118 Best Sights in Brooklyn, New York City

Afropunk Fest

Fort Greene Fodor's choice
This annual multicultural fete brings artists like Macy Gray, D'Angelo, Big Freedia, and Chuck D to an urban park near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, at the far north end of Fort Greene. The fashion scene is as fabulous as the music. Local food trucks provide sustenance and a thrift market keep fans occupied between sets.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Prospect Heights Fodor's choice
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Priyankamadia | Dreamstime.com
A verdant, 52-acre oasis, the BBG charms with its array of “gardens within the garden,” including idyllic Japanese hill-and-pond, rose, and Shakespeare gardens. The Japanese cherry arbor turns into a breathtaking cloud of pink every spring. There are multiple entrances, and a variety of free garden tours are available with admission; check the website for seasonal details and information on the many festivals held throughout the year, including the iconic Sakura Matsuri celebration during cherry blossom season.
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Brooklyn Bridge (Entrance)

Brooklyn Heights Fodor's choice

Most visitors cross the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, but you'll get better views traversing the span from the Brooklyn side. It's a surprisingly long walk (more than a mile) that normally takes about 40 minutes, but the exhilarating views are good payment for your exercise. Many office workers commute this way, and a welcome recent addition is a separate bike lane carved out from a lane of traffic, making the walkway much less crowded during rush hour (7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm). It's most magical and quietest in the early morning, but if you don't mind the crowds, it's worth making the trip at sunset in summer, when the lights of Manhattan come to life. There are two pedestrian access points for the bridge on the Brooklyn side. One is at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place, where it eventually splits to lead left for those on foot, right for those on two wheels; the second is the Washington Street underpass, which leads to a staircase up to the walkway.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Heights Fodor's choice

This sweeping feat of green urban renewal stretches from the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO to the Brooklyn Bridge and south all the way to Pier 6, carpeting old industrial sites along the waterfront with scenic esplanades and lush meadows. The park has playgrounds, sports fields, food concessions, the wonderfully restored Jane's Carousel, and lots of grass for lounging. In the summer, there are outdoor movies on the Harbor View Lawn. There are pickleball courts on Pier 2. You can access the park at various points; just head down the hill toward the East River and you can't miss it.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Brooklyn Heights Fodor's choice
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Jennifer Arnow

Strolling this mile-long path famous for its magnificent Manhattan views, you might find it surprising to learn that its origins were purely functional: the promenade was built as a sound barrier to protect nearby brownstones from highway noise. Find a bench, and take in the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge; in the evening, the lights of Manhattan sparkle across the East River. Below are the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway (BQE) and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Brooklyn Museum

Prospect Heights Fodor's choice

New York’s second-largest museum (after Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) is also one of the largest in America, with 560,000 square feet of exhibition space. The colossal Beaux-Arts structure houses one of the best collections of Egyptian art in the world, as well as impressive collections of African, pre-Columbian, Native American, and feminist art. In addition, you'll find works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, George Bellows, Thomas Eakins, and Milton Avery. The museum is also well known for its contemporary, cutting-edge special exhibits. The monthly (except for September) First Saturday free-entry night is a neighborhood party of art, music, and dancing, with food vendors and several cash bars.

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Celebrate Brooklyn!

Prospect Park Fodor's choice
New York City’s longest-running summer outdoor performance festival began in 1979 and remains a top-notch crowd-pleaser with its diverse roster of mostly free (and some benefit) star acts. There's ample band shell seating, but locals tend to favor arriving early with a blanket to get a good seat on the grassy slope. Acts range from artists such as Janelle Monáe, the National, Neutral Milk Hotel, and St. Vincent to the Shen Wei Dance Arts company and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Look for silent film nights accompanied by innovative live music as well as spoken word performances. Pack a picnic or buy food from local, on-site vendors.

