Updated: May 21, 2015

Brooklyn Heights Promenade Walking Tour

Other New York Walking Tours: When it comes to New York City walks, few can match the view from Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Located on the western edge of Brooklyn, right across the East River from Manhattan, the Promenade offers impeccable views of downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, many tourists to Manhattan rarely venture off the "safe" island of Manhattan. The truth is that the regular people that you see all day working in Manhattan probably live in Brooklyn or the other boroughs at night. Venturing out into the boroughs can be an adventure. We get questions like: Is it safe to walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade? Is it safe to take the subway to Brooklyn? This is probably the safest neighborhood in Brooklyn (right next to City Hall) -- if you didn't know you had crossed the river and ventured into Brooklyn, you might think you were still in Manhattan somewhere. So absolutely, take a trip out to Brooklyn Heights and enjoy the walk - the best time is just before sunset when you can enjoy the view of the sunset behind downtown Manhattan for 20 minutes while you enjoy your walk. In this guide we will cover both an in-depth walking tour of Brooklyn Heights along with basic information on the Brooklyn Promenade.
brooklyn heights promenade


Brooklyn Heights Map - Taking the Subway to Brooklyn Heights

Until the end of the 1700s, Brooklyn was mostly farmland. Separated from Manhattan by the sometimes wild East River, it was a completely different world from "civilized" Manhattan. The Fulton Ferry (steam-powered) began transporting passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1814, which opened Brooklyn to more urban development as it became effectively a Manhattan suburb. Much of the area of Brooklyn Heights was part of the Joris Remsen estate, which was later broken into a number of large farm plots. By the 1820's and 1830s, more of these farms began to be carved up into smaller lots with roads and residential development taking place. The oldest homes still standing date to the 1820s-1840s. Decades later, in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge permanently connected Brooklyn to Manhattan and the Brookyln Ferry became a thing of history -- more than 150,000 people walked across the bridge on that opening day (it cost 1 penny for the privilege!). At the time, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world measuring in at more than 1500 feet. There is a pedestrian path along the top of the bridge if you choose to walk from City Hall Manhattan to Borough Hall Brooklyn ("City Hall" back when Brooklyn was it's own city and not part of New York City) - it takes about 20-30 minutes. But most people doing the Brooklyn Heights Promenade take the subway from Mahattan to Brooklyn. You can check out the official PDF New York Subway Map here. How do you get to Brooklyn Heights? You can take either the M/R train that goes to Court Street (the M comes down from Canal Street, the R comes down from midtown at the 57th St and 49th Street stations..) or the 2/3/4/5 trains to Borough Hall (2nd stop on the 2/3 train when it gets into Brooklyn after the Clark St. station). The Court Street Station sends you through a long underground walkway that brings you right to the Borough Hall/Montague Street area.

One thing that makes Brooklyn Heights unique is that architecturally it traces American building styles from 1800 to 1950, with early examples of Federal designs, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, and Beaux-Arts and 20th century apartments, all intermingled. So as you walk the streets, you see almost 2 centuries of what American neighborhoods and streets have looked like. So while you wander the streets here, be sure to take time to look around at the details of the buildings, note the different styles, note the mixtures -- and just enjoy these tree-lined streets.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade Walking Tour - Map

Below is a map of Brooklyn Heights area. You'll see much of Brooklyn Heights is sandwiched between the 278 Brooklyn Queens Expressway in the west and Cadman Plaza and Borough Hall to the east. The Promenade doesn't show up real well even when you zoom in on this Google map because it is right above that 278 Expressway and sheltered by trees -- but trust us, it's there. It starts in the south at the end of Remsen Street and ends in the north at Orange Street. You can exit the promenade at all the blocks along the way as well. If you are here just to experience the Brooklyn Promenade (ignore the blue line and blue markers on the map below), you'll want to exit the subway by Borough Hall and then walk west on Montague Street. Montague is a busy retail street, with all kinds of shops and restaurants to enjoy. Walk all the way down to the end until it dumps you right onto the Promenade (less than 10 minute walk) where you'll be greeted by views of downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty (which doesn't seem so big from here..) and the Brooklyn Bridge. Turn right and walk up along the Promenade towards the Brooklyn Bridge. Stop and sit on the benches along the way and savor the view.. Walk as far north as you like, then exit back onto the Brooklyn Heights streets -- you should end up on Columbia Heights -- make a right turn and walk back down along Columbia Heights and eventually turn left up Pierrepont Street (which runs parallel to Montague Street). After 5-6 blocks, Pierrepont will dump you right back into Cadman Plaza 1 block from Borough Hall -- you are back where you started. You can do this whole walk in 30-50 minutes.

Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour

OK, so the above was for people who just want a quick visit to Brooklyn Heights to check out the Brooklyn Promenade views. The walking tour below is for people who want to spend 1.5 - 2 hours exploring a little more and learning some of the history of Brooklyn Heights. The walk outlined on the map above is just over 2.5 miles in length, and it's all flat. The starting point is the Borough Hall area at the lower right - both the Court Street (M,R trains) and Borough Hall (2,3 trains) subway exits are here. Take a second to get your bearings. The stately looking Borough Hall should be to your south (it's hard to miss with its stately columned front and small cupola) - when facing Borough Hall, Montague Street and the East River and Manhattan are to your right. We will be heading down Montague to begin, but first...

Let's start with Borough Hall (seen in the 4th picture above). It was built in 1849, and was originally the City Hall for the city of Brooklyn. Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898 and was demoted to a borough, hence the name "Borough" Hall these days. If you like you can follow the path through the plaza leading away from Borough Hall and check out the statue of Henry Ward Beecher -- we'll be seeing another famous statue of this abolitionist preacher at his church later, so feel free to skip. Let's begin walking. Facing the Hall, TURN RIGHT down Montague Street. At the end of the first block, on your right check out the Chase Bank building (177 Montague) - built in 1915 and perhaps the grandest bank in New York (designed to look like an Italian Renaissance palace), this Chase branch used to be the Brooklyn Trust Company. This is a real working bank, not a tourist spot, so you can peak inside quietly, but be considerate (and taking pictures in a bank is not encouraged!).

brooklyn church Staring at you from the corner just across Clinton Street is St. Ann and Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague) - Built in 1848, this is a good example of Gothic Revival architecture. With 7000 square feet of stained glass windows, it is famed for being home to the first stained glass made in the United States - you can go inside and look around if the church is open. One window is on display in the Met Museum. It once had a tall tower, which had to be taken down when the subway line was installed under Montague. The original St. Ann's church is several blocks away at 131 Clinton St., but it merged with Holy Trinity in 1967 and moved to this location. After enjoying the church, while facing the church, TURN RIGHT onto Clinton Street and go to the next corner, then TURN LEFT onto Pierrepont Street and stop.

brooklyn walking tour The Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont St) is located right here on the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton, stop in here if you want to learn more about the history of Brooklyn. They offer neighborhood history guides and a variety of exhibits. Admission is $6. We are going to continue down Pierrepont -- this is an historic street filled with historic homes. Look on your left for 102 Pierrepont St -- Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, future husband of Marilyn Monroe) lived here in the mid 1940s (he also lived at 62 Montague). Continue on a few blocks, and just before you get to Willow Street, take a look on your right at #27 Pierrepont St -- this and #58 are the two oldest homes along Pierrepont Street, dating to 1834. Now, TURN RIGHT into Willow St. Willow Street is also filled with charming old homes. Walk up 2 blocks and after crossing Pineapple Street, check out 70 Willow Street. An enchanting Greek revival home dating from the 1830s, Truman Capote lived in the basement here during the late 50's and early 60's, where he penned In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Continue to the next block, Orange Street, and TURN RIGHT onto Orange Street.

pilgrim church Stay on Orange, cross Hicks Street, then enter the grounds of Plymouth Church of The Pilgrims on your left. Home to abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin"), this church (built in 1849) has a long history in Brooklyn, including its role in the Underground Railroad. It includes a piece of Plymouth Rock cornerstone that came from another Brooklyn church. Abraham Lincoln came to a service here, as did many other famous folks (like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Walt Whitman, who lived behind the church growing up in the 1820s). The grounds are accessed off Orange St., where you will see a statue of Beecher made by Borglum (famed creator of Mt. Rushmore).

