York cheesecake.

Since 1950, Junior’s has been dedicated to making the best cheesecake New York has to offer and getting a slice of their plain cheesecake is a must when visiting NYC. It’s basically a no-brainer on the list of things to do in Downtown Brooklyn.

Although many people visit the Times Square location, the original Junior’s is right here in Downtown Brooklyn. In addition to cheesecake you can also have a classic diner experience here and a full meal! This is just one of those timeless, old-school dining institutions you don’t want to miss.

If you aren’t able to dine-in, Junior’s will ship the cheesecake to you via Gold Belly!

Have a Cocktail at the Sunken Harbor Club


One of the coolest themed bars in New York City can be found in Downtown Brooklyn. Located above the gorgeous, fine dining establishment Gage & Tollner, this hidden intimate nautical bar is an experience.

The setting is intimate and dimly lit and makes you feel like you’re in the bowels of an old pirate ship with ambient sounds of waves crashing.

On the pricier side, but well worth it as you feel like you’re in an elevated Pirates of the Caribbean Disney-esque club. It might take a minute to page through their extensive list of elevated cocktails and libations along with a few shareable bites, if you’re looking for a full meal you’ll want to go back downstairs. 

Open Wednesdays – Sundays 5 PM – 12 AM, no reservations and on a first come first serve basis.

Pet Some Kitties at the Brooklyn Cat Café (Or Adopt one!)


Calling all cat lovers! The Brooklyn Cat Café is an incredible non-profit that sounds like a cute and quirky place to grab brunch, but it’s actually a great place to visit with cats and kittens.

This cat café is an adoption center that has partnered with animal rescue groups to find these whiskered cuties a fur-ever home.

Walk-ins and reservations are available and you do not have to adopt any of the cats (unless you want to!) while visiting Brooklyn Cat Café.

You can get a 30 minute visit with these feline friends when visiting. Visitors help keep the facility up and running, which ultimately helps more kittens find a loving home.

Although this café is considered apart of Brooklyn Heights, it’s only a short walk from Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

If you aren’t able to make it in, check out their Instagram page for all their furry friends currently at the café. Mentally this is where I am.

Closed Tuesdays

Get a Caffeine Fix at a Cafe

doughnut plant in Downtown Brooklyn

Obviously spending hours on your feet while exploring Downtown Brooklyn can be perfectly paired with a cup of coffee, tea, or treat from one of the many cool cafes in the area.

Luckily one thing Downtown Brooklyn is really good at is having cute cafes perfect for your Instagram aesthetic and a morning or mid-day pick me up.

Although this area has a surplus of Starbucks and Dunkin’, which are always good options, we love to support smaller businesses when we can, plus you’re going to get a better quality cup of coffee.

Here’s a quick rundown of some options in Downtown Brooklyn!

White Noise Coffee Co.— Check out this coffee shop located on Smith Street. They have all the coffee drinks you need and an awesome food menu guaranteed to hold you over while you explore Downtown Brooklyn. 

Devoción— This coffee shop located on Livingston Street has an amazing aesthetic. It made for a great Instagram story and a nice place to hang out.

Hungry Ghost— With a few locations in Downtown Brooklyn, Hungry Ghost is a great option if you’re looking for coffee on the go. In addition to coffee and lattes, they serves teas and kombucha here!

Doughnut Plant— Located on Flatbush Ave right by the Barclays Center, Doughnut Plant is a step up from Dunkin’ Donuts. They have a variety of specialty donuts and coffee drinks. A must have!

The Sweet Cafe— An adorable little cafe located on Hoyt Street, serves all your favorite specialty espresso drinks, lattes, teas and more. They also have smoothies, crepes, sandwiches and other options for breakfast and lunch!

Getting Around Downtown Brooklyn, New York

mural-and-shopping-on-Smith-Street-in-Brooklyn by Katie Hinkle

Getting around this area couldn’t be easier. Most of the things you’ll want to see in Downtown Brooklyn are within walking distance.

But if you get tired of walking everywhere or you’re looking to cover more ground at a faster pace, we would recommend downloading the Citi Bike app for bike rentals!

All you have to do is enter your info into the app and find the nearest docking station. You can get the bike for 30 minutes unless you get a day pass or you’re an annual pass holder, then you’ll have to redock after 45 minutes of biking!

Just be mindful of busy roads and look for the bike line when possbile, one of the best places to bike to from Downtown Brooklyn is to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has a nice bike path to ride along.

And don’t forget about the plenty of subway stations we have right here in Downtown Brooklyn!

  • Dekalb Avenue (B, D, N, Q, R, and W lines)
  • Atlantic Avenue (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, and R lines)
  • Jay Street—MetroTech (A, C, F, N, R, and W lines)
  • Nevins Street (2, 3, 4, and 5 lines)

Where to Stay in Downtown Brooklyn, New York

moody-photo-of-seating-in-Juniors-Cheesecake-in-Downtown-Brooklyn by Katie Hinkle

Aloft New York Brooklyn

You can find this affordable 4-star hotel in Downtown Brooklyn on Duffield Street. This hotel is centrally located for all the amazing things to do in Downtown Brooklyn.

