Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best and most popular tourist activities in NYC!
Add it to your bucket list, then check out this Brooklyn Bridge guide ... it covers everything you need to know to plan an amazing walk.
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From world-renowned museums to one-of-a-kind landmarks (hello, Lady Liberty!), there is no shortage of amazing things to do in New York.
Even if you lived in NYC your whole life, you'd be hard pressed to see it all. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun attempting to check all those sights off your bucket list!
And there's one activity that's at the top of almost every New York bucket list ... walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
Whether you're visiting the city or you live there, walking across this iconic bridge is one of the best things to do in NYC. It's fun, free, and the perfect way to enjoy breathtaking skyline and river views!
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge ... What to Know, Before You Go
Like many popular New York activities, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot can be alternately exciting (the jaw-dropping views) and aggravating (the crowds).
I'm not going to lie ... the bridge isn't exactly a hidden treasure, and it gets freaking crowded. Like hard to walk, I'm going to break that selfie-stick if you don't move, why did I do this anyway?!? crowded.
It's totally worth making the Brooklyn Bridge walk though, especially if you're prepared and know what you're getting into.
And lucky for you, I've crossed the bridge many times ... both when I lived in NYC and since moving away. I'm sharing everything you need to know about walking across this beautiful bridge ... from how to access the pedestrian walkway to picking the best time to visit (and avoid those crowds), plus so much more.
Keep reading for all the details!
Brooklyn Bridge Facts
Not surprisingly, the bridge has a fascinating history. So before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to cross the bridge, I though you'd enjoy learning a few Brooklyn Bridge facts.
- The bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling and was built between 1869 and 1883.
- It's 5,989 feet long from end to end. The river span is 1,595.5 feet and rises of 276.5 ft above New York City's East River. The two towers are constructed of limestone, granite, and concrete, and each tower features two Gothic arches which resemble cathedral windows.
- When the bridge opened in 1883, it was the longest steel-cable suspension bridge in the world. It held that honor until Scotland's Firth of Forth cantilever bridge was completed in 1890.
- Tragedy surrounded the building of the bridge. Roebling died in an accident while surveying land for the bridge. His son Washington then took over, but in 1872, he suffered from crippling decompression sickness and was confined to his apartment. After the accident, Washington's wife Emily supervised the work and played in integral part in the bridge's construction. She was the first person to cross the bridge upon its completion, and you'll find a plaque dedicated to her on the Brooklyn Tower.
- At least 20 workers were killed during construction (with many more suffering decompression sickness). There was also a compressed air blast, a fire in one of the caissons, and faulty wire that needed to be replaced ... all of which slowed construction.
- It's the oldest of NYC's three suspension bridges. The other two are the Williamsburg Bridge, completed in 1903, and the Manhattan Bridge, completed in 1909.
- The bridge features numerous passageways and vaults in its anchorages, which the city originally rented out to fund the bridge. Before they were closed in the 1930's, the vaults were used to store wine.
- In cold weather, the bridge's cables contract, and the bridge may rise up to three inches.
- As the first land crossing between Manhattan and Brooklyn, the bridge originally carried horse-drawn carriages and rail transportation ... no cars! Today, there are six lanes of traffic, and the upper span is open for pedestrians and bicyclists 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- The Bridge has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and a New York City Landmark.
How to Get to the Brooklyn Bridge
Okay, ready to start planning your walk? The first thing you need to know is how to get to the bridge.
You can access the pedestrian walkway from Manhattan or Brooklyn. For the best views of Manhattan, start in Brooklyn ... that way, you'll be facing that show-stopping skyline throughout your walk.
I've done the walk both ways though, and either direction is great ... so don't feel like you're missing out if you begin in Manhattan. I mean, it's not like you can't turn around to look at the city skyline behind you, right?
The easiest way to get to the bridge is via subway.
Getting to the Bridge in Manhattan
The pedestrian entrance for the Brooklyn Bridge walk in Manhattan is located just across Centre Street, by City Hall. I created a free Google Map to help you find it.
If you're already in lower Manhattan, you could probably walk there. There are a number of subway stops nearby, too ... here are the closest ones:
- 4/5/6: Exit at the Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall station. This is the closest station to the bridge.
- J/Z: Exit at Chamber Street.
- ⅔: Exit at Park Place.
