A Stroll Through Brooklyn Heights

Cranberry Street, Brooklyn Heights

Charming Cranberry Street. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn is, hands-down, one of our favorite neighborhoods in New York (not just in the borough of Brooklyn!). Strolling through Brooklyn Heights is like entering a genteel, bygone era… not to mention boasts great views of the Brooklyn Bridge and a gorgeous park.

New York’s first suburb and the nation’s first designated historic district, today, Brooklyn Heights’ tree-shaded streets are lined with 19th-century homes and churches (among other must-see sights!).

Here’s what to know about Brooklyn Heights, what sights not to miss, and how to get there from Manhattan (it’s easy, we promise!).

Getting to Brooklyn Heights

To get there, just take the A or C subways to the High Street Station, or the 2 or 3 lines to the Clark Street Station.

Another great option is to take the New York Water Taxi from Pier 16 at South Street Seaport across the river to Fulton Ferry.

A walking tour of Brooklyn Heights

Once you’re there… it’s time to explore!

Here’s an easy-to-follow walking tour that hits the Brooklyn Heights highlights.

Brooklyn Heights map

A walking tour of Brooklyn Heights

Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn

Fulton Ferry Landing Photo: Jeff Dobbins

1. Start at a place fundamental to the founding of Brooklyn (and even the nation): Fulton Ferry Landing.

Ferries to Manhattan have operated here since 1642, and this is where Robert Fulton’s steam ferry began connections in 1814, leading to the growth of Brooklyn Heights as a residential enclave.

It was also here, in 1776, that George Washington smuggled his defeated troops across the river under cover of night and fog… saving them, and the nation, from conquest by the British Army.

Today, here at the foot of the mighty Brooklyn Bridge, there are spectacular views of both the bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Lovely Brooklyn Bridge Park stretches to the south (to your left, if you’re facing the river) and includes lawns, cafes, restrooms, and events.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park (and the Manhattan Bridge) in Brooklyn Heights. Photo: Amanda Ruggeri

Under the bridge is the famed River Cafe. Continuing north is more waterfront park, plus the trendy neighborhood of DUMBO, where oldwarehouses and factories have been converted into art galleries, performance spaces, apartments, shops, and restaurants.

2. Walk up Old Fulton Street and stop at the first corner (on the south side). The redbrick fortress before you is the Eagle Warehouse and Storage, once the site of The Brooklyn Eagle, the newspaper edited by Walt Whitman from 1846-1848. Whitman lived nearby, and his Leaves of Grass was first printed a few blocks from here.

The white cast-iron building on the corner of Old Fulton and Front Streets (look for the line of people outside) is the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, which some claim is New York’s best.

3. Turn right and proceed on Everit Street (soon changing to Columbia Heights), walking up the hill and under the bridge connecting two large yellow buildings. At the top of this former factory, you’ll see the words, “Watchtower,” indicating it is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters.

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An 1820 home at Middagh St. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

4. When you reach the top of the hill, turn left onto Middagh Street (which looks like more of a path, next to the playground), and walk to Willow Street. This block of Middagh Street between Willow and Hicks holds some of the oldest homes in the city, dating back to the founding of Brooklyn Heights.

Numbers 31-33 were built in 1820 and served as a “men’s hairdressing parlor” and paint store, while the clapboard house at #30 dates to 1824. Built in 1820, the Federal-style house at #24 is believed to be the oldest house in the neighborhood.

Continue south on Willow Street (the street numbers will increase) and notice #37, one of the nation’s first apartment buildings.

5. At the northeast corner of Cranberry and Willow is 19 Cranberry St, home of the Castorini family in the 1987 film Moonstruck. Many of the film’s exterior shots were filmed here, including Cher’s wistful stroll down this block kicking a can.

As you continue down Willow, note the plaques on #45 (dated to 1820) and #57 (1825).

6. Turn left on Orange Street and walk a block and a half east to #57, Plymouth Church (1849). This historic church was known as the “Grand Central Depot of the Underground Railroad” for the many escaped slaves it sheltered—but it was made famous by its dramatic abolitionist preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. Among those who came to hear Beecher were Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. In fact, so many flocked to hear his sermons that special “Beecher boats” were needed to ferry the throngs from Manhattan!

Brooklyn Heights Brooklyn

Plymouth Church. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

In contrast to the church’s simple, barn-like exterior, its interior is laid out in a theater style (designed by Beecher himself) and features remarkable stained-glass windows (some by Tiffany) and a piece of Plymouth Rock. In the adjoining garden, you can see a statue of Beecher and a relief of Lincoln.

7. Return to Willow Street and continue south (or left). The “modern” building on the southwest corner is a Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of 30 buildings the group owns in Brooklyn Heights.

70 Willow St., meanwhile, was once Truman Capote’s home; it’s here that the author wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. In fact, the neighborhood has been home to many great writers, including Arthur Miller, W. H. Auden, Thomas Wolf, Carson McCullers, and Norman Mailer. This house recently sold for a record $12 million (a bargain considering the original asking price: $18 million!).

The long block of Willow between Clark and Pierrpont Streets also features several notable homes, including #102, the Danish Seaman’s Church (a remnant of the area’s busy waterfront); #108-112, ornate Queen Anne buildings with flamboyant terra cotta decoration; #151, a former carriage house converted into a luxury home; and the Federal-style row houses at #155-159.

Look for the skylight in the pavement before #157, which once lit a tunnel leading from #159 to a stable.

