Walking the Brooklyn Bridge Local’s Guide | Avoid Crowds & Tips

by Dec 30, 2020Blog, New York

By far one of the most popular activities to do while visiting New York City is walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Heading on the pedestrian pathway with the iconic bridge towering above you and the Manhattan skyline out in the distance is truly a remarkable moment to enjoy. This guide will go through everything you will need to know to complete a Brooklyn Bridge walk on your own including some helpful tips on how to avoid the crowds.

Brooklyn Bridge Walk

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1) Brooklyn Bridge Facts & History

Below are just some facts about the bridge so you have an idea of what the Brooklyn Bridge is all about:

» The bridge was constructed from 1869 to 1883 and was designed by John Augustus Roebling. He passed away during the construction of the bridge from a result of an accident on site.

» His son, Washington Roebling, took over construction but soon fell ill and was subject to his Brooklyn apartment. From there he directed his wife, Emily, to oversee the day to day construction of the bridge.

» There were several setbacks while building the bridge including a compressed air explosion, a large fire, a broken cable that fell into the river, steel wire replacements, as well as 20 workers who died during the construction.

» The bridge officially opened on May 24, 1883 and was at the time the longest suspension bridge in the world.

» Including the approaches on both sides, the bridge measures 6,016 feet or 1,834 meters (the official walk will be a bit longer than this).

» At the time of opening, it costs a penny to cross by foot – that’s more than what it costs now (it’s free!).

» And if you were wondering, the official color of the Brooklyn Bridge is of course “Brooklyn Bridge Tan”.

Brooklyn Bridge Pathway

2) Brooklyn Bridge Walking Map

Below is a helpful Google Map, showing all the important points to note in order to take part of a Brooklyn Bridge walk. It includes the two entrances on the Brooklyn side, the one entrance on the Manhattan side, as well as some of the main nearby subway stations to get you to/from there (I’ll talk more about those next!).

 

You can make the walk across the bridge in either direction, HOWEVER, the recommended way would be to start on the Brooklyn side and walk to Manhattan. This way you get the Manhattan skyline in the background during the duration of the walk.

 

Remember – even if starting in Manhattan, you can still walk to Brooklyn and then turn around and come back the same way you came. This way you get to see the bridge from both directions. There is no wrong way to experience the bridge!

 

 

 

3) Subway to Brooklyn Bridge

Unless you are already staying close to either entrance (Manhattan or Brooklyn side) and are walking distance to the start, you most likely will be utilizing the NYC subway.

Luckily, there are plenty of subway options to choose from and no matter where you are coming from, you shouldn’t have an issue getting close by. I would highly recommend using the subway (if you are not within walking distance), as it can be much cheaper and sometimes even faster than a taxi or Uber. One-way Metrocards cost $2.75 per trip.

Below are some of the main subway lines that are close by the Brooklyn side entrance and the Manhattan side entrance.

 

Brooklyn Bridge Walking Entrance Brooklyn Side

⇔ Entrances on Tillary Street & Brooklyn Bridge Blvd OR Brooklyn Bridge Underpass on the corner of Prospect Street & Cadman Plaza East (aka Washington Street)

 

Tillary Street & Brooklyn Bridge Blvd → the more popular entrance on the Brooklyn side is at the intersection of Tillary Street and Brooklyn Bridge Blvd. Here is where the pedestrian pathway begins that will take you all the way to the bridge, and across into Manhattan. The pathway starts in the middle of the street between the lanes of traffic and can’t be missed here.The next section of this guide goes into more detail about this entrance in particular.

Prospect Street & Cadman Plaza East → if you are already a bit closer to the waterfront in Brooklyn, it may make more sense to begin the walk a bit further down the pathway at the corner of Prospect Street and Cadman Plaza East (aka Washington Street). At this intersection, you will arrive at an underpass, where you will be directed up a staircase and right onto the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian pathway.

 

Nearest Subway Lines:

High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station: A / C

Jay Street – Metrotech Station: A / C / F / R

Borough Hall Station: 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

 

Brooklyn Bridge Walking Entrance Manhattan Side

⇔ Entrance on Brooklyn Bridge Promenade on Centre Street (east side of New York City Hall)

 

Brooklyn Bridge Promenade on Centre Street → on the Manhattan side there really is just one main entrance on the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade directly next to Centre Street. If you make your way to the New York City Hall area, just head to the eastern part of it, where you will then cross the street and onto the promenade itself. From here just walk straight along the pathway and onto the bridge.