Clinton Hill Architecture Walk

Fodor's choice
Part of the National Register of Historic Places, the buildings along Clinton and Washington avenues were originally lavish summer homes for turn-of-the-20th-century industrialists like Charles Pratt. Federal, French Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and neo-Grec mansions line the streets, serving as university buildings, community centers, and private residences. There are also quintessentially Brooklyn brownstones and Italianate row houses, with mansard roofs as far as the eye can see.

Coney Island Museum

Coney Island Fodor's choice
Founded as a labor of love by Coney Island impresario Dick Zigun, this quirky museum recounts the tumultuous history of the neighborhood and explores the counterculture that still thrives here. Check out the memorabilia from Coney Island's heyday in the early 1900s, as well as video installations, temporary exhibits, and the fabulous collection of funhouse mirrors.
1208 Surf Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11224, USA
718-372–5159
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $5, Labor Day–mid-June closed weekdays; mid-June–Labor Day closed Mon. and Tues.

Empire Stores

DUMBO Fodor's choice

Housed in a sparkling renovation of an enormous 19th-century warehouse, this collection of shops and restaurants features a 7,000-square-foot rooftop garden with East River and Manhattan views. Tenants include creative agencies and West Elm's global HQ, as well as Time Out Market, upscale Italian restaurant Cecconi's, and Dumbo House, offshoot of Soho House. There are rotating art exhibits throughout the building, plus programming with pop-ups and installations.

Fort Greene Park

Fort Greene Fodor's choice
With 30 acres of green hills, Brooklyn's oldest park is the unofficial nucleus of the neighborhood. It served as a military fort during the Revolutionary War and again during the War of 1812. At its center, the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument commemorates American war prisoners. Although it predates them, landscape architects Olmsted and Vaux (known for designing Central Park and Prospect Park) designed the current layout of Fort Greene Park.
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Grand Ferry Park

Fodor's choice
Hipsters, Hasidic Jews, and others hang out at this small waterfront park named for the ferry that for a century connected Williamsburg to Manhattan. The views of Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge are sublime anytime. Sand covers the ground in summer, and if you sit on a bench near the waves that crash against the rocks, you can almost pretend you're at the beach. Check out the inscription on the redbrick smokestack, which figured in the development of penicillin.

Green-Wood Cemetery

Fodor's choice
One of the loveliest places for a stroll in the five boroughs, the 478 acres of Green-Wood Cemetery are also home to more than 560,000 permanent residents. Notables include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and Horace Greeley, but the elaborate monuments and mausoleums of the nonfamous tend to be more awe-inspiring. Equally impressive are the views that stretch to Brooklyn Harbor and Manhattan. Guided walking and trolley tours, as well as special events, are offered. Keep an eye out for parrots: the bright green monk parakeets have been nesting here since the 1960s when, legend has it, they escaped from a shipment at JFK airport.

Jane's Carousel

DUMBO Fodor's choice

Equal parts architectural marvel and children's plaything, this beautifully restored 1922 carousel twirls within a glass-walled waterfront pavilion designed by Pritzker Prize--winning French architect Jean Nouvel. Situated between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, near the northern reaches of 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park and directly across from Manhattan's skyline, the carousel's 48 horses and two chariots are off to the races year-round.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY, 11201, USA
718-222--2502
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $2, Closed Tues. year-round and Mon. and Wed. mid-Sept.--mid-May, Mid-Sept.--mid-May, Thurs.--Sun. 11--6; mid-May--mid-Sept., Wed.--Mon. 11--7

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier

Red Hook Fodor's choice
This small pier and park, named for a fallen firefighter, has awe-inspiring views of the Statue of Liberty and across the Hudson. You won't need prompting to take pictures. There are a few benches for relaxing.

Mermaid Parade

Coney Island Fodor's choice
Plan a trip to Coney Island in mid to late June for the neighborhood's biggest event of the year, and you'll without a doubt have something to talk about for months to come. The costumes (or lack thereof) and floats are memorable, with some pretty outlandish presentations. It can get hot and crowded and hedonistic—more akin to Mardi Gras, with some nudity, than the Thanksgiving Parade, so you may wish to leave the kids at home.