Backtrack the way you came along Orange and TURN RIGHT onto Hicks Street. Walk one block then TURN LEFT into Cranberry. One block up, at Willow, stop on the corner. Across the street from you on the right-hand corner is a red brick house, #19 Cranberry. The 1987 Cher/Nicholas Cage film "Moonstruck" was filmed in and around this 1829 brick home. It was purchased in 1959 for $40K and sold in 2008 for $4M! TURN RIGHT up Willow and look at the home on the right hand corner when you reach the next street, Middagh. This Federal style wooden house is the oldest in the neighborhood, dating to 1824. More than 500 buildings in Brooklyn Heights were built before the Civil War. Walk back down Willow the way you came, then TURN RIGHT onto Cranberry (at the Moonstruck House), then TURN LEFT onto Columbia Heights. As you stroll a few blocks down Columbia Heights, check out the Norman Mailer House on your right just after crossing Pineapple Street (142 Columbia Heights). Writer Norman Mailer (2 time Pulitzer Prize winning author, started The Village Voice newspaper in Greenwich Village) lived here until his death in 2007, enjoying sweeping views of Manhattan.

brooklyn promenade Continue down until you reach Pierrepont, then TURN RIGHT on Pierrepont and follow the wooded path to the Brooklyn Promenade. Feel free to stroll down a ways to your right and enjoy the view -- just come back this way when you are ready as we will be continuing down the Promenade to your left to continue the tour.. The views of Manhattan from here are legendary, showing up in many postcards, photos, and films. You should be able to see the Statue of Liberty out to your left. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once dominated the downtown skyline, standing seemingly twice as tall as all the other buildings you see there now. Below you is the East River waterfront industrial area, and out of sight but not quite out of earshot is the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which was built in the 1940s as a double-decker freeway along the side of the hill here. The Promenade was built on top, partially as a noise buffer, and was opened to the public in 1950. Enjoy some time here, take some photos, then head back down a block further south from Pierrepont and exit to your left onto Montague Street. As you leave the promenade, you'll be in the area where the old Cornell Mansion once stood -- General George Washington used this as a command post during the Battle of Brooklyn (August of 1776) at the start of the Revolutionary War. Forced by the British to retreat, he led his forces from Brooklyn over into Manhattan, and eventually into New Jersey. But you can imagine that even in those days these Heights commanded important views over the surrounding area -- that hasn't changed in 200+ years.

We'll return to see Montague in more detail soon, but for now TURN RIGHT onto Pierrepont Place just after you leave the Promenade. As you walk this block, you can almost see "The Cosby Show" house that was supposed to be located here in Brooklyn Heights (though the facade of the house used on the show is actually located in Greenwich Village) - it's just a charming area. TURN LEFT onto Remsen at the next block. Remsen became an open street in 1825, named after Henry Remsen who lived just south in what is now the Grace Court area (we'll go there next). A lot of the homes here date to the 1840s (#10, 1844; #14, 1845). Go up 1 block, then TURN RIGHT onto Hicks. On your left will be Grace Court Alley - turn down here and take a look at this quaint alley. These were originally stables at the back of the homes on Joralemon and Remsen. They were converted into homes in the early 1900s, making this a unique alley similar to Washington Mews in Greenwich Village. When you reach the end, turn around and walk back down the alley to Hicks Street. Grace Court is just across Hicks, a little to your left. Before walking down Grace Court, take a peak at Grace Church right there on the corner. Begun in 1847, this church features several Tiffany stained glass windows. Now walk down Grace Court. W.E.B DuBois and Arthur Miller lived at 31 Grace Ct (at different times of course). Arthur Miller lived here in the late 40s, while DuBois (writer and civil rights activist, first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard) lived here in the 1950s.

We're almost done. Backtrack the way you came along Grace Court, TURN LEFT and backtrack up Hicks two blocks until you get to Montague Street. TURN LEFT and walk down Montague. Montague didn't really become an official thoroughfare until around 1850. Stop at 62 Montague Street -- Arthur Miller lived here (we swear this is the last Arthur Miller house we will see!) with Marilyn Monroe before moving to Manhattan. Note the architecture of all the old homes along Montague that have had their ground and basement floors turned into retail space. If you keep walking down Montague you will end up back at the promenade, so turn around and head back east along Montague, which will take you right back to the Borough Hall area where you started. Think about hanging around for dinner or drinks somewhere along Montague. There is Eamonn's Irish pub and restaurant at 174 Montague, 5 Guys Burger and Fries at 138 Montague, the Heights Cafe at 84 Montague (has outdoor seating in summer months), La Traviata at 139 Montague for Italian fare, or Lantern at 101 Montague for Thai food. Also, not noted on the walking tour but shown on the Google map above (scroll up about an inch) are two noteworthy dining spots here in Brooklyn -- Grimaldi's Pizzeria (for delicious casual pizza) and The River Cafe (for an expensive, romantic dinner with sweeping water views of the city), both located near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk down Columbia Heights to get there.

That concludes our Brooklyn Heights walking tour.