Walking around New York City is, without a doubt, the best way to explore the Big Apple. Forget hopping on the Subway or taking an Uber, and instead, wear your favorite walking shoes and start exploring the very best of this 24-hour city. NYC is blessed to have a plethora of amazing walks, ranging from the perimeter (and interior) of Central Park to the iconic 5th Avenue stretch. But in our opinion, the very best walk is from the borough of Manhattan to Brooklyn across possibly the most famous bridge in the world.
A walk across Brooklyn Bridge is not only iconic in New York City, but it is also world-renowned and certainly for good reason. Whether you are an avid hiker or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll, pretty much anyone can experience the very best of this historic architectural masterpiece. Dating back since the 19th century when it was first constructed, this breathtaking structure is iconic not only in the New York City skyline but also among the most infamous architectural constructions anywhere across the globe.
Let’s take a look at why this historic walk is in our opinion the very best anywhere in New York City.
Manhattan to Brooklyn Walk
The beauty of walking across Brooklyn Bridge in either (or both) direction is that you have the opportunity to explore two amazing neighborhoods on either side. They are distinctive, they are different but they are definitely two areas of New York City that you won’t want to miss. The pièce de résistance is walking across the bridge but we don’t want to let exploring the two neighborhoods – Two Bridges in Manhattan and DUMBO in Brooklyn, go unnoticed.
Be sure to allocate around 30-45 minutes to actually cross the bridge itself because you will certainly want to take a myriad of photographs, not only of Brooklyn Bridge but also the epic Lower Manhattan skyline. From the inspirational sight of the One World Trade Center to some lesser-known structures in this area of Manhattan, the views from any part of Brooklyn Bridge offer spectacular panoramic scenes unlike anywhere else in the city.
For those of you that have experienced New York City from the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building, you will know that the Big Apple is a spectacular sight from a birds-eye perspective. The beauty of the scenery from Brooklyn Bridge is that you are elevated 100+ feet above the ground and you are peering across the East River to admire the beauty of New York City’s sprawling metropolis in Lower Manhattan.
DUMBO – Brooklyn’s Vibrant Neighborhood
As mentioned, you can experience the beauty of Brooklyn Bridge in both directions but if you are short of time, why not hop on the Blue A or C subway line to High Street and start your adventure by exploring the vibrant DUMBO neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn. An acronym for “Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” DUMBO offers a trendy collection of restaurants, bars, and cafes that have been transformed from converted warehouses.
The moment you exit the subway station, you immediately notice a contrast between the hustle and bustle of life in Manhattan with a much quieter area in Brooklyn. Don’t let this fool you though because there is plenty to experience.
Walk across the street to Cadman Plaza Park to enjoy a relaxing stroll through a small urban green space. Home to the towering Brooklyn War Memorial, a granite and limestone structure honoring the 300,000+ “heroic men and women of the borough of Brooklyn” that served during World War II.
As you head back towards the start of Brooklyn Bridge, the other side of the bridge offers an eclectic offering of restaurants and cafes, located along cobblestone streets and epitomizing the vibrant neighborhood that DUMBO has evolved into over recent years. If you have a sweet tooth, you will want to head to Jacques Torres Chocolate – the epitome of a Willy Wonka-esque emporium and particularly relevant in the winter if you want to grab a decadent hot chocolate to warm up while taking the leisurely walk back to Manhattan.
A visit to New York City simply wouldn’t be the same without sampling some of the finest pizza places and Brooklyn certainly isn’t short of some of the best spots across the city. Formerly the infamous “Grimaldi’s Pizza” was the best-known spot in Brooklyn, but after this was sold in the late 1990s, an equally popular location opened – Juliana’s Pizza. Today, both battle for the best pizza in Brooklyn but in our opinion…just go ahead and indulge in both!
Enjoy the Best Manhattan Skyline Views
As you climb the Washington Street stairs under the overpass in Brooklyn, nothing can quite prepare you for the magnitude of both the amazing structure that connects these two New York boroughs and also the breathtaking panoramic views across Lower Manhattan. The history of the Brooklyn Bridge dates back to 1883 when construction was completed on this towering cable suspension bridge.
But rather than focusing on the history behind this structure, we want to focus on the present and enjoy what we believe to be the best place to enjoy spectacular views of the infamous Big Apple skyline. As you start the 1.1 mile walk across the bridge along the pedestrian walkway, the gentle incline to the middle of the bridge gives you ample opportunities to grab a selfie or landscape shot of New York City’s world-renowned skyline.
Be prepared to wait for that perfect moment to grab a picture as this is perhaps one of the most crowded bridges in the world in terms of pedestrian traffic. In addition to those walking, you will be competing with locals and visitors alike that choose to use the bridge as the perfect spot for a morning (or afternoon) run, while the pedestrian walkway is also divided for cyclists to also enjoy the commute between the two boroughs.
Ok, so the Brooklyn Bridge is a must and yes, it’s an amazing place to visit. But it’s worth noting as I referenced above that this is a crowded haven for tourists from across the globe to “hang out”. The walk itself is easy but the challenge, as with many tourist attractions, is competing with hundreds of selfie sticks, visitors trying to capture that perfect pose and as is usually the case, tourists clambering on the structure thinking their picture will lead to a million likes on Instagram.