- R: Exit at City Hall.
- A/C/F: Exit at Chambers Street.
Getting to the Bridge in Brooklyn
It's slightly trickier to access the pedestrian entrances in Brooklyn, but you have two options. Again, use the Google Map to locate these entrances.
Tillary Street and Adams Street: Starting here with lengthen your walk, but it's ideal if you are starting from Downtown Brooklyn, pushing a stroller, or have a disability that prevents you from climbing stairs. Nearby subway stops include:
- 2/3/4/5: Exit at Borough Hall. (The Clark Street stop is also nearby for the ⅔ trains.)
- A/C/F: Exit at Jay Street - MetroTech.
- N/R: Exit at Court Street.
Washington Street Stairs: This is my favorite way enter the bridge in Brooklyn, but it's a little hidden (pinpoint it on the map). When you get to the top of the stairs, make sure to watch out for fast-moving bicyclists. Then veer left to stay on the pedestrian side of the path. Nearby subways stops include:
- A/C/F: Exit at High Street - Brooklyn Bridge Station.
- ⅔: Exit at Clark Street. Not super close, but definitely walkable.
By the way, if you're overwhelmed by NYC's public transportation system, don't freak out. Download a free transit app!
What You'll See as You Cross the Bridge
So, why would you want to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the first place? It's all about the views, both of the historic bridge itself and the surrounding city!
First of all, if you enjoy photography, you're going to love capturing the bridge. From the sweeping cables to the soaring towers with their Gothic arches, you'll find many amazing photo opps. And then there's the scenery surrounding the bridge ... wow!
To the South of the Bridge You'll See:
- Lower Manhattan - If you're facing south, lower Manhattan will be to your right. It's hard to miss with all its towering skycrapers, including the distinctive Woolworth Building and One World Trade Center.
- Brooklyn - Facing South on the bridge, look to the left for sweeping views from Brooklyn Heights to Red Hook.
- East River - You're standing over it, and you'll have views of the river looking both north and south.
- Governors Island - Do you spot an island where the East River meets the New York harbor? That's Governors Island, a decommissioned military base that's now an awesome park.
- Staten Island / New Jersey - Behind Governors Island, you'll see Staten Island and New Jersey in the distance.
- The Statue of Liberty - She may be tiny, but she's there! Look for her below the tip of Manhattan.
Some of the sights you'll see to the north:
- Midtown - Look north in Manhattan and you're eye will creep up to Midtown ... more skyscrapers!
- Brooklyn - On the Brooklyn side of the East River, you'll be gazing over neighborhoods stretching from DUMBO to Williamsburg.
- Manhattan Bridge - Look north on the East River ... the next bridge you'll see is the Manhattan Bridge. You can walk over this one, too, and it's much less crowded.
- Williamsburg Bridge - See if you can spot this bridge in the distance ... it's the next one be beyond the Manhattan Bridge. This is another bridge you can walk over.
Taking Photos on the Brooklyn Bridge Walk
It's inevitable that you'll want to take photos while walking across the bridge, but please use a little common sense.
Move over to take your photos, so other walkers can pass you ... don't block everyone else to get your shot.
How Long Does It Take to Walk the Brooklyn Bridge?
The walk is about 1.3 miles long (one way). It should take you about 60 minutes at a leisurely pace (again, one way), giving you time to take in the views and snap some photos. At a brisk pace, you're looking at 20 to 25 minutes.
There are a few things that might slow you down. First, the bridge gets very crowded. If you're walking across it at a peak time, you'll only be able to walk as fast as the crowd. You may also take longer if you take tons of photos (that's me!), are traveling with kids, or a have any mobility issues.
Here are a few things that will make your walk more pleasant, no matter how long it takes you:
- Wear sunscreen and possibly a giant, floppy hat ... ha! There's very little shade on the bridge, so plan on being exposed to the sun the whole time.
- You'll be exposed to the weather, whether it's hot out or cold (it can get gusty up there). Dress appropriately.
- There's nowhere to buy food on the bridge, although you may run across someone selling water bottles. Bring your own to be on the safe side.
- Go to the bathroom before you start your walk. If you forget, you'll need to hold it.
- The Brooklyn Bridge walkway is made of narrow, wood slats and features a gradual incline on either end. It's not a difficult walk, but you'll be most comfortable wearing flat-soled shoes.
