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Downtown Brooklyn Walking Tour

Congratulations! You’ve made it across the Brooklyn Bridge and now you’re ready to tackle more in your explorations of this fair borough.

Downtown Brooklyn and its adjacent neighborhoods offer an exciting, authentic New York experience packed with cultural, architectural, and historical significance. The following tour is designed to give visitors a comprehensive understanding of what makes Brooklyn so special, starting with iconic locations and moving on to new gems like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Barclays Center. Click here if you'd like to download a printable version.

1) Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park:

After traversing the historic Brooklyn Bridge, take the Brooklyn Bridge stairs marked "Washington Street/Cadman Plaza" to the street and turn left towards the corner of Prospect Street. Turn left on Prospect Street, continue walking under the bridge, and turn right onto Old Fulton Street/Cadman Plaza West. Proceed walking toward the river for approximately five minutes. The Pier 1 entrance will be on your left at the corner of Old Fulton Street and Furman Street. Pier 1 is the largest pier that comprises Brooklyn Bridge Park. It features two sprawling lawns, a playground, boat launch, waterfront promenade, and much more. Make sure to head over to Granite Prospect, a relaxing spot to take in the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. The granite itself was salvaged from the Roosevelt Island Bridge reconstruction.

2) Cadman Plaza:

After spending time at the Park, retrace your steps back along Old Fulton Street and merge right onto Cadman Plaza West. After a five minute walk, you will enter Cadman Plaza Park – the first of a series of parks leading to Brooklyn Borough Hall. This park contains fountains, benches and several statues, including the Brooklyn War Memorial, which honors the 300,000 American citizens who served in World War II. Continue heading south and cross Tillary Street where you will come upon Korean War Veterans Plaza. Upon crossing Johnson Place, you will enter Columbus Park which stretches to Borough Hall. The park features benches, tables, and statues of various historical figures. It also houses the Borough Hall Greenmarket from 8am-6pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday year-round.

3) Borough Hall:

At the southern edge of Columbus Park is Borough Hall. Completed in 1851, Borough Hall is Brooklyn’s oldest public building. The structure was constructed before the 1898 consolidation of New York City, and served as Brooklyn’s City Hall. Designed by architect Gamaliel King, Borough Hall’s imposing Greek-Revival style façade is clad in Tuckahoe marble. The building is defined by its monumental staircase with six ionic columns supporting a triangular pediment, and its cast-iron cupola capped by a statue of Justice. The Brooklyn Tourism Office is located on the ground-floor of the Joralemon Street entrance.

4) Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District:

In the direct vicinity of Borough Hall, a collection of 21 architecturally-distinctive office buildings constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been protected as an historic district. These early skyscrapers transformed Downtown Brooklyn into a commercial center with a redefined skyline. In addition to Borough Hall, the district also features the Brooklyn Municipal Building (210 Joralemon St.), which houses many city offices. The structure was designed by the architectural firm McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin and completed in 1924. Located at 186 Remsen Street, Franklin Building, is a 7 ½ story building completed in 1887 which housed the Franklin Trust Company. This Romanesque Revival structure with its round-arched entrance and rock-faced stonework was one of Brooklyn’s tallest structures at the time. Its Romanesque Revival style facade with a round-arched entrance and rock-faced stonework. Other protected buildings include the 13-story Beaux-Arts style Temple Bar Building (44 Court St.) completed in 1901, as well as the distinctive Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building (75 Livingston St.). Its architectural form is composed of several setbacks, slender towers, and architectural detailing in the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic styles.

5) Montague Street:

Head north up Court Street and turn left on Montague Street. Stretching from Court Street to the Brooklyn Promenade, Montague Street is considered by many to be the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood’s "Main Street". The district boasts dozens of restaurants, ranging from Japanese to Polish-American cuisine, and a diverse variety of shopping options. Located at 157 Montague Street, the St. Ann and Holy Trinity Church is cited as being "one of the most important statements of the Gothic Revival style in America". The facade is constructed of porous brownstone over a brick core and adorned with decorative Gothic elements. Inside the church, you will find fifty-five stained glass windows designed by William Jay Bolton, as well as the Peabody Memorial Organ.

6) Brooklyn Heights Promenade:

At the end of Montague Street is the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a third of a mile-long pedestrianized esplanade offering sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The Promenade was built in 1950 after a local preservationist group, the Brooklyn Heights Association, thwarted a proposal that would have constructed an expressway through the historic district. Today, the promenade sits above the multi-tiered Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and looks over the recently completed Brooklyn Bridge Park. This location has been used as a backdrop in several films, including Annie Hall (1977), Moonstruck (1984), and Saturday Night Fever (1977).

7) Atlantic Avenue:

After enjoying the promenade’s magnificent views, walk down Montague and turn right on Hicks Street. This quiet, residential street lined with mature trees and brick townhouses is a great representation of Brooklyn Heights. After a five minute walk, you will reach Atlantic Avenue – a commercial street that serves as the boundary between Brooklyn Heights to the north and the neighborhoods of Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill to the south. Turn left and stroll down this avenue filled with locally-owned restaurants, shops, and more. At the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street is the South Brooklyn Savings Bank Building (130 Court St.). This building was the long-time home of the South Brooklyn Savings Bank, but today is occupied by a Trader Joe’s store. The Italian Renaissance-style building designed by architects McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin was completed in 1923. A continuous row of carved stone eagles supports the roof cornice of this solid, distinctive building. A plaque to the right of the bank’s entrance identifies George Washington surveying the troops during the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. It’s definitely worth the time to check out the interior of this retrofitted building.

