Along with the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in New York. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, this bridge is more than 2 km long and spans the East River, linking Manhattan Island and the Brooklyn district.
In this short post, you will discover the history of this bridge, as well as some tips that will help you if you wish to cross the Manhattan Bridge during your stay in New York and admire one of the most beautiful views of the city 🙂
The history if the Manhattan Bridge
The Manhattan Bridge’s construction began in 1901, but it was not opened to the public until 1909. Due to a fire shortly after its opening, the bridge was not officially completed until 1912. Although it is one of the oldest bridges in the city, it is also the most recent of the three bridges that cross the East River – the Brooklyn Bridge having been opened in 1883, and the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Originally, the bridge was soberly named "Bridge Number 3", but it was quickly renamed the Manhattan Bridge, although its two predecessors also provide access to Manhattan Island.
Léon Moisseiff, an American civil engineer of Latvian origin, was one of the main designers of the Manhattan Bridge. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the Manhattan Bridge served as a model for the design of many other suspension bridges in the United States and around the world, including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge, another New York bridge across the Hudson River in New York.
There are two different traffic levels on the Manhattan Bridge. On the upper level are four lanes for vehicle traffic, two in each direction. The lower level also has 3 vehicle lanes, but also a pedestrian lane and 4 railroad tracks for the New York City Subway.
Over the years, much work has been done to modernise and maintain this century-old bridge.
SOME FIGURES ON ONE OF NEW YORK'S MOST ICONIC BRIDGES
The Manhattan Bridge is even longer and more imposing than the Brooklyn Bridge. In total, it spans 2,090 metres, rises 41 metres above the East River and reaches 102 metres height at its pylons. It is nearly 37 metres wide, and its main span is 450 metres long. Every day, nearly 90,000 véhicules cross the Manhattan Bridge.
The suspension bridge is held up by four huge cables that run down from the pylons and help support the whole structure. On each side, these cables are anchored in the stone at large pedestrian areas.
CROSSING THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE
It is impossible not to notice the Manhattan Bridge during a trip to New York. It is however the Brooklyn Bridge that often gets all the attention. This bridge is more well known historically, and is often used as an emblem of New York in television and cinema. People come from all over the world to visit New York, and many tourists pass through the Dumbo district of Brooklyn mainly to admire the Brooklyn Bridge.
However, not taking the time to discover the Manhattan Bridge would be a mistake in my opinion. You only have to cross it once on the underground to realise the absolutely incredible view it offers on the East River and the Manhattan Skyline.
Do you really only have eyes for the Brooklyn Bridge? Well, it is true that you can enjoy many great views from the Brooklyn Bridge. If you want to see the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building in particular, the Brooklyn Bridge is probably the place to go. However, you should know that there is one major monument that you will not be able to see well from this bridge... it is obviously the Brooklyn Bridge itself! Conversely, from the Manhattan Bridge, you will be able to see the New York skyline and lower Manhattan, all while enjoying a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Take a walk on the Manhattan Bridge
But the best way to cross the Manhattan Bridge is on foot. The pedestrian walkway is on the lower level, on the same level as the undergrounds. This crossing can therefore be quite noisy at times, but the upper level of the bridge is not as wide as the lower one, so the crossing on this pedestrian walkway is open-air. Thanks to the barriers and safety gates, the walkway is perfectly safe, but you will still be able to take pictures easily, for your view will not be hindered by all these protections.
To make the most of your walk on the Manhattan Bridge, the best time to go is in the morning or in the evening, either when the sun is setting or when it is dark. The morning is when the light is best, so you will enjoy a great view and get some great shots.
In the evening, before sunset, the sun illuminates the buildings of the business district, and at nightfall, the whole of New York lights up. Crossing the Manhattan Bridge at night is a totally different experience – and one just as dazzling as the others.
What to see from the Manhattan Bridge ?
So why is it so interesting to walk across the Manhattan Bridge? Simply because you will have the opportunity to admire one of the most beautiful views of New York City. By underground or car, you will already be able to see a lot, but on foot, you will have all the time you want to admire this unique urban scenery and take beautiful pictures 🙂
The Manhattan Bridge pedestrian walkway is one of the best places to admire the Manhattan Skyline – a true symbol of the American dream. During a first visit to New York, tourists often spend most of their time in the Manhattan area – and one of the best reasons to get away from it is precisely to be able to admire Manhattan, and especially the Financial District, in all its grandeur from another vantage point. Unlike on the Brooklyn Bridge, there are no steel wires to obstruct your view on the Manhattan Bridge. The One World Trade Center, Chrysler Building, Central Park Tower, Empire State Building…... you'll see many of New York's most famous buildings, as well as a great overview of South Street Seaport and Chinatown.
Brooklyn Bridge being located right between Manhattan Bridge and the Financial District, Manhattan Bridge is the perfect place to get a shot of the entire Brooklyn Bridge, with the New York Skyline in the background.
Looking across the bridge, you'll be able to see Brooklyn's Dumbo neighbourhood, as well as Main Street Park and the Empire Fulton Ferry Park.
HOW TO GET TO THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE?
To get to the Manhattan Bridge, you can go to the Dumbo district from Brooklyn, or to the Chinatown district from Manhattan. It is from Brooklyn that you will be able to enjoy your crossing of the bridge the most, since you will be facing the Manhattan Skyline. I therefore advise you to take the underground to cross the bridge once to reach Brooklyn, and then to walk back to make the most of the view.
For example, you can take the underground on the F line and get off at York Street station, which is just a few steps from the stairs that will take you to the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian walkway. Access to the bridge is completely free.
DISCOVER MANHATTAN BRIDGE FROM WASHINGTON STREET
As you can see, I clearly recommend visiting the Manhattan Bridge during a trip to New York, so as to admire some magnificent views of the Big Apple. But the beauty of the Manhattan Bridge itself should not be underestimated, and if you want to admire this bridge in all its splendour, the most appropriate place is undoubtedly Washington Street, in the Dumbo district.
It is from this street that you can see one of the most famous views of New York (and probably one of the most photographed places in the world). This view was immortalised on the poster of Once Upon a Time in America, the cult film by Sergio Leone.
From the upper part of the street, between Water Street and Front Street, you will be able to see this incredible view with the imposing Washington Street and the Empire State Building in the background, right at the arch formed by the bridge pier.