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Visiting Brighton Beach, Brooklyn NY – Little Odessa

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Travel Guide to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn NY – Get Ready for an Adventure

taste of russia brighton beach

Visiting Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is a great way to experience the culture and cuisine. The area has been nicknamed Little Odessa for its large Russian population. You can find a mix of traditional Russian culture and American culture. There are many Russian restaurants and shops that sell Eastern European goods. I visited Little Odessa recently and decided to write a blog post about the best things to do in Brighton Beach, you’ll be amazed!

I can say that I’m a Soviet Union refugee, I was born in Odessa, Ukraine even before all these different countries separated. And like me, many people arrived in the United States too. Most of the refugees went to New York and California. Most of the immigrants and refugees went to NY and the vast majority, I would say more than 75% to 80%, went to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

Brighton Beach back in the 70s was considered Little Odessa and everything in the neighborhood was in Russian, even the street signs. Despite it having changed a lot nowadays, it’s predominantly a Russian neighborhood. In Brighton Beach, you will find Russian restaurants, grocery stores, pastry stores, and much more stuff from a foreign country.

Getting There

There are many ways to reach Brighton Beach, but the easiest in my opinion is using the subway, taking the Q or B train to Brighton Beach Ave or Coney Island Avenue. Other options are by bus or on your own by car.

Things To Do in Brighton Beach

Relax at the Beach

The beach alone is a super attraction in Brighton Beach, since most people visiting the neighborhood head directly to the beach. Right there you can find the boardwalk with some sand sports courts, some rides, and playgrounds. Also, you have Manhattan Beach Park really close. Take a book or just sit and enjoy the beach.

Visit Boardwalk

The historic boardwalk in Brighton Beach is as legendary as the beach, you can ride a bike, run, or simply walk the boardwalk, you’ll always find people there, some locals playing chess or just chatting, and you can find a huge playground for kids, some rides, gyms and sports courts all along the Brighton Beach Boardwalk. You’ll also find some cafés or restaurants like Cafe Volna. A place where simply walking is an incredible activity.

beach at brighton beach

Do Food Tour

You must already imagine that here you can find some of the best Russian food, the cuisine here is so great you’ll find yourself making several trips. Luckily, most of the restaurants are located along Brighton Beach Avenue, making it perfect for a food tour or simply to pick up something to bring with you to the beach.

Whatever your decision may be, I highly recommend you test the following dishes and foods, by doing this you’ll get a full idea of Russian cuisine.

  • Try some baklava at Brighton Güllüoglu Baklava Cafe
  • Go to Tatiana Grill or Volna for lunch near the beach
  • Take dinner at Cafe Kashkar
  • Head to Cafe at Your Mother-in-Law for more Russian food
  • Get a taste of the Russian desserts at La Brioche Café
pastries in brighton beach

Visit a Russian Bathhouse

Book a day at a Russian bathhouse or “Banya”. In my opinion, this is a must while visiting Brighton Beach, there you can find a few bathhouses offering not only a swim but a place to eat and relax in a sauna. While there, you should treat yourself right and book a Dead Sea Salt scrub

Drink juice and swim in the Russian Baths of NY with its Russian and Turkish steam rooms. Relax on their sun deck or book a Dead Sea salt scrub or other spa treatments. The best spa in the area is called Mermeid Spa, located in the Sea Gate Area, offering a Russian steam room and sauna, a cold sauna, and a meditation cave.

See a Floor Show

If you go to a Russian banquet, you can expect to see a floor show, like the ones you had to expect to see in Las Vegas or in a cruise. You can head to The National Restaurant and Nightclub or Tatiana Restaurant and Nightclub, they are pretty popular, so you should head there early.

In terms of popularity, The National is the place to go, it has been running since ’70s and since it was featured on Anthony Bourdain show, the nightclub has gained some status, it offers flashy shows while you eat some authentic and traditional Russian dishes, it’s located on the Brighton Beach Avenue. If you prefer a near-the-beach experience, you should head to Tatiana’s place, it’s located on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk, offering tons of appetizers and dishes traditional dishes.

Go Shopping for tchotchkes

There are many places to go shopping in this neighborhood, the first thing you should for is head to the Saint Petersburg Bookstore, where you can find some Russian books and many Russian theme items or souvenirs, you can also get many matruoshkas. Your kids sure will love the Bookstore and the large section dedicated to Russian toys and puzzles.

On the same Avenue, your next stop can be one of the many shops that are all along the ave, where you can find racks of t-shirts right there on the sidewalk in front of the store. If you want to buy some presents or fun items, you should head to Kalinka. Just walk around the Avenue and I’m pretty sure you’ll find something interesting!

a shop selling stuff at brighton beach

See a Concert at The Master Theater

On Brighton Beach avenue, you can find what once was the Oceana Theatre which open back in 1934. The Grand Theater has a lot of history within its walls, hosting shows for Ray Charles and Jackie Mason. Nowadays works as a Russian dinner theater and nightclub, with more than fourteen hundred seats in the concert hall it hosts a big variety of Russian artists.

Do a bit of grocery shopping

Head to Brighton Bazaar and get yourself some of the best European groceries you can find, right there you will be able to find some Russian and European food, like chocolate, eggplant salad, kebabs, kielbasa, and blintzes. One of the best ways to immerse into the culture is by testing their food and sweets, as soon as you walk in you will notice that most of the labels are in Russian too, you may need help while ordering, make sure you taste some candies!

cheese at a shop in brighton beach

Is Brighton Beach Safe?

Compared to most cities around the world, Brighton Beach is safe to go and visit, but a survey done by MIT says that Brighton Beach is the third most “dangerous-looking” neighborhood around, after Greenpoint and East New York, you can read more about it here. In my opinion, Brighton Beach is safe to visit, I went there, and can tell you that from my own experience.

brighton beach building and sand

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