Walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the East River is a popular tourist activity in New York. By far the most popular way to do so, has been by crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. But we had already done that a couple times, so instead decided to walk across the Manhattan Bridge, during our recent visit to the city — and actually think this might be the bridge we prefer, for a couple reasons we’ll get into soon. But first, before crossing the bridge, we made a stop-off at a photo location which has been branded New York’s most “instagrammable”. Did we go there because we wanted to check out the spot, or because we wanted to hate on the hordes of Instagrammers? Why not both?
Start Your Manhattan Bridge Walk in Dumbo
The photo location is on Washington Street, in the neighborhood known as Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This is no secret spot — it’s been featured on every list of NYC photo locations which exists, and even has its own pin on Google Maps. We knew it’d be crowded, and of course it was, with aspiring influencers and their friends conscripted into acting as their personal photographers. But the view really is spectacular, and totally worth a visit. It’s no surprise that this and other nearby locations have been featured in several movies, such as Once Upon a Time in America, I Am Legend, and Vanilla Sky. Seeing the Manhattan Bridge from this spot is what actually inspired us to walk over it.
As soon as we were on the bridge, we discovered a few things that might make it the better choice for a river crossing. Most importantly, when you’re on the Brooklyn Bridge, you’re unable to appreciate how beautiful it is — but from the Manhattan Bridge, the view couldn’t be better. Also, there are far fewer tourists, and fewer people in general — those that are crossing the Manhattan Bridge tend to be locals, or joggers. Another aspect that sets this bridge apart from the Brooklyn Bridge, is that you’re walking on the outside and not in the middle, surrounded by traffic. This provides undisturbed views over the East River and the Manhattan skyline. There is an annoying fence, meant to deter bridge-jumpers, but several holes have been cut into it, allowing you to take some clean photos.
Adding to the bridge’s special New York City flair are the subway trains that rumble over it every few minutes. They’re super loud and shake the whole construction in a way that made me panic every single time. But our favorite part of the walk into Manhattan came at the end, when we walked past a neighborhood that looked straight out of 1982: red brick buildings covered in graffiti, with groups of people below us playing soccer and listening to hip-hop.
The bridge ends in Chinatown, which couldn’t have worked out better. We were arriving at lunch time, and all the walking had stirred up quite an appetite. After choosing a restaurant by peering inside the windows to find one preferred by locals, we sat down for heaping plates of rice, pork, and dumplings, and congratulated ourselves on a perfect little New York City excursion.