Brooklyn Bridge Views North and South
Let’s take a step back and try to ignore all of this “overtourism” and instead focus on what we believe to be a beautiful architectural structure. As you continue the journey across the bridge, be sure to take in the views on both sides – to the north and of course, to the south.
We want to share experiences on both sides of the bridge because it’s inevitable that your eyes will immediately gaze to the south, simply because that is such an eye-catching scene. The north is equally impressive, so be sure to allocate some time to admire that side on your journey across the East River.
With amazing scenes both sides of the bridge, you could be forgiven for failing to truly appreciate the beauty of the bridge itself so please don’t forget to keep looking around you and occasionally peer towards the sky to really admire the beauty of Brooklyn Bridge. Here are some of the attractions, panoramic scenes, and experiences you can enjoy in both directions.
What to See From Brooklyn Bridge to the North
- Manhattan Bridge – Another infamous structure but frequently left in the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge crosses the East River and is yet another option to walk across, particularly if you are trying to commute between the two boroughs and looking for a much less crowded alternative. Construction on the Manhattan Bridge started in 1901, this is the newest of the three bridges on the East River.
- Williamsburg Bridge – If you love bridges, New York City is perhaps the best city in the world (among many other things!) to experience these. As you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, you cannot help but notice the Manhattan Bridge to the north but if you continue to allow your eyes to move further north, the Williamsburg Bridge is also visible. Construction started on this bridge in 1896 and it is slightly longer than it’s two counterparts.
- Midtown Manhattan – I think it’s a fair assumption to make that visitors to New York City will know that this city is full of skyscrapers. From Upper Manhattan all the way down to Lower Manhattan, and in between, there are a plethora of buildings that climb high into the sky. As you enjoy views to the north of Brooklyn Bridge, you will catch a glimpse of Midtown Manhattan, featuring structures such as the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, MetLife Building and for those of you looking to purchase a property in the Big Apple, the high-end luxury 432 Park Avenue apartments.
What to See From Brooklyn Bridge to the South
- Statue of Liberty – From Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty…two of New York City’s most infamous attractions and so it’s only appropriate that you can enjoy a distant view of “Lady Liberty” while walking across the bridge.
- One World Trade Center – It’s an unmistakable, iconic structure on the New York City skyline and as with many locations, you can enjoy relatively unobstructed views of the One World Trade Center – a 1,792 (to the tip) feet structure that is located in Lower Manhattan close to the site of the former Twin Towers.
- Lower Manhattan Skyline – From the Woolworth Building to the Four Seasons Hotel Downtown (along with the above One World Trade Center), you could spend some time trying to find your favorite architectural designs in Lower Manhattan.
- Governor’s Island – A 172-acre space in the heart of New York harbor, Governor’s Island was formerly a military post and major command headquarters for the US Army. Today, it offers a collection of historic buildings and green spaces for visitors to relax away from the hectic Manhattan lifestyle.
- Staten Island – Allow your eyes to peer beyond Governor’s Island to the south and you will enjoy distant views of Staten Island.
Whether you prefer the views to the north or south, don’t forget to admire the borough of Brooklyn as you can enjoy panoramic scenes of both the DUMBO and Williamsburg neighborhoods.
Two Bridges – Manhattan’s Quiet Neighborhood
As you disembark the Brooklyn Bridge and pass through the various locals trying to sell souvenirs, you are just a short walk from one of Manhattan’s quieter neighborhoods – Two Bridges. Take a moment to enjoy the historic City Hall building, home of the New York City government that dates back to 1811.
To the north (and east) of City Hall is where you will delve into what is one of New York City’s melting pots given that Two Bridges is a haven for immigrants. Little Fuzhou for example, is a thriving Chinese neighborhood that lies in the shadow of nearby Chinatown, primarily because the Fuzhou immigrants are the only non-Cantonese Chinese population to settle in New York’s boroughs.
Although Two Bridges is recognized largely as a residential and relatively quiet neighborhood, we are seeing a shift in the 21st century as more “high rise” structures are becoming prevalent in the area. One Manhattan Square, for example, stands at 847 feet and this residential skyscraper certainly stands proudly above the Two Bridges neighborhood.
Will we see more similar structures in the future in Two Bridges? The likelihood is yes but what was once a quiet neighborhood will probably shift given the influx of 21st-century residents that will take advantage of the skyscraper accommodation options.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is an unforgettable experience, not only because of the historic structure but also the myriad of epic views you can enjoy in both directions. Our recent trip to the Big Apple saw us take the subway to Brooklyn and then enjoy the best of the bridge en route back to Manhattan. Regardless of which direction you choose to take this walk, you can be sure your experience will be memorable.
A visit to Brooklyn Bridge should certainly allow for some time to enjoy both Two Bridges and DUMBO on either side of the East River. Both neighborhoods are diverse, unique and offer plenty of “relaxation” away from the usual fast-paced nature of New York City. Brooklyn Bridge may be one of the world’s top tourist attractions and this is noted with the number of visitors it receives every day, but it’s one of those that you simply want to experience time after time.