Walkable Cities Guide: DUMBO, Brooklyn

Updated: Mar 24


Exterior view of the Empire Stores building with arched windows in DUMBO, Brooklyn.


Bordering the nearby neighborhoods of Vinegar Hill and Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO (which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) is a Brooklyn neighborhood filled with stunning waterfront views, inviting travelers to take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, marvel at murals on the north side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and capture iconic views of the city.


We’ll let you in on a few secrets about ten neighborhood spots so you can travel like a local as you’re walking through DUMBO. If you're in the mood for an audio tour, you can also browse available tours in the area.



Iconic View of the Manhattan Bridge


At the intersection of Water Street and Washington Street, you’ll get a view that’s likely familiar (try searching DUMBO on Instagram), even if this is your first time traveling to New York. This glimpse of the Manhattan Bridge, framed on either side by hundred-year-old buildings, is iconic.



A view of the Empire State Building from under the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, Brooklyn.


The Manhattan Bridge is younger than its much-beloved neighbor to the southwest, the Brooklyn Bridge, but longer: its upper level is over 6,000 feet long. You can cross the Manhattan Bridge on the B, D, N or Q trains, by car, by bicycle, or on foot. If you’re snapping a picture, be careful! Look around you, and make sure you’re out of the crosswalk by the end of the walk signal.


Jay Street Connecting Railroad


Head east down Plymouth Street, away from the Manhattan Bridge, and you can follow what looks like a train track, peeking out of the Belgian block road. You’re looking at the remnants of a private rail line, the Jay Street Connecting Railroad. Keep a lookout for tracks as you explore the north end of DUMBO.



A closeup of the Jay Street Connecting railroad embedded in the streets of DUMBO, Brooklyn.


The tiny railroad was built starting in 1904 by the Arbuckle Brothers company, which had made its fortune importing, roasting, and mass-distributing coffee. By the first years of the 20th century, they were doing such good business and transporting so many pounds of coffee, they decided it would be profitable to build a railroad with the sole purpose of moving product from warehouses onto barges. The Jay Street Connecting Railroad didn’t connect to any other railroad system — but you can see a few spots in DUMBO where the rails lead directly into buildings.


The Jay Street Connecting Railroad operated until 1959. Improved highways, the rise of long-distance trucking, and the standardization of shipping containers that could fit directly onto flatbed trucks together made the old system too expensive and inefficient.


DUMBO Walls


Street art is nearly everywhere you look in New York. The many large murals you’ll find in DUMBO are the product of a well-funded public art campaign, DUMBO Walls, organized by partners that include the City of New York and DUMBO’s most prominent developer.



One of the DUMBO Walls murals with a blue ocean background and pink and red octopus tentacles that spell the word yes. This specific mural is a collaboration between designer Stefan Sagmeister and illustrator Yuko Shimizu.


DUMBO Walls was started in 2012, leaning into the neighborhood’s reputation as a haven for artists. There are eight murals altogether, all on the north side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or under its overpasses.


Empire Stores


Rows of arched windows, black shutters thrown open, and layers upon layers of painted advertisements on bricks are all hints that you’re standing in front of the Empire Stores warehouse (53-83 Water St), built in 1869. Imagine what this neighborhood might have looked like back then when hundreds of warehouses lined the Brooklyn waterfront, from DUMBO to Red Hook.



Exterior of Empire Stores with brick walls and arched windows, located in DUMBO, Brooklyn.


In the early 1900s, Empire Stores was acquired by the coffee and sugar magnates John and Charles Arbuckle. In 1945, they sold the warehouse and it sat empty for decades. Today, Empire Stores is a mall of sorts, with much of the original brickwork and timber beams preserved.


Take the stairs all the way up and you’ll reach a rooftop garden open to the public. On your way back down, you might want to check out the Brooklyn Historical Society on the second floor. The $10 admission will get you in to see their exhibition on the waterfront history of Brooklyn.


Cardboard Box Factory


Walk around Brooklyn long enough, and you’re sure to pass sidewalks piled high with heaps of cardboard boxes, unfolded and ready to be picked up for recycling. Back in DUMBO’s earlier days, this ubiquitