On a nice day, The Williamsburg Bridge is a great way to get from South Williamsburg to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Built during the turn of the 20th century, The Williamsburg Bridge's design was said to be inspired by the Eiffel Tower. One of the last bridges constructed for the horse and carriage, according to the New York City Department of Transportation, when the bridge was completed in 1903, it "was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a span of 1600 feet and a total length of 7308 feet and the first with all-steel towers." Although you can't ride a horse and carriage across the bridge anymore, you can walk, cycle, drive or take the subway across this historic New York City bridge. In April 2019, the L train shuts down for 15 months, so a great option for getting to Williamsburg is a walk across the bridge.
Skip the Subway
In Brooklyn, you can take the JMZ over the bridge, but that defeats the purpose! If you're looking for more of the complete Williamsburg experience, why not take the L Train to Bedford Avenue and stroll up to Berry and South 5th. That way, you can see more of the neighborhood, and then finish your afternoon off with a nice walk into Manhattan. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars along the way. If you are in Manhattan, make your way to the Lower East Side, to Clinton and Delancey streets. You can't miss the bridge, with its archway opening over across the river. Please be careful when taking photos because there is a lot of car and pedestrian traffic here.
Obey Pedestrian and Bike Lanes on the Bridge
On the Williamsburg Bridge, pedestrians have their own walkway. In Brooklyn, enter at Berry Street between South 5th and South 6th Streets. Cyclists enter a few blocks east, at Washington Plaza (Roebling and South 4th Streets). Though you may be tempted to enter wherever it's most convenient, please don't. Cyclists travel fast and it's very dangerous for pedestrians. Plus, it's a much nicer walk when you don't have to worry about getting run over. In Manhattan, pedestrians and cyclists enter at the same place at Clinton Street and Delancey, with two different lanes, marked by a walking figure and a cycling figure on the ground. Make sure to stick to your own lane—sometimes at the top of the hill you'll find a cop waiting to give you a ticket for breaking the rules.
There have been a number of accidents on the Williamsburg Bridge involving irresponsible pedestrians and cyclists who did not follow the rules. Make sure to be alert—though it's nice to listen to music, please do so within reason. In other words, keep an eye out for cyclists barreling down at fast speeds, or if you are biking, watch out for pedestrians who may not realize there are separate paths and step directly into the bike lane. Overall, the walk is very safe if everyone keeps an eye out.
Make the Most of the Trip
After crossing the bridge, don't simply turn around and go back the way you came! On the Brooklyn side, stroll towards the water on S 6th street past cafes and shops, or head north on Bedford to hit the heart of Williamsburg.
On the Manhattan side, walk north on Clinton Street, through the Lower East Side and up through the East Village. This is quite a nice walk on a pretty day. Stop for lunch or do some shopping, then pop back on the L Train at 3rd or 1st Avenue. Do consult a map if you're unfamiliar with the area.
Wear Comfortable Clothing and Shoes
The walk up the Williamsburg Bridge from the street is quite the incline, so wear comfortable walking shoes! Heels are not advisable. They may be comfortable at the bottom, but after the walk you'll regret it. Same goes for cyclists, obviously. Unless the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, you may also want to take a jacket since the breeze at the top of the bridge is quite strong, and often chilly.
Bring Your Camera
Don't regret a missed opportunity for a fantastic photo op at the top of the bridge. Looking downtown you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, looking uptown you can see all of Midtown—not to mention a look back at Williamsburg and the industry that still takes place on the East River. Catch the sun and you've got yourself a great way to remember the day.