8) New York Transit Museum:

Continue east down Atlantic Avenue and turn left at Boerum Place. At the corner of Boerum Place and Livingston Street is the New York Transit Museum (130 Livingston St.). Housed in an historic IND subway station at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, the New York Transit Museum is devoted to the history of the metropolis’ urban public transportation. The highly-popular exhibit "Steel, Stone and Backbone" recounts the construction of New York City’s 100 year-old subway system. The museum displays several vintage subway cars and buses that children will love exploring. Special exhibitions and events change regularly.

9) MetroTech Center:

Upon exiting the museum, head north on Boerum Place (turns into Adams Street). Cross the street at Joralemon St and head through the recently completed Willoughby Plaza. Proceed down Willoughby Street, cross Jay Street, and turn left. You will soon reach MetroTech Commons, a 3.5-acre urban plaza, lined with trees, benches, and public art, surrounded by several office buildings that define Downtown Brooklyn’s Business District. The Commons features several public sculptures including Tom Otterness’ "Alligator" and "Visionary." Other sculptures include Tony Matelli’s "Stray Dog" and Paul Sisko’s "The Balanced Cylinders." MetroTech is also home to Brooklyn’s TKTS booth nestled next to 1 MetroTech Center, which sells discounted tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

10) Fulton Street:

Traverse the commons and turn right on Duffield Street. You will see a row of preserved 19th century townhouses to the right (see Architecture tour for more information), as well as St. Boniface Church. Turn right onto Fulton Street. A long-time shopping epicenter in Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Street has banned personal automobiles since 1976. Today, more than 100,000 people flock to this commercial strip daily to shop at national retailers including Aeropostale and Macy’s, regional chains such as Cookies and Brooklyn Industries, and independent retailers including Mirage Boutique. Head all the way down to the Jay Street intersection, then loop back around. You will see several architecturally important buildings that highlight the street’s commercial history, such as the Abraham & Straus Building (400 Fulton St.), Offerman Building (505 Fulton St.) and A.I. Namm & Son Department Store building (1 Hoyt St.).

11) Albee Square:

Completed in 2011, Albee Square is a new 27,000 square-foot public plaza adjacent to the historic Dime Savings Bank Building. It hosts numerous public events, including the Performing the Streets series, as well as a weekly farmers market every Friday from June to November. The Dime Savings Bank (9 Dekalb Av.) was completed in 1908 and expanded in 1932. It has been described by architectural historian Francis Morrone as "one of the four or five most magnificent banking buildings in New York City." Its distinct temple form is executed in the neo-Classical style with a marble-clad exterior featuring Ionic colonnades and a towering dome. If the bank is open, it is worthwhile to go inside to check out the large banking hall with its breathtaking forty-foot diameter copper skylight with leaded and stained glass. Albee Square is also home to City Point - a sustainable mixed-use development designed by CookFox Architects that will feature two soaring towers along with the already-completed One Dekalb retail space.

12) Brooklyn Academy of Music:

Head to the corner of Dekalb Avenue and Flatbush and stop into the original Junior’s (386 Flatbush Ave. Ext.) to enjoy a slice of New York’s best cheesecake. Once you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, turn right on Flatbush Avenue and cross the avenue at the Fulton Street intersection. On the north side of Fulton Street you will encounter the BAM Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St.) – one of BAM’s three venues. Cross the street at the next intersection and turn right down Ashland Place to Lafayette Avenue. You will see the Beaux-Arts façade of Peter Sharp Building (30 Lafayette Ave.). This historic structure houses BAM’s main performance space – the Howard Gilman Opera House. It also features a cinema, café, and the Leqercq Space, formally serving as a ballroom and theater, which today functions as BAM’s "public living room". The newest venue, BAM Fisher (321 Ashland Pl.), was completed in 2012 and features several classrooms, rehearsal spaces, an exhibition hall, and a 250-seat theater.

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3) Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower:

Continue heading south on Ashland Place and you will encounter one of the borough’s most iconic buildings. Soaring 512 feet in height, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower (1 Hanson Pl.) has been a prominent feature of the Brooklyn skyline since its completion in 1929. The tower was an expansion of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank – one of Brooklyn’s earliest financial institutions which began operations in 1851. Although today the tower has been converted into upscale lofts, the building has retained much of its original architectural character. The neo-Romanesque façade features a series of setbacks which enhances the buildings verticality, while also permitting light and air into the surrounding streets. Make sure to check out the building’s most distinctive architectural elements which include three forty-foot arched windows on the building’s base along Ashland Place, a Moorish dome, and one of the largest four-faced clocks in the world.

14) Barclays Center:

Merge right and head back onto Flatbush Avenue. At the southeast intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues is Barclays Center (620 Atlantic Ave.). Designed by award-winning architectural firms AECOM and SHoP Architects, and opened in September 2012, Barclays Center is Brooklyn’s premier multi-purpose arena and the #1 concert venue in the country. In addition to serving as home of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, the arena hosts many concerts and entertainment events. The arena will be the home of the New York Islanders hockey team beginning in 2015.

This comprehensive tour of Downtown Brooklyn is now complete! Your tour ends at the Atlantic Avenue station, which provides extensive subway service (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, R), bus service (B41, B45, B63, B67, B103), and LIRR train connections. You can take public transportation, or walk, to any one of Brooklyn’s other great neighborhoods, including Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights, DUMBO, or Prospect Park.

 

 

 

Image: Tim O'Grady