Guide to the Brooklyn Bridge

Andrew Rosenberg

Celebrated in song, glamorized on celluloid and immortalized in poetry, the postcard-perfect Brooklyn Bridge stands as one of New York City’s most recognizable symbols—not to mention a magnificent feat of engineering. Upon its completion in 1883 it became the first roadway to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, which were then separate cities (Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898). Back then, the Brooklyn Bridge was also the world’s longest suspension bridge—its 1,595-foot central span unsurpassed until the Williamsburg Bridge's completion two decades later.

The bridge's appearance sets it apart: its Gothic towers with double arches, criss-crossing steel cables and graceful, gentle curvature make walking or biking across the span (or at least catching a glimpse of it) sought-after experiences for visitors. On either end are cool neighborhoods to explore: stately Brooklyn Heights and once-industrial DUMBO on the Brooklyn side; the Financial District, TriBeCa and Chinatown all within easy reach on the Manhattan side.

Below, our guide includes everything you need to know to take full advantage of a trip to what may be the most famous bridge in the world.

Photo: Julienne Schaer


John A. Roebling, an immigrant from Prussia, designed the bridge—though he died due to complications from a freak accident in 1869, just before construction commenced. His son Washington took over supervision, but a case of the bends sidelined him. Washington Roebling's wife, Emily, ultimately oversaw the balance of construction, which was completed in 1883; the bridge's dedication and opening took place that May 24.

Numerous changes have taken place over the years, with the latest round improvements (still in progress) including structural repair work, a widening of the ramps on both ends and a fresh paint job with a new official color, Brooklyn Bridge Tan.

The bridge is one of New York City's most recognizable symbols.

Where can I get the best views of the bridge itself?

A walk or ride on the bridge is going to position you for some excellent river vistas and changing perspectives—but to take in the whole of the bridge itself, you’ll need to go somewhere nearby. A few ideas:

Go down to Main Street or Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the Brooklyn side, and gaze up or out. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade also provides some excellent looks.

In Manhattan, head to Pier 15 down by the South Street Seaport for a good view.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

What should I do when I get to the other side?

Manhattan: See the African Burial Ground National Monument. Tour City Hall (Wednesdays and Thursdays) or Tweed Courthouse (select Fridays). Sip a glass of wine at Racines NY. Wander up to Chinatown.

Brooklyn: Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel. Have pizza and ice cream in Dumbo. Check out some street murals and gallery art. Walk the gaslit blocks of Brooklyn Heights.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Where to enter

The pedestrian stairs on the Brooklyn side are located on Washington Street and Prospect Street, right at the northeast corner of Cadman Plaza. You can also just walk straight onto the bridge from Adams Street. On the Manhattan side, walk on to the central wooden platform from Centre Street—just across from the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall subway station for the 4, 5 and 6 lines.

Does it matter which way I cross?

That depends on which skyline you would rather approach on your journey: the towers and canyons of Lower Manhattan or the converted warehouses and green-lined waterfront of Dumbo. Whichever way you go, make sure to take a bit of time to look up and around as you’re crossing—the cables spiderwebbing in front of the arches make for a classic picture.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Does it cost anything to cross?

No. When it first opened, though, pedestrians had to pay a penny for the privilege.


Fast facts

• The Brooklyn Bridge was the first suspension bridge to use steel rather than iron for its cables.
Cable cars ran in NYC from 1883 to 1909, with the first line opening on the bridge. Elevated trains ran on the bridge until 1944; trolleys until 1954.
• The bridge is nearing the end of a five-year-plus rehabilitation project, which includes numerous structural repairs. Cost: roughly $600 million.
• According to the most recent available data (2014), around 100,000 cars cross the bridge daily—a number likely to rise once all construction is done.
• The full length of the bridge is nearly 6,000 feet.
Splash, Annie Hall,Hudson Hawk and On the Town are just a few of the movies that have shown off the bridge on film.
• Nearly a decade ago City workers discovered a Cold War–era stash of emergency supplies hidden inside the masonry of the bridge.
• Check out the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (1866), which links Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky. It was Roebling's dry run for the Brooklyn Bridge.
• A plaque honoring Emily Roebling and the rest of the builders can be found on the tower on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. During his illness, Washington Roebling positioned himself in their apartment at 110 Columbia Heights (later destroyed for the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) to monitor the bridge’s progress from afar.
• This is not really a fact, but it is a fun commercial for Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th anniversary.

Photo: Julienne Schaer