Three Manhattan bridges cross New York City’s East River to connect the island to Brooklyn.
The Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Manhattan bridges are each historic New York landmarks in their own right. Walking or biking across them is one of the best ways to gain perspective of the city’s beauty and unrivaled immensity.
Any one of the bridges will offer breathtaking views of the labyrinthine city, but each has its own idiosyncrasies that make it more or less appealing to navigate. This guide will help you determine which bridge is best for you.
The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883, becoming the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed. The spectacular brick columns and web-like suspensions have become a New York City icon. The bridge has earned designations both as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.
There is no better bridge in New York to walk. A beautiful path bisects the highway and offers gorgeous views of the water, nearby islands and New York City at large. It’s a visceral emergence from one borough into the next. It is, however, the worst bridge to bike. Bikers must essentially use the same path as the streaming throngs of pedestrians, leaving little room and much frustration for would-be bicyclists.
The bridge runs between DUMBO and Two Bridges; neither is especially intriguing, but they aren’t far from nicer locales.
The Manhattan Bridge
Just north of the Brooklyn Bridge is the Manhattan Bridge. This behemoth of steel opened in 1909 and is regarded as the forerunner of modern suspension bridges.
There are two paths clinging to either side of the bridge: one for walking and one for biking. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge has rail traffic in addition to automobiles, so it’s a loud journey. It’s not as picturesque as its southern neighbor either, but at least the walkers and bikers are separated. With that said, the steep grade of the path prevents casual bike rides.
The bridge originates in nearly the same location in Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Bridge, but it deposits you into Manhattan’s Chinatown, a good starting point for adventures into Soho and the three villages.
The Williamsburg Bridge
The northernmost bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn is the Williamsburg Bridge. The overpass was built in 1903 and, at the time of its construction, it was the largest suspension bridge on earth. Throughout the 20th century, deferred maintenance led to significant deterioration and a huge rebuild project that spanned the 1990s.
The rebuild included a brand new bike path that has since become the most heavily bicycled stretch in North America. The grade is much kinder than that of the Manhattan Bridge and it has a healthy separation from its adjacent walking path.
Both walking and biking paths rise high above the automobile and rail traffic below, offering splendid vantage points and alleviating vehicular noise. Furthermore, the bridge connects Williamsburg – one of the hippest neighborhoods in Brooklyn – to the heart of the Lower East Side, the springboard of many lower Manhattan itineraries.
- brooklyn bridge
- East River
- Lower East Side
- Manhattan Bridge
- National Historic Landmark
- Two Bridges
- Williamsburg Bridge