New York Aquarium

Coney Island Fodor's choice

Run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the country's oldest continually operating aquariums occupies 14 beachfront acres, and is home to hundreds of aquatic species. At the Sea Cliffs, you can watch penguins, sea lions, sea otters, and seals frolic; the best action is at feeding time. The Conservation Hall and Glovers Reef building has angelfish, eels, rays, piranhas, and other marine life from Belize, Fiji, and elsewhere. The new Playquarium, which features a Touch Pool of crabs, marine snails, and sea urchin, also invites children to imagine themselves as sharks, sardines, or whales amid a kelp forest, coral reef, and sandy shore.  Purchase tickets online for discounted rates.

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New York Transit Museum

Brooklyn Heights Fodor's choice

History buffs, train geeks, and playful children will all appreciate this unique museum inside a decommissioned 1930s subway station. Exhibitions include detailed timelines of the transit system's construction and evolution over the decades, but the true highlight is the subway platform two levels down, featuring train cars of different eras of the subway, dating back over a century ago. Adults and kids alike can wander these cars, each a time capsule of vintage aesthetics and advertising, or sit behind the driving wheel of a replica of an MTA bus. There are also old turnstiles and other transit memorabilia. The gift shop carries subway-line socks, decorative tile reproductions, and other fun souvenirs.

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Park Slope House Tour

Park Slope Fodor's choice
For nearly 60 years, the annual Park Slope house tour has offered a glimpse inside beautiful private family homes. The self-guided, ticketed event takes place on a Sunday afternoon in May, rain or shine, and shuttle buses connect key sites. Ticket-holders receive an illustrated brochure with the history and details of the participating homes.

Pioneer Works

Red Hook Fodor's choice
Occupying the 19th-century redbrick headquarters of the eponymous machine manufacturer, the Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation is a soaring three-level space dedicated to the arts. Reclaimed and retooled by Red Hook artist Dustin Yellin, the repurposed building is home to a collection of arts and science residency studios that showcase changing exhibitions and performance art. Lively opening parties, films, and concerts are open to the public as well. The backyard is a miniwonderland of landscaping and artwork.

Pratt Institute Sculpture Park

Fodor's choice
One of New York City's largest sculpture gardens is free to the public and houses installations by students, faculty, and alumni of the Pratt Institute, an arts and architecture school founded in 1887. The 50-plus-piece collection changes slightly from year to year, spanning the 25-acre campus.

Prospect Park

Prospect Park Fodor's choice
Prospect Park
gregobagel/iStockphoto

Brooklyn residents are passionate about Prospect Park, and with good reason: lush green spaces, gently curved walkways, summer concerts, vivid foliage in autumn, and an all-season skating rink make it a year-round getaway. In 1859, the New York Legislature decided to develop plans for a park in the fast-growing city of Brooklyn. After landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux completed the park in the late 1880s, Olmsted remarked that he was prouder of it than any of his other works—including Manhattan's Central Park—and many critics agree. On weekends, those not jogging the 3.35-mile loop gravitate to the rolling hills of the Long Meadow to picnic, fly kites, or play cricket, flag football, or Frisbee. On summer Sundays, foodies flock to Breeze Hill, site of outdoor food market Smorgasburg's second Brooklyn location. The park's north entrance is at Grand Army Plaza, where the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch (patterned on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) honors Civil War veterans. On Saturday, year-round, a greenmarket at the plaza throngs with shoppers. 

A good way to experience the park is to walk the Long Meadow—or stop in for the occasional free yoga class—and then head to the eastern side and south toward the lake. Along the way, you'll encounter attractions including Brooklyn's last remaining forest, including the Lefferts Historic House (now closed for renovations), Prospect Park Audubon Center, and the LeFrak Center. The Prospect Park Carousel, built in 1912, still thrills the kids. The Boathouse, dating from 1905, is a stunning example of Beaux-Arts architecture. The annual Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival takes place at the Prospect Park Bandshell from early June through mid-August. 

