One of the things I get asked the most often is the difference between living in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn. The truth is, I lived in New York City for nearly 12 years before moving to Brooklyn and when I moved here (Williamsburg) I had actually been pretty sure that it was time for me to get out of New York. I thought about moving to Charleston or even LA or SF but for whatever reason, as much as I liked the idea of living in either place, couldn’t manage to pull the trigger and actually pick up and move and DO it.
The truth is that for what I do, living in the New York area is best – at least right now. It’s easy and convenient, and brands partner with me because I can move quickly and turn things around. It would be hard to leave for business reasons, but also personal reasons. My sister also lives in Brooklyn, most of my close friends are here, and the flight to Charleston (to see my parents) is the quickest flight ever. Brooklyn has been a happy medium. It’s a bit more low key, I have more living space, but it’s still very convenient!
Living in Manhattan
During the 12 years that I lived in Manhattan, I was smack in the middle of everything (I lived in Stuy Town, then Chelsea, then Union Square, and then Murray Hill). When I was younger I loved the energy of the city so much (I still love it but it’s more of a love/hate). There’s always something to do and somewhere exciting to be. I don’t want to downplay that. The city was the BEST when I was younger.
I’ve definitely calmed down quite a bit as I’ve gotten older so I personally prefer Brooklyn now… but when you are young, there really is nothing better! Having spent a long time in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, I thought I’d break things down today!
Living in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn
When I moved to Williamsburg 2.5 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) I moved for the apartment, NOT the neighborhood. Also, I didn’t actively seek Brooklyn out, it just came to me. I kind of (stupidly!) dreaded living in Brooklyn. One of my best friends lived in the apartment upstairs from mine and she freaked out because I’d be right downstairs, with the patio. Our other friend had lived in my unit and we needed to keep the unit “in the family.” Think of the parties we could have! So… after a lot of stressing about it I broke my lease and moved in. My rent is a lot more than I was paying in the city but I had been ready to upgrade (I was living in the same tiny studio I moved into very hastily after a breakup) but I quadrupled my space.
This post is going to be pretty Williamsburg specific as that’s where I live, but I’ll try to include some of my other Brooklyn favs.
Brooklyn vs Manhattan Rent Prices
Honestly, Brooklyn vs. Manhattan rent prices (and real estate prices!) are not really all that different. I know that’s probably not what you want to hear. But (generally speaking) you get SO much more space. (This changes if you go further out… i.e. Bushwick and Bed-Stuy). I have more space than most of my friends (except the ones in my building, haha), but it’s also not a very nice building. That being said, I’ve been to a lot of Manhattan apartments and a lot of Brooklyn apartments and they’re generally always bigger in Brooklyn.
So while your rent may stay the same (or even go up), you’ll probably have a much better quality of life. That being said, when I was young and living in studio apartments in the city, I was never home – I didn’t need (or want!) to have a really nice apartment. I loved being out and about (or traveling). As I’ve gotten older I like spending more time at home, so it’s important to me to have a nicer place to call home. (I literally did not care when I was in my twenties; I cared more about shopping, traveling, and being out. Funny how things change!!) It’s really about your priorities.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is about the same in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn but I personally have found that I definitely spend less money. This is mostly self-imposed. I used to take cabs everywhere when I lived on Lexington Ave – there was a cab stand downstairs so I’d just hop in one! Now, because a cab or uber into the city is so expensive, I rarely take one… they’re only for for special occasions where I’m wearing very high heels or late at night.
I love Williamsburg. Love the murals, the street art, the local dives + restaurants. I don’t like talking about my favorites too much as I worry about them getting overcrowded but nothing is better than a steak salad at Rabbithole and fun divey drinks (+ pups) at Lucky Dog. Also, I love how much calmer it is. It’s a slower pace. I personally feel a lot more relaxed living here… but I never feel like I’m missing out. It helps that just down the road we have an Apple Store, a Sephora, a Sweetgreen, a Whole Foods, and tons more stuff like that.
Things to do in Brooklyn
When Domino Park opened last summer I was just the happiest. I had been thinking that maybe I should have moved to Dumbo instead (the green space under the Brooklyn bridge is so wonderful) but suddenly I had my own little park right in my backyard. The best.
For a further trip out, you can go to Coney Island (I’m still trying to find a friend who will ride bikes out there – maybe next Spring/Summer!) Prospect Park (and the Brooklyn Museum + Botanical Gardens) are far away from me but they’re both amazing, too!
For more on what to do in Williamsburg def check out my Williamsburg, Brooklyn Guide!
This was the biggest adjustment. The L can be spotty or massively crowded, which is a pain. And there’s no great way to get to different parts of Brooklyn from Williamsburg without going into the city first. But I love the JMZ trains and I bought a bike last year which has been really fun. Citi Bike is great, too. It’s really easy to get to the east side, or you can walk/bike across the East River. It’s not that bad.
Things to do in Manhattan
Obviously while Brooklyn has its fair share of great things to do, Manhattan will probably always win in this department. So many of my favorite restaurants, bars, museums, etc. (and Central Park!!) are there but I have to slow my roll and remember that I don’t live that far away! My favorite things to do in Manhattan include Central Park, the Met, the MoMA, the Whitney… seeing a broadway show, or of course, eating. (Check out my NYC guide for a full list of favs)
These places take me maybe 20 minutes longer to get to than they did when I was in the city. To me, living in Brooklyn makes it worth it. I will say that (while everyone is different!), when first moving to New York (especially if you are young and can deal with space constraints, etc), I think everyone should live in the city first. There’s really nothing like living in Manhattan, especially when you are young. I’m just older now, have seen and done a lot, and was ready for a change.
photography by Allie Provost.