 

Nearest Subway Lines:

Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall Station: 4 / 5 /6

Chambers Street Station: J / Z

Fulton Street Station: A / C / J / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

City Hall Station: R / W

 

4) Brooklyn Bridge Walk Entrance Directions

Although there are 3 main entrances to choose from here, I will talk about the directions to the “main” Brooklyn entrance at the corner of Tillary Street & Brooklyn Bridge Blvd.

By starting at this entrance, you will get to walk the entirety of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian pathway (1.5 miles), and take in those beautiful Manhattan skyline views along the way.

Once you are off the subway (or if just walking from nearby), you will want to make your way to the main Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard. The “Boulevard” essentially starts right at Borough Hall – one of the main subway stops here. Prior to switching names to Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard, the street will be called Boerum Place.

You will want to walk north along Brooklyn Bridge Blvd until you reach the intersection at Tillary Street. It is important not to miss the intersection here because the walkway starts in the middle of the multi lane street.

Pictured below is the very start of the walkway (right behind the police car). From here you will continue to walk northbound on the pathway, where soon enough it will curve towards the Brooklyn Bridge itself.

You should begin to get those views in no time and from there it is a straight shot down the pathway towards Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge Entrance Tillary Street

5) Brooklyn Bridge Walk Details

Below are some helpful details to know about walking the Brooklyn Bridge to better prepare you for your day. Note the distance and duration are for ONE WAY across.

Brooklyn Side Entrance / Exit | Tillary Street & Brooklyn Bridge Blvd OR Brooklyn Bridge Underpass on the corner of Prospect Street & Cadman Plaza East (aka Washington Street)

Manhattan Side Entrance / Exit | Brooklyn Bridge Promenade on Centre Street (east side of New York City Hall)

Walkway Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.4 km

Duration: 35 minutes (no stops) → Plan for 60 to 90 minutes with stops/pictures

Walkway Material: Concrete -> Wooden Planks

Cost: Free!

Opening Hours: Open 24/7

 

6) Helpful Things to Know

» The walkway is split into 2 lanes – one for pedestrians and one for bicyclists. You will also see indicators within the lane itself to better direct people coming from either direction. You can think of it as 4 lanes altogether (2 for pedestrians and 2 for bicyclists). Be sure to follow suit and pay attention as you are walking along so you do not end up in the wrong lane.

» There are no bathrooms on the walkway itself, so be sure to prepare for that depending on how long you plan to spend on the bridge. Once you are off the bridge in either direction, you should be able to hop into a nearby restaurant, coffee shop, etc.

» You will also not find any food or drinks on the bridge. So, feel free to bring along anything with you during your walk (and be sure to put your garbage in the cans that are located throughout the walkway). At the start of the bridge on the Manhattan side though, you should come across some food stalls.

» On the bridge you will see some signs not to put any locks on the fencing, so be sure to obey by the law or you can get fined $100!

» If heading there on a sunny spring or summer day, don’t forget to bring the sunscreen. There isn’t too much shade on the bridge so you will want to be protected from the sun.

» If heading there early or later on in the day, or in the cooler times of year, be sure to bring another layer. It can get chilly and windier up there so it’s better to come prepared.

» Lastly, I would recommend walking shoes for the walk across (and walking around NYC in general). Not only will it be easier and more comfortable on your feet, but the NYC streets can get a bit dirty, which wouldn’t bode well for flips flops.

 

7) Can you Bike Across

Yes, you can bike across the Brooklyn Bridge in either direction. As mentioned, there are actually lanes of the bridge that are labeled for bicycles only.

While bicycling is certainly possible given the separate walking and biking lanes, I probably would not recommend doing so during peak bridge hours. The reason I say that is because there can be A LOT of tourists walking across in both directions. And while they are supposed to stay in just the walking lanes, it is not uncommon for them to end up in the bike lanes too.

If you do want to bike the bridge I would recommend doing so earlier on in the day (or later on) once the crowds begin to subside and you won’t need to worry every minute that someone may accidentally step into the bike lane.

Renting a bike is also a very easy thing to do in Manhattan with its Citi Bike program. You can download the Citi Bike app and find various bike stations all around the city to pick up and drop off your bike.