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Prospect Park Lake

Prospect Park Fodor's choice
Every corner of Prospect Park (see Chapter 8) is worth exploring, but the part closest to Windsor Terrace includes this lovely man-made lake, home to ducks and swans. Benches and small wooden gazebos dot the waterfront.

Riegelmann Boardwalk

Coney Island Fodor's choice

Built in 1923, just one year before legendary Totonno's Pizzeria opened its doors on nearby Neptune Avenue, this famous wood-planked walkway is better known as the Coney Island Boardwalk, and in summer it seems like all of Brooklyn is out strolling along the 2½-mile stretch. The quintessential walk starts at the end of the pier in Coney Island, opposite the Parachute Jump, where you can see the shoreline stretched out before you, where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean meet the Big Apple. From here to Brighton Beach is a little over a mile and should take about a half hour at a leisurely amble. Admire the modernistic, rectangular structures perched over the beach, housing bathrooms and lifeguard stations.

Shore Park and Parkway

Fodor's choice
This narrow park follows the Bay Ridge waterfront and has spectacular views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the ships in New York Harbor. The promenade is perfect for a long walk or a bike ride. At the north end is the American Veterans Memorial Pier, where the NYC Ferry docks. The pier is also home to Brooklyn’s official monument honoring those lost on 9/11.

Sunset Park

Fodor's choice
The neighborhood’s namesake park offers fabulous views of New York Harbor and the Lower Manhattan skyline from one of Brooklyn’s highest hills. Stretching three blocks between 5th and 7th avenues, the green space has a seasonal public swimming pool, playgrounds, and multiple ball courts. Head to the park at sunset to see why it’s worthy of its name.

The Bushwick Collective

Bushwick Fodor's choice

Bushwick is well known for its street art, as the Brooklyn graffiti scene endures with colorful, larger-than-life murals. It's all encouraged, supported, and curated by this urban art collective, under the helm of Joseph Ficalora. The outdoor street art gallery is omnipresent as you walk Troutman Street and the adjacent blocks of St. Nicholas Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue, the area's main drag. Fans of global street art will recognize featured artists, including Carlitos Skills, Ruben Ubiera, and Mr. Blob.   Every summer, the Collective throws a block party that's a mix of DJ music, food trucks, and local makers selling their wares. Check their website for details.

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Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Fodor's choice
One of the most iconic bridges in New York City, seen worldwide as the starting point of the New York City marathon, this 4,260-foot double-decked bridge connects Brooklyn and Staten Island. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1964 (it’s now 13th) and is named after Giovanni da Verrazzano (his name has two z's, unlike the bridge), an Italian explorer who was the first European to sail into New York Harbor in 1524. There are two times each year when people are allowed to cross the bridge under their own power: for the New York City marathon held every November, and during the Five Boro Bike Tour each May. If you don’t want to work that hard for your views (and photos), walk south on 5th Avenue until you hit the bridge or stroll along the Shore Park and Parkway promenade.
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WNYC Transmitter Park

Greenpoint Fodor's choice
Greenpoint residents of all ages head to this waterfront park to soak up the sun and stunning views of the Midtown skyline. From the manicured lawn and the benches on the esplanade, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building seem just a stone’s throw away. Formerly the site of WNYC radio's transmission towers, this pristine public space opened in 2012, part of the city's ongoing project to redevelop waterfront property throughout the five boroughs.

56 Bogart (The BogArt)

Bushwick

Many young Bushwick galleries showcase edgy and experimental work, but visiting this converted warehouse is an easy way to see a lot of art in one shot. The BogArt contains large studios and several galleries. Standouts include the Amos Eno Gallery and Arcade Project Curatorial.  Gallery hours vary, but the best time to visit is on Friday and weekends, when most places are open.