The rooms are beautifully decorated and the hotel offers a fitness center, an indoor pool, a bar and lounge, coffee shops, and more.

If you’re traveling with your furry friend, this hotel is pet friendly!

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Sheraton Brooklyn New York Hotel

Another great spot to stay when visiting Downtown Brooklyn is the Sheraton. This hotel is also located on Duffield Street, which means you’ll have easy access to subways, fantastic dining, shopping, and more.

This 4-star hotel has everything you’ll need and more for a magical stay in Brooklyn. This hotel is equipped with spa services, fitness centers, an indoor pool, and this is also where Kimoto Rooftop is!

The beautiful rooftop bar and lounge sits on top of this very hotel, making it easy to cross that off your list of things to do in Downtown Brooklyn.

The rooms are perfect for business travelers with plenty of work space. During your stay, customers can upgrade to a suite that has a separate living room and it also comes with special perks like access to the lounge, complimentary breakfast, snacks, and appetizers in the evening!

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The Tillary Hotel

The Tillary is a great place to stay in Downtown Brooklyn if you think you’ll be spending some of your visit in DUMBO. This hotel also has amazing views of the Manhattan Bridge, just steps away from the hotel.

The Tillary has a café, a bar, and a beautiful outdoor terrace. This hotel also offers soundproof windows, which can be a game changer when staying in NYC.

The rooms are also beautifully designed with designer toiletries and Italian linens.

If you’re looking to step out of the room, enjoy the incredible views, the lobby lounge and beer garden and so much more when you stay at the Tillary.

There is parking on the property for an added fee.

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Ace Hotel Brooklyn

Probably my favorite pick for where to stay in Downtown Brooklyn is the uber cool Ace Hotel Brooklyn. Located within a block of three different subway stations, it’s so easy to navigate around Brooklyn and New York City from here.

As for the block that Ace Hotel is on, they have plenty of great restaurants surrounding it including a few awesome Korean restaurants and their own restaurant on site, As You Are which is one of my favorite date night spots and places to eat in the area.

As with any Ace Hotel property, you’re getting a quality stay. This 4-star hotel features immpecable design and stylish rooms.

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Things to do Nearby Downtown Brooklyn


There are a number of gorgeous neighborhoods to check out during your stay in Downtown Brooklyn.


This neighborhood is one of my personal favorites. This is the best spot in Brooklyn for amazing cityscape views as well as accessing the New York ferry along the East River! There’s also some amazing food options down there. Be sure to check out all the best things to do in DUMBO for more inspiration!

Fort Greene

This gorgeous brownstone filled neighborhood is practically a part of Downtown Brooklyn and absolutely worth checking out during your visit. Relax in the beautiful Fort Greene Park or check out some of the borough’s best restaurants that can be found here. Refer to our full guide for the best things to do in Fort Greene for more!

Prospect Heights

While this neighborhood is on the smallish side, there are plenty of great things to do in Prospect Heights which neighbors Downtown Brooklyn including accesss to Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park!

Park Slope

If you plan on visiting the Barclays Center, take a few more steps to continue to the beautiful brownstone filled neighborhood of Park Slope. This area is full of plenty of awesome places to shop and eat, and is known for the amazing Prospect Park. Check out our full guide for best things to do in Park Slope!

Cobble Hill

Another quaint neighborhood that’s fun to just mosey around and look at pretty houses, charming pocket-sized parks, dine, or even spot the occassional celebrity. Be sure to pay a visit to the beautiful Cobble Hill Park for a nice walking break on a bench.

Boerum Hill

Another smaller neighborhood around Downtown Brooklyn worth exploring for more food, restaurants, and even galleries!

Brooklyn Heights

This historic neighborhood is the oldest suburb in America and filled with gorgeous architecture, see our guide for the best things to do in Brooklyn Heights to build your own historic walking tour as well as some of the best views in the city from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade!

Best Things to do in Downtown Brooklyn (Post Summary):

  • See a Show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
  • See a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Performance 
  • Catch a Flick at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
  • Eat Your Way Through Dekalb Market
  • Get Creeped Out at the House of Wax
  • See a Performance or Sporting Event at Barclays Center
  • Shop Around Fulton Mall
  • See a Hidden Art Installation in the Subway: Masstransiscope
  • Wander Around the New York Transit Museum
  • Pay Homage to A Literary Great at Walt Whitman Park
  • Hang Out at Cadman Plaza Park
  • Take a Peek at Brooklyn Borough Hall
  • Dine at the Iconic Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery
  • Have a cocktail at the Sunken Harbor Club
  • Pet some kitties at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe (or adopt one!)
  • Get a caffeine fix at a cafe

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