8. Turn right on Pierrpont Street and head to the Brooklyn Promenade (or Esplanade) for fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. The sound of traffic can be heard from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which runs beneath the Promenade. The construction of this highway (and demolition of historic homes) was the catalyst for residents’ demands for landmark status, ensuring the neighborhood’s protection.

View from Brooklyn Promenade

The view from the Brooklyn Promenade. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

9. Return to Pierrpont St. and walk four blocks east, past beautiful 19th-century homes in a variety of styles. Notable is the 1890 Herman Behr House (at the corner of Henry St.), with its bays, turrets, and terra cotta sculptures. It later became a hotel, apartment house, and even a brothel run by Xavier Hollander (also known as the “Happy Hooker”!). Number 106 has a unique Art Nouveau style, with stained glass over its bay windows and front door.

At the intersection with Monroe Place, you’ll find the imposing New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division (seemingly out of place in this residential neighborhood!) and the 1844 Gothic Revival First Unitarian Church. The Brooklyn Chamber Music Society performs here (an excellent way to see the church’s Tiffany stained glass windows!).

10. At the corner of Clinton Street is the Brooklyn Historical Society, home to permanent and changing exhibits and an extensive library focused on Brooklyn and New York. The 1880 building has impressive interiors, and its façade includes terra cotta sculptures of a Viking and Native American over the entrance, as well as busts of Columbus and Ben Franklin higher up.

Brooklyn Heights church

St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

11. Turn right on Clinton St. and walk to the corner of Montague. Here, you’ll find the 1847 Gothic Revival St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church. It has a stunning interior of intricate sculpture and stained glass windows by William Jay Bolton (making it the first major installation in America). In addition to worship services, St. Ann’s also has concerts and performances.

Montague Street has always been the main commercial thoroughfare of Brooklyn Heights. The block north of Clinton St. includes three notable banks (all designed to appear monumental): #177 with a grand, vaulted ceiling, #183 resembling a classical temple, and #185 with intricate Art Deco relief work. Montague Street also is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants—great for a relaxing snack or meal.

12. Walk east on Montague to Court St. and Cadmen Plaza. Lining the plaza are the New York Supreme Court Building, the Victorian Romanesque General Post Office (and a statue of Henry Ward Beecher), and Borough Hall, which was Brooklyn’s City Hall until the borough was consolidated into New York City in 1898.

From here, you can catch the 2,3,4,5, N, or R subway lines.

Still have stamina? Then read on for more great sights south of Montague Street!

Grace Court Alley

Grace Court Alley Photo: Jeff Dobbins

A. Walk west on Montague (toward the river) and take a left on Hicks St. to Grace Court Alley, which is lined by brick stables and carriage houses that have been converted to luxurious duplexes. Note the protruding metal hooks that once hoisted supplies to the second floors!

 B. From Hicks St., Joralemon is a cobblestone street descending to the river (as other west-bound streets did before being cut off from the waterfront by the expressway). This block is lined with modest Greek Revival row houses. Note the blackened windows of #58, which was gutted and serves as a ventilation chamber for the Lexington Ave. subway line tunnel.

135 Joralemon St

135 Joralemon St. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

C. Numbers 43-49 Willow Place are an 1846 “Colonnade Row” that resemble an antebellum mansion. Across the street at #46 is a home whose columned porch gives it the look of a fading Southern plantation.

D. Continuing east on Joralemon Street, note the mansion at 236 Henry St., with its working gaslight lanterns. 129 Joralemon St. is a Romanesque mansion with dragon decorative sculptures, and #135 is an 1833 white clapboard house with a wrought-iron porch and lovely garden.

E. At 140 and 142 Clinton St.are two 1855 white houses with distinctive gables and black cast-iron lintels.

Joralemon Street

Joralemon Street Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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  • I’ve always wanted to visit this part of Brooklyn and will be bookmarking this post for when I finally make it there – it looks so beautiful 🙂

    • Thanks Hannah. It really is beautiful and, if you like architecture or history, there’s so much to see. Hope you’ll enjoy exploring the neighborhood as much as I do.

  • I love Brooklyn Heights. It is such a great place to explore.

  • I’ve never visited Brooklyn Heights on my travels to NYC. The Cranberry St travel photograph in this article is one of the many images my memory creates when thinking about NY. Next time I visit, I’ll explore this destination.

    • It’s such a beautiful area to explore. Hope you get the chance to do so soon.

  • Wow! So much to see and do! I was only in New York for one full day, so I just got off the subway at Brooklyn and walked back over the bridge to Manhattan. I will have to go back one day and give it the time it deserves!

    • I hope you do get to come back and spend some time exploring. It’s a beautiful place to stroll.

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  • Pingback: A Stroll Through Brooklyn Heights – Walks of New York | nysbridge.com()

  • charles swann

    This is a great neighbourhood. I spent three months living here this year (2015) in an apartment house at number 29, Willow Street, very near the Watchtower building. I was there January through to March and I swear to God, I have never been so cold in my whole life. Apparently, it was the worst winter since 1958 ! Whatever, it was as near to Arctic conditions as I have ever been. With an average temperature of minus 12, plus the wind chill from the Hudson, making it minus 18, and sometimes even colder, i was really grateful for the sublime Lentil soup dispensed from Falafel Heights, a Mediterranean restaurant and deli on Henry Street. That place and those people really saved my life. If you visit this wonderful neighbourhood in winter, then that’s the place to eat. The other spot worthy of a visit is Henry’s Ale House, also on Henry Street. Great burgers and a wonderful selection of good beers. Would love to see the place in summer. It has a real authentic olde worlde charm. How I miss it !