My New York Obsession

The Best Bridge to Walk in the City Is Not the One You Think It Is

While everyone and their mother (and cousin and roommate) wants to amble across the Brooklyn Bridge, the better stroll is on the Manhattan Bridge.

Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that the Brooklyn Bridge is the best bridge in New York. They’re wrong. I know, I know, it’s so beautiful! It’s in every B-roll shot of New York–based movies and has set the scene for iconic TV moments, like the time Miranda and Steve reunited on Sex and the City! I get it, I really do. While the Brooklyn Bridge may be at the top of every tourist’s itinerary, anyone who has walked across it can tell you that it’s an experience (much like New Year’s Eve in Times Square) that they would not like to have again.

Manhattan Bridge
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

While it may make for a gorgeous photo, the experience of actually walking (read: shuffling) across the Brooklyn Bridge is one that most New Yorkers would do anything to avoid. While I love almost being mowed down by bikers screaming obscenities as much as the next person, it’s being hit in the face by a selfie stick for the third time in 10 minutes that usually does me in. And I know I’m not alone. Not to mention the tiny police cars that are driving in the opposite direction of the foot traffic and the well-intentioned tourists asking you to take their photo every 10 feet. Unless you are one of the first on the bridge or one of the last to leave, the long walk across it will probably not top your list of favorite New York moments, unless your idea of real New York pizza starts and stops at Sbarro.

On top of being the perfect combination of subtle and photogenic, at any time of day it’s possible to walk, run, or bike the length of the Manhattan Bridge at your own pace. I know, I know—what a concept!

Now, the Manhattan Bridge? That’s a different story! The oft-overlooked sister bridge to the north surpasses the Brooklyn Bridge in all but name recognition. Although you may have to press your phone up against a chain-link fence for a clear photo; it’s impossible to get that full view of the Manhattan skyline, including the Brooklyn Bridge, unless you’re one of the lucky few who finds themselves on a helicopter ride over the East River (in which case, congrats).

The Elphaba to the Brooklyn Bridge’s Glinda, the Manhattan Bridge was practically constructed to be overlooked. With its light blue shade meant to complement both the sky and the river, it looks good in every photo without drawing focus away from any of the major landmarks. Although it does have its moment in every wannabe influencer’s Instagram photo taken in the middle of Dumbo’s Washington Street (you definitely know the one), most out-of-towners incorrectly tag it as the Brooklyn Bridge, assuming that there can only be one structure connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. And oh, how they’re wrong!

Manhattan Bridge
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

On top of being the perfect combination of subtle and photogenic, at any time of day it’s possible to walk, run, or bike the length of the Manhattan Bridge at your own pace. (I know, I know—what a concept!) No need to fight off tourists or bikers here, since there are two separate paths running along the outside edges of the bridge with plenty of space for everyone. Whereas the Brooklyn Bridge’s path keeps traffic to the very center, the Manhattan Bridge allows those who are adventurous enough to cross the opportunity to be right on the edge and look down over the river. The vertigo-inducing view may be too much for some, but come sunset you’ll find many a photographer stationed with their lenses poking through the chain-link fence to capture one of the most jaw-dropping views on the East Side.

Manhattan Bridge
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Though I’d love the graffitied paths of my beloved bridge to go unnoticed and selfie-stick free, it’s selfish to keep such a special place a secret when so many are subjecting themselves to the unnecessary torture of that tourist trap next door. Next time you’re trying to entertain out-of-town friends or looking to spend an afternoon in Dumbo, take the bridge less traveled. You won’t regret it.

Ali Hinchcliffe is a pop culture connoisseur who works in book publishing and lives in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the Columbia Publishing Course. She previously wrote about calzones for WSWD. Find her on Instagram.