A day pass for Citi Bikes is $15, which is good for unlimited 30 minute rides for a 24 hour period. If you go over the 30 minute per ride, you will be charged $4 for every additional 15 minutes.

 

8) A Brooklyn Bridge Walking Experience

Now that you have all the necessary background information, let’s dive into what a Brooklyn Bridge walking experience is all about. I will go about the walk starting at the Brooklyn Bridge Blvd / Tillary Street entrance as that would be my recommended route here.

After getting off the subway or coming from a nearby spot in Brooklyn, you will first make the walk to the Brooklyn Bridge Blvd / Tillary Street intersection. Once at the intersection, cross the street to the middle divider, where the pedestrian walkway begins.

You will begin the official walk from here as you head northbound on the walkway. For the first portion, you will be on ground level with cars on either side of you, and a portion of the nearby Manhattan bridge in view out in the distance.

The pathway will then soon curve to the left, when you will then begin to see the Brooklyn Bridge itself with the Manhattan skyline right behind it.

Tillary Street PathwayApproach to Brooklyn Bridge Walking Towards Brooklyn Bridge

From here it is a straight shot right towards the heart of the bridge, as the walkway begins to gain a bit of elevation and the walkway goes above the main street level. The walkway itself will turn from the concrete pavement to the wooden plank walkway as you are now on the official bridge portion of the walk.

I like to break up the bridge into three main parts from here as you can see in the screenshot below. The first is the portion before the initial arches, the second portion is between the initial arches and the final arches, and the third portion is after the final arches.

Depending where you are on the bridge, you will see that your views will be slightly different. In some spots you will be surrounded by the suspension cables, where in other spots, the walkway may feel a bit more open.

I really enjoyed all the various portions of the walk as the arches, cables, and skyline were changing with every step. Below are some pictures that I took during the three portions of the walk so you can get a better understanding of what the layout out in front of you will look like.

Brooklyn Bridge Walking Map

Section 1

The first portion of the bridge walk really starts before you even make it over the river. During this section you will see the suspension cables going up towards the arches, with the American flag up top, and the skyline further out in the distance. For me, this was probably my favorite section of the bridge as you not only got a great skyline view, but the arches and bridge cables made the experience that much better.

Once you are past those initial arches, you will be on the second portion of the bridge walk and will now be over the river itself.

Brooklyn Bridge Sunrise Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian PathBrooklyn Bridge Lanes

Section 2

During the second portion, the initial cables will be going down, followed by no cables at all, and then the second set up cables going up towards the second arches. You can see in the image below what a unique view it is straight down the bridge with the cables on either side of you and the final set of arches further out in the distance.

You will continuously have the skyline in view but now will be getting closer and closer to the other side of the bridge. For a short portion in the middle of the bridge, you won’t have any cables on either side of you. The bridge here feels more open and you can get some great views of the Manhattan Bridge on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other.

Soon enough you will be walking alongside the next set of cables going up to the arches, for another beautiful view.

Walking Across the Brooklyn BridgeBrooklyn Bridge WalkingBrooklyn Bridge Arches

Section 3

After crossing underneath the second set of arches and making your way alongside the cables, you will be very close to crossing over the final river portion and into Manhattan. As you are getting closer, the skyline will slowly disappear as you now have some other buildings blocking your view. However, you should still be able to enjoy views south down the waterside as well as the Freedom Tower up above you.

Continue the walk along the pathway as the end slowly comes into view as you see the Manhattan entrance to the bridge just out in the distance. From here you can decide to enter Manhattan, or if you are heading back to Brooklyn, feel free to cross the bridge in the opposite direction.

Freedom Tower ViewNYC Gehry Building

Other Highlights

Beyond the bridge itself, you are sure to get some views of various buildings and structures as you are making your way across. Some of these highlights include:

 

Freedom Tower / One World Trade Center

The most famous building of the Manhattan skyline will be the Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trade Center. The building was opened in 2016 and is one of the highlights to visit while in Manhattan. If you have some time after the Brooklyn Bridge walk, you can head there next on your day.

Downtown NYC Skyline

8 Spruce Street / New York by Gehry

Another building that will constantly be in view is the silver curvy looking building. This is 8 Spruce Street also known as New York by Gehry and is one of the more unique looking buildings you will find in Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan

The Statue of Liberty

While a bit further away, you should be able to take in views of the Statue of Liberty way out in the distance. It will be on your left hand side if walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is another potential add on to your day if you would like to make your way to the statue itself and the nearby Ellis Island.

