The top FREE things to do in Brooklyn, New York
Sure, Manhattan is iconic NYC, but there is so much more to the city than just the one borough. On a visit to New York I love to cross one of the many bridges and head over into Brooklyn. They say the best things in life are free – and Brooklyn is no exception! Here you will find the best free things to do in Brooklyn.
One of the best reasons to visit Brooklyn is just to get the epic views of the Manhattan skyline. What I find so incredible is that it has a massive population – 2.6 million people! With a population like that, there are so many things to do in Brooklyn that make it worth spending at least a day here.
A little trivia here: do you know where Brooklyn gets its name from? (Hint, hint, it’s from a city nearby to where I live now…). Brooklyn gets its name from the Dutch city of Breukelen – a town I’ve passed dozens of times on the highway but I have no idea why it seemed special enough for them to name Brooklyn after it. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Breukelen is outside of Amsterdam, and New York was originally called New Amsterdam by the Dutch (before they sold Manhattan to the English).
Looking for a complete New York itinerary? Check out the 5 day New York City itinerary
So, if you find yourself looking for what to do on your visit to Brooklyn or more important, the best FREE things to do in Brooklyn, have a look below at my favorite places to stroll around and take in the city. I’m sure there are plenty of areas I missed – how couldn’t I with a population that massive? If you’re still looking for other great things do in New York City that a cheap, check this post on things to do in NYC for less than $10.
What to see in Brooklyn: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
No trip to NYC is complete without a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. My tip is to start in Manhattan – consider visiting the shops and restaurants around Front Street first. The views from the bridge are just as iconic as you would imagine. Be careful for the bikers here you can get pretty aggressive if you’re blocking their lane to take a photos. When I’m on the bridge I take about 100 of the exact same pictures over and over again so it usually takes me about 45 minutes just to get over the bridge since I’m so slow 😉
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Free Things to do in Brooklyn… Stroll through Brooklyn Heights
After you’ve crossed the Brooklyn Bridge (and maybe after you’ve refueled with a burger from Shake Shack) head up Brooklyn Heights for a lovely walk over giving you killer views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the financial district, including 1 World Trade Center. I love sitting on a bench overlooking the financial district across the water and watching how many helicopters are taking off and landing in the area on a week day – imagine – that is how some of these people are getting to work… holy shit!
If you’re looking for things to do in Brooklyn Heights, simply wander and take in the incredible views of the city.
This is also a great place to get your Insta-selfies. What could be better than a view of Manhattan & the Brooklyn Bridge in the background?
Heading to New York when its not so warm out? Check out these tips for New York in winter
Best things to do in Brooklyn: Visit the DUMBO Area (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)
After visiting the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights, walk through Brooklyn Bridge park toward the Manhattan Bridge along the East River water front for some of the most spectacular views. Walking along the waterfront is the perfect way to take in the views. Once you reach the Manhattan Bridge, you’ll be in the DUMBO area. DUMBO is an industrial area where you will have incredible views of the bridges and Manhattan, and there are plenty of free things to do in DUMBO Brooklyn. You’ll find Brooklyn Flea market literally Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
If you’re headed to New York City, check out this guide to sustainable tourism in New York, to learn how to be conscious while you travel!
Wander through Williamsburg
Everyone knows Williamsburg is the “it” place in Brooklyn – maybe it’s even gotten so popular that it already reached its peak? Regardless, one of my favorite things to do in Brooklyn is just stroll through Williamsburg, and there are plenty of great things to do in Williamsburg Brooklyn. It is the cliche gentrified, yuppy, hipster area, and it is of course worth a visit. Take the time to walk down Bedford Avenue into Williamsburg, grab a coffee and people watch. Don’t forget stopping at Brooklyn Brewery for a free tour as well!
Chill out in Bushwick Inlet Park/East River State Park to get a picture perfect view of Manhattan
If you’ve already explored Williamsburg, head over to Bushwick Inlet Park to enjoy views of the Manhattan skyline looking toward the Empire State Building. The park is located just a few minutes’ walk from the Brooklyn Brewery, so you could combine the two or do a boozy picnic after you’ve tasted all that the brewery has to offer. Chilling in this park, taking in the views of the Empire State Building is one of my favorite things to do in Brooklyn – who couldn’t enjoy this view? In my humble opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
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The park also seasonally hosts Smorgasburg, a weekly open air food market on Saturdays.
Free Things to do in Brooklyn… Explore the Bushwick Collective
Head a bit deeper into Brooklyn into the Bushwick neighborhood to explore the open street art gallery, the Bushwick Collective. You’ll find street art on every bit of space here. It’s a must visit for anyone even remotely interested in street art – and it’s free! The Bushwick Collective is still relatively un-touristed compared to the rest of Brooklyn. Could be because Bushwick has a rough reputation, or just because it’ll take you a bit longer to reach this area than it would to reach Williamsburg. I think the Bushwick Collective is one of the best places to visit in Brooklyn because it is so starkly contrasting with the vibe of Manhattan.
What other great things to do in Brooklyn did I miss? Share them in the comments below!
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.