How To Walk The Manhattan Bridge In New York City

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NYC Manhattan Bridge with snow foreground taken from brooklyn pebble beach walk over the long bridge when visiting new york city

While the Brooklyn Bridge is main show stopper in New York City, the Manhattan Bridge is another popular option for crossing the East River. This is a lesser crowded bridge with separate paths for both walkers and bikers. But some visitors don’t like the chain linked fence and loud subway cars.

In this guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about walking over the Manhattan Bridge including where to find the best photos spots.

Our NYC Experience

Kristen is a New York State native and we lived in NYC for a few months in 2021. We chose to move to the city so we could create the best possible content because you can’t just visit New York City for a weekend and claim to be an expert. Read more about us.

While we no longer live here, we still travel to the city every year because it’s one of the best places to visit in the USAWe’ve personally walked across the Manhattan Bridge multiple times to see the incredible city skyline views.

Interesting Facts About The Manhattan Bridge

According to the New York City DOT, construction on the Manhattan Bridge began in 1901. It was completed in 1909 and spans over the East River connecting southeastern Manhattan with western Brooklyn. This helped to ease the overcrowding on the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridge.

The Manhattan Bridge is newer compared to the other suspension bridges over the East River. It’s 6,855ft long with a double deck motorway featuring four lanes on the top and three lanes on the bottom.

But it also has four subway lines, a pedestrian walkway and a bike path. On the Manhattan side, you’ll find the Manhattan Bridge Plaza which was part of the City Beautiful Movement resembling Porte St. Denis in Paris and Bernini’s colonnade at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Travel Tip: We like how pedestrians and bikers have their own lanes on the Manhattan Bridge so you won’t run into problems like you do on the Brooklyn Bridge with people blocking lanes or taking photos.

 

Getting Across The Manhattan Bridge

New York City at night photography brooklyn
The Manhattan Bridge lit up at night

There are many ways you can cross the Manhattan Bridge including walking, biking, driving and taking the subway. It’s about 1.3 miles long and toll-free making it a popular option with New Yorkers.

We’ll go over each mode of transportation briefly below:

  • Driving – With a double-deck motorway this is a good way to fight traffic in NYC, but never under estimate the traffic and you may need to plan for extra driving time.
  • Biking – The north side of the Manhattan Bridge is open to bikers. Find the bike lane on Chrystie Street in Manhattan or at the intersection of Jay St and Sand St in Brooklyn. You can use CitiBike to rent bikes in the city.
  • Subway – This is one of the quickest routes over the bridge. Depending on where you’ll start, you can use the Canal St Station in Manhattan or the York St Station in Brookyln.
  • Walking – A less popular tourist walkway compared to the Brooklyn Bridge which means less people and more space.

Further Reading: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise

Manhattan Bridge Pedestrian Path Walkthrough

To walk across the Manhattan Bridge, you’ll need to cross the East River via the pedestrian pathway which is on the bottom side of the bridge as you look at a map.

As we mentioned above, the total distance is about 1.3 miles one way (6,855ft). According to AllTrails, it takes about 45 minutes to walk. But if you plan to stop and take many photos like we did, you might want to plan for 1-2 hours.

1. Where To Begin

Chinatown NYC mural on a wall
Graffiti on a wall in NYC’s Chinatown

The pedestrian pathway begins on the south side of the bridge and the bike route can be found on the north side. We think the south side has better views so that’s good news for walkers.

To cross the bridge, you can start in both Brooklyn or Manhattan. We walked the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but we’ll show you how to get to both access points.

Manhattan

From Manhattan, you’ll need to find the intersection of Bowery and Bayard St in Chinatown. Then you can continue northeast 200ft sticking to the right hand side of the road.

The pedestrian path curves to the right and you’ll see a green sign saying Manhattan Bridge with an arrow pointing to the right. This marks the beginning of the path in Manhattan.