Statue of Liberty View

Governor’s Island

A bit closer in view than the Statue of Liberty will be Governor’s Island. This 172 acre former military base is now a fan favorite recreational place to visit during a trip to New York. It is a great place to visit to “escape” the city and also get some great views of the skyline to relax for a few hours.

Governors Island View

The Manhattan Bridge

Lastly, you also have the Manhattan Bridge right next door to the Brooklyn Bridge. This is another bridge you can walk across if you have the time. While it certainly is not as scenic of a bridge itself, you can get some great views of the Brooklyn Bridge and downtown Manhattan.

» If you have the time I would highly recommend walking across the Manhattan Bridge as well to get some great views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Manhattan Bridge View

9) Where to Stay in Manhattan

There are so many different neighborhoods to choose from when visiting Manhattan. Below are some of my top choices for a few of my recommended locations in the city:

 

Chelsea: If you are looking to be well situated between uptown, midtown, and downtown, then Chelsea can be a great option for you. You have highlights such as the Highline, Chelsea Market, the Vessel, and the Hudson River right nearby. And if you are looking to head to Central Park uptown or the World Trade Center area further downtown, then you are just a quick subway ride away. Recommended Chelsea hotels:

Cambria Hotel | Hyatt House | Moxy NYC

Midtown: Right in the middle of the action is the midtown area, where you have the one and only Times Square, and all Broadway shows right at your doorstep. You are also within walking distance to the southern end of Central Park. Almost all subway lines connect at Times Square so getting around should not be an issue. Recommended Midtown hotels:

LUMA Hotel | citizenM Hotel | Aliz Hotel

Tribeca: If you are trying to stay in downtown Manhattan, then I would recommend looking into the Tribeca area. Staying here and you will be just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center area, 9/11 Memorial Pools & Museum, and the hop on point for the Statue of Liberty. You will also be pretty close by the Manhattan side entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Recommended Tribeca Hotels:

The Roxy Hotel | Sheraton Tribeca | Four Seasons Hotel

 

Moxy Hotel NYC

Also be sure to check out some of my Central Park travel guides including the Bow Bridge , The Ramble, and the Reservoir Loop!

 

10) Walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn

While the most popular route is to start in Brooklyn and end in Manhattan, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it the other way around. Although you will need to turn around for the views of the Manhattan skyline, you will still have beautiful views of the bridge itself along with the Brooklyn skyline in the other direction.

Another way to go about your day, would be to start in Manhattan, walk the bridge one way into Brooklyn, and spend some time enjoying some activities around the DUMBO neighborhood (aka Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass neighborhood).

Once you are all set with your time in Brooklyn, you can then walk right back across the bridge in the other direction towards Manhattan and get those more popular views during your second walk across.

Brooklyn Bridge Sunrise Photo Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan to Brooklyn

11) How to Avoid the Crowds

So, given crowds can certainly be an issue here, I want to talk about how to avoid them as best as possible. Whether you are photographer or just someone who wants to enjoy the bridge without all the craziness around them, below are some helpful tips to have a better chance of having the bridge to yourself.

Sunrise / Early Morning  – the best way in my opinion to avoid the crowds is to head there for sunrise or soon after. Anytime before 9AM or so I would say you have a good chance to have little to no people around. Once you hit mid morning, you will have more and more people coming along.

As you can see in my photos, I headed there around sunrise and spent a couple hours walking the bridge in both directions. I would highly recommend if you are up for it.

Downtown Manhattan Views

Sunset / Evening –the crowds will subside as you get later on in the day and approach sunset / nighttime. I would still expect there to be people around sunset, but not nearly the crowd compared to mid afternoon.

Weekday – no matter what time you decide to go, coming on a weekday will almost certainly be less crowded than the weekend. Not only will you have the usual tourist crowd on the weekend but you will also have all the locals, who want to enjoy the walk themselves.

 

That about does it for your local’s guide to walking across the Brooklyn Bridge of New York City. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them in below. Also don’t forget to check out the other helpful New York travel guides up on the site for more to do in and around the city!

Have fun out there and safe travels!

 

Brooklyn Bridge Walk NYC

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