- If you're looking for cheesy/cheap souvenirs, you'll probably find a few vendors selling them on the Manhattan side of the bridge (before the first tower).
What Is the Best Time to Walk Across the Bridge?
There's really no bad time to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, unless you can't stand crowds, that is. In which case, you'll want to go very early or late.
My favorite time to do this walk is at sunrise. I've only done this once (I'm not a morning person), but there was no crowd. And the morning light is beautiful (makes for great photos).
Keep the weather in mind, too. It gets hot in summer, and there's almost no shade to speak of. In winter, it's probably going to be cold and gusty, and there's no where to warm up.
You may want to consider making the walk at night ... just imagine the sparkling city lights you'll see! The bridge will be crowded around sunset, but if you go a little later it should thin out. And generally speaking, it's safe to walk the Brooklyn Bridge at night. Just use your common sense/street smarts, and don't cross it when it's totally empty (after 11 PM or so).
Can You Bike Over the Brooklyn Bridge?
You absolutely can bike over the bridge, and as of September 2021, there is a dedicated bike lane. However, it's located on the car level of the bridge (below the pedestrian walkway), so if you're going for the views, it's better to just walk.
There are many places to rent bikes near the bridge or you could use a Citi Bike. A Citi Bike day pass is a bargain at $15 ... just keep in mind that you have to return the bike within 30 minutes (or be charged $4 for each extra 15 minutes).
Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tours
Would you like someone to guide you on your walk?
Consider taking a tour. You'll learn all sorts of interesting facts and historical information.
There are many different tour opportunities, from a Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge group tour to private tours of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO (a Brooklyn neighborhood). You can also sign up for bike tours!
Find more bridge tours here.
What Not to to Do When Crossing the Bridge
As I mentioned in the beginning, walking the Brooklyn Bridge can be really fun, yet it can also be super annoying.
Here are a few things to avoid doing that will make the walk more pleasant for everyone ... including yourself!
- Do not place padlocks on the bridge. There's a trend to hang padlocks on bridges these days (especially for couples), but it's just a bad idea. First of all, it's illegal, and you could be fined. That may be unlikely to happen, but padlocks can also cause structural damage (one may not be an issue, but hundreds?), they create extra maintenance costs for already strained city budgets, and they can be dangerous to traffic below.
- Do not litter. Have you ever heard that saying "Take only memories, leave only footprints"?
- Do not deface the bridge. This includes adding stickers, writing your initials, or adding any other graffiti to the bridge. There's no reason to leave your mark on this historic bridge ... take a photo instead.
- Do not block traffic while taking photos. Be mindful of what's going on around you, and get over so people can walk around you. Want to get that amazing photo in the middle of the bridge? Go early OR have lots of patience and wait until there's an opening with no one coming in either direction.
Best Things to Do After Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge
There are so many things to do in Brooklyn and Manhattan, no matter which side of the bridge you end your walk on.
I'm sharing a few ideas to get you started, all of which I've marked on a Google Map which you can use during your walk.
Things to Do in Lower Manhattan
There are tons of unique places to check out in Manhattan ... here are a few, all within walking distance of the bridge (or short subway trip):
- African Burial Ground National Monument - In 1991, during excavation for an office building, over 15,000 skeletal remains from free and enslaved Africans were found 30 feet under Broadway. The museum is small, but very compelling.
- Federal Hall - The birthplace of American government! George Washington was sworn in as our first President here, and it was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices.
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum - An extremely touching place to pause and reflect during your NYC visit.
- The Oculus - The soaring, Santiago Calatrava-designed transit center/mall, is the transportation hub for the new World Trade Center. The unique design (it kind of resembles a spine), has received mixed reviews, but I think it's pretty amazing!
- Charging Bull Statue - This popular statue was created by Italian sculpture Maestro Arturo DiModica. It's said to symbolize the determination and spirit of the American people as they rallied after 1986's Wall Street crash.
- Fearless Girl Statue - This statue was originally placed facing the Charging Bull, but it has recently been moved across from the Stock Exchange. It was commissioned to draw attention to the power of women in leadership. There's talk that the Charging Bull will follow suit and move, too.
- Staten Island Ferry - Riding the ferry is one of my favorite FREE things to do in NYC. You'll get great views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and New York Harbor.
- Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island - Another iconic New York experience. The statue is inspiring to see up close, and Ellis Island is amazing, too ... a great monument to the melting pot that the U.S. is and should continue to be. Make sure to buy tickets in advance.
- Governors Island - From May through October, you can take a ferry to Governors Island, a decommissioned military base that's now a cool park. It's one of my favorite places in NYC.
- Tenement Museum - Sign up for a tour to explore this fascinating museum. You'll visit a preserved tenement building on the Lower East Side and hear real stories about the people that lived and worked there.
- Chinatown - Walk around and explore bustling Chinatown. If you're looking for somewhere to eat, I like Vanessa's for dumplings and Xi'an Famous Foods for noodles (and dumplings, too).
Things to Do in Brooklyn
Ending your walk in Brooklyn? You'll find plenty of ways to spend the rest of your day:
- Explore some of Brooklyn's more upscale neighborhoods - DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill are all located nearby. While these neighborhoods don't have lots of "sights", you will find plenty of shopping, restaurants, bars, and beautiful architecture (it's brownstone central over there!).
- New York Transit Museum - Step back in time to learn about the history of NYC transit. The museum is located in a decommissioned subway station ... you'll have so fun exploring the vintage subway cars (great for kids).
- Brooklyn Heights Promenade - This charming pedestrian walkway features great views of Manhattan, the East River, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park - One either side of the bridge, you'll find a beautiful riverfront park with amazing views (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, East River), activities, food, and more. Check out more of Brooklyn's Best Parks, too.
- Jane's Carousel - Located in Brooklyn Bridge Park, this vintage carousel was built in 1922. It was originally located in Ohio, but after being meticulously restored, it was moved to its current riverfront spot in 2011. Very popular with families!
- Insta-Famous Photo - Snap a photo of the Manhattan Bridge from what is surely the most popular Instagram location in Brooklyn. This DUMBO spot is no hidden secret (see it below / find the exact location on my Google Map), so be patient if you want a good pic.
Instagram vs. Reality ... ha ha!
Brooklyn Heights Promenade ... I love taking a relaxing walk up here, and the sunset views of Manhattan are pretty spectacular.
Hotels Near the Bridge
If you want stay near the bridge, you'll find plenty of options. The New York Marriott Brooklyn Bridge is located a couple blocks from Brooklyn's Tillary Street entrance. In Manhattan, The Beekman is a beautiful, upscale hotel located near the bridge.
On our last NYC trip, we stayed at the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side in Manhattan. While not located right by the bridge, it's close, reasonably priced, hip, and the neighborhood can't be beat!
We've also stayed at the Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, which is located within walking distance of the Tillary Street entrance to the bridge. If you'll be spending a lot of time in Brooklyn, this hotel would be an excellent option.
For tons of other choices, make sure to compare and contrast hotels and rates on TripAdvisor ... the reviews are so helpful!
Other Things to Do in NYC
Okay, you've walked the bridge! What else is there to do in New York?
Sooo much ... it's honestly quite hard to narrow it all down. I've already shared some of my favorite activities above (under what to do after crossing the bridge), but here are a few other ideas:
- Domino Park - While you're in Brooklyn, head over to Williamsburg and visit Domino Park. This unique park was built on the site of an old Domino Sugar factory and features lots of industrial remnants.
- Central Park - No visit to NYC is complete with a stroll through this world-renowned park! My favorite time to visit is in fall, but it's stunning anytime of year.
- Rockaway Beach - Escape the bustle of the city and go chill at Rockaway Beach ... truly my happy place! It's kind of a hike, but totally worth it on a beautiful summer day.
- High Line - A visit to the High Line, an elevated park that was built on a deserted train track is never a bad idea. You'll be treated to public art, great NYC views, yummy food, and more.
- Heading to NYC during the holidays? It's magical ... before you go, make sure to check out my comprehensive guide to Christmas in New York. And you'll also want to take a tour NYC's best Christmas windows!
- Visiting in spring? Here’s where to find the best Cherry Blossoms in NYC.
- Governors Island - If you want to escape the city for a bit, head to Governors Island. This unique park / National Monument is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
- Want more ideas? Check out my A to Z guide to visiting (or living in) New York, as well as my list of NYC favorites after living there for my first eight months!
Have you ever walked over the Brooklyn Bridge?