Here are the nearest subway stations on the Manhattan side:

  • Canal St Yellow Line – R, Q, N, W
  • Grand St Orange Line – D, B
  • Canal St Brown Line – J, Z
  • Canal St Green Line – 6, 4

Brooklyn

From Brooklyn, head to the intersection of Jay St and Sand St. Again, you’ll see green signs for the pedestrian walkway beginning on an ornate looking staircase.

Here are the nearest subway stations on the Brooklyn side:

  • York St Orange Line – F
  • High St Brooklyn Bridge Blue Line – A, C

2. Best Time To Cross

Brooklyn Bridge and NYC Skyline on a cloudy day in new york
The Brooklyn Bridge as seen from our Manhattan Bridge walk

You can expect a very gradual incline as you walk from Manhattan and approach the center of the bridge. Then you’ll have a gradual decline as you descend into Brooklyn.

In truth, the Manhattan Bridge has a slightly dilapidated feel and it isn’t set up for tourism like other bridges nearby. Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge at night is safe, but we wouldn’t recommend the same for the Manhattan Bridge.

This pedestrian walkway isn’t completely open like the Brooklyn Bridge. The path here leads underneath the road level and it’s blocked from public view which could be a concern at night.

We recommend you walk across during the day or just before sunset. Personally, we chose to walk the Manhattan Bridge in the late afternoon so we could loop around to Brooklyn Bridge Park in time for sunset.

Need help planning your visit to NYC?

Our popular New York City travel guidebook will help you with planning every aspect of your trip, including airport links, the subway, top attractions, itinerary ideas, restaurants, hotels and map!

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Where Are Those Morgans NYC travel guidebook

3. Famous Hole-In-Fence Photos

Bokeh hole in fence manhattan bridge photography chinatown nyc
A Manhattan Bridge picture with the chain link fence and blurred city scape

Now let’s get onto one of the best parts about this bridge walk, photography! We think the Manhattan Bridge is one of the best photo spots in New York because it offers a unique perspective.

There are rumors that people used wire cutters to open up small holes in the mesh fencing on the southwest side of the bridge. True or not, this creates a perfect natural frame for the city below.

These cuts in the fence give you the option to use bokeh and either blur the mesh or the background images. Here is an example of the fence with a bokeh effect:

Madison street Chinatown through hole in fence photography manhattan bridge walk to brooklyn
Manhattan Bridge view of the city

Talk of these holes being rewired has led people to believe that was the end of the famous chain-link images of Brooklyn and Chinatown Streets. But for photographers, it’s a dream come true.

When we walked the Manhattan Bridge, there were no holes showing up when we reached the streets of Chinatown running perpendicular to the bridge.

Just when disappointment set in and we thought we’d missed out, the first hole appeared looking right down Madison St with the Lower Manhattan skyline and One World Trade Center in the distance.

Throughout the course of our walk to Brooklyn, many more holes appeared in the fence. The frames of Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan were plentiful.

Photography Tip: Use either the fence to frame your shot or put your lens through the hole to get a clear shot. It takes some finessing, but the results are definitely worth it.

4. DUMBO View Of Manhattan Bridge

Dumbo Brooklyn Washington Street with awesome Manhattan bridge at the end of the road nyc photography
View of the Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO

We always say New York is filled with incredible photography locations and it’s one of the reasons we moved to the city. There is truly no place like it on earth.

The Manhattan Bridge is the subject of a very famous photograph which can be taken from DUMBO. Once you leave the bridge on Jay Street, head north and turn left onto York Street. Continue three blocks and take the right onto Washington Street.

A gradual downhill road made up of picturesque cobblestones leads your gaze through a narrow gap between the buildings. Your eyes will be drawn to the looming Manhattan Bridge tower standing directly in front of you, proud and prominent.

Dumbo Brooklyn Washington street at night manhattan bridge column empire state building

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it can. Look closely through the oval shaped hole at the tower base. Can you see the Empire State Building right in the middle?

After enjoying the views and getting your photos, find a place in DUMBO for dinner. If this is your first time in the area and you haven’t yet tried a NY pizza, we always recommend Grimaldi’s Pizzeria or Juliana’s Pizza.

Further Reading: How to find the best NY pizza slice

Best Things To Do On Each Side

No matter which way you choose to cross, you can enjoy two famous boroughs of the city. Here are the best things to do on each side.

Manhattan:

  • Chinatown – Visit the numerous museums, Canal St Market, bakeries, herbal pharmacies, temples and delicious Chinese food options.
  • Lower East Side – Filled with gritty alleyways, you can explore the Tenement Museum, Essex Market, Kat’z Delicatessen as well as Russ and Daughters bagel shop.
  • Nolita – This is one of the best places in the city for Italian food and the home of the San Gennaro Feast. You will also find Rubirosa, St Patrick’s Old Cathedral and the International Center of Photography Museum.

Further Reading: Where to find the best bagels in New York

Brooklyn:

  • DUMBO – One of the best things to do in Brooklyn, this area offers amazing waterfront views, Jane’s Carousel, Time Out Market, Front General Store and Pebble Beach.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park – We love this park and always visit every time we’re in the city because it features stunning Manhattan skyline views, a promenade, playground and various food stands.

If you plan to explore further outside of these areas, you can also check out the best things to do in Lower Manhattan in the financial district.

Tips For Visiting At Sunset

It’s definitely worth mentioning that sunset is an extremely popular time around the Brooklyn Bridge area, especially in summer. If you have plenty of time in the city, head up to the Manhattan Bridge for sunset one evening as well.

Aim to set your tripod up in front of a hole in the fence, somewhere halfway along the bridge between the center point and Brooklyn. The sun will set right ahead of you, behind the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

If you visit New York City in winter, the sun sets slightly to the left side towards the Statue of Liberty. While in the summer, the sun sets farther around to the right.

Pebble Beach which is located almost directly under the Manhattan Bridge is arguably one of the best locations in New York City to watch sunset if you want to include the entire Brooklyn Bridge in your image.

You’ll find this beach to be much quieter so it’s far easier to take photographs. After you have finished here, you can head down to DUMBO for your night shots. You can find the current New York City sunset times here.

Pros And Cons

Steel column in New York City at dusk
The towering Manhattan Bridge as seen from Brooklyn

In contrast to the Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll be able to walk at a slower pace and be in less danger of taking a rouge selfie stick to the face (which actually happened to us).

If you’re visiting NYC for a short weekend break, prioritize the Brooklyn Bridge. However, if you’re planning a longer New York itinerary, be sure to consider including a slower walk over the Manhattan Bridge.

Here are a few pros and cons about walking the Manhattan Bridge vs. the Brooklyn Bridge:

Pros

  • It’s great walking access between Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn
  • Ability to see the city from a different perspective
  • You can take classic hole-in-the-fence photographs from the bridge
  • Stunning views over Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan
  • No cyclists, just pedestrians in separate lanes
  • A much quieter way to cross the East River
  • Walking the bridges are among the best free things to do in NYC
  • It leads you to an iconic photograph of the DUMBO Manhattan Bridge view
  • Not as crowded as the Brooklyn Bridge

Cons

  • Not on a typical first timer New York itinerary
  • It’s bit grittier because you’re squeezed on the pedestrian walkway
  • Webs of wires blocking most of the view (but makes for unique photos)
  • Cars and subway noises can be a little intimidating
  • Not the iconic Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most difficult things about walking on the Manhattan Bridge is the noise of the subway trains when they screech past. It can be impossible to hear anything but the horrendous ear piercing noise. If you’re claustrophobic to begin with, this might add to that uneasy feeling.

More New York Guides

Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.


We hope this guide helps you plan your walk over the Manhattan Bridge in NYC!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian pathway or New York City in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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