We all have our travel wish lists (I prefer this phrase to bucket list) — I’m obsessed with bridges in big cities. Google ‘India’s most famous bridge’ and you will find Howrah Bridge (aka Rabindra Setu) appear among the top results. Quite a few newer bridges have been added to India’s ever-expanding list of architectural marvels, but the romance around the Howrah Bridge continues. The Howrah Bridge is up there on my list of must visit-bridges, a list that is topped by my biggest bridge obsession – The Brooklyn Bridge.
Eighth wonder of the world
Fourteen years, 27 construction deaths and a total spend of over $15 million. By the time it was completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first-ever steel-wire suspension bridge. A suspension bridge is where the weight of the deck is supported by vertical cables suspended from further cables that run between towers, and are anchored in abutments at each end. By contrast, the Howrah Bridge is one of the world’s best-known cantilever bridges, which is a rigid structural element that extends horizontally and is supported at one end.
A newspaper front page, from 1883, illustrating work on the bridgeWikimedia Commons
New Yorkers dubbed it the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’. On the opening day alone, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,000 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Long Island. It wasn’t always the Brooklyn Bridge — it was first called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge or the East River Bridge. It was only officially renamed as the Brooklyn Bridge in 1915.
Walk the talk
The evening is the best time for a walk across the 1.8km-long bridgeAshwin Rajagopalan
There’s no better way to see the Brooklyn Bridge than walk across it. Do wear your trainers, this is a long bridge – it extends over 1.8km. I’ve walked the bridge just after sunrise and around sunset. If I have to pick one time, it would be the evening. The bridge does get a lot more crowded at this time, but you get both daylight and night time views when you walk the bridge at this time. New York’s dense subway network makes this bridge easily accessible.
Great for the ‘Gram’
It’s almost impossible to snap an image without a million ‘photo bombers’ in the frame, but the author managesAshwin Rajagopalan
It’s almost impossible to snap an image without a million ‘photo bombers’ in the frame. The Brooklyn Bridge receives approximately a million visitors each year. Early mornings are your ‘best shot’. The one thing to remember is to stand near the pylons and try and fill your frame with your subject between the pylons. It’s not just shots of the bridge, you get perfect shots of the Manhattan skyline (especially in the evening). I’d also recommend a quick 10-minute walk to Pebble Beach, which gives you both skyline and shots of the bridge.
Pebble Beach gives you both skyline and shots of the bridgeShutterstock
It’s a busy bridge, do remember to stick to the pedestrian lanes and don’t make the mistake of stepping into the cycling lanes where you might discover the not so polite side of New Yorkers. You can see the Statue of Liberty and boats (that cruise around the Statue) emerging from Pier 17. If time-lapse videos are your thing, you can shoot the busy traffic from quite a few vantage points on the pedestrian walkway that is above the vehicular traffic lanes.
It's the view Dumbo!
That iconic ‘money shot’ from NY’s Dumbo — ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’Ashwin Rajagopalan
While Brooklyn Bridge might be one of New York City’s most emblematic landmarks, there’s one quintessential NYC image that features another bridge. Completed in 1909, the Manhattan Bridge soon became a model for modern suspension bridges. I’d suggest timing your visit to Dumbo on your way to Brooklyn Bridge. Dumbo is an acronym for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’. Most photo enthusiasts (we all are these days) head to Washington Street for that iconic ‘money shot’ where you see a beautiful perspective of the Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building framed beneath.
The walk across Brooklyn Bridge is easily one of New York City’s finest free experiences. While many visitors think that the views from decks like Top of the Rock are the ultimate NYC experience, I don’t think you’ve really been to New York till you’ve walked the Brooklyn Bridge. Don’t forget to reward yourself an authentic New York-style pizza at pizzerias like Grimaldi’s in the neighbourhood. In this case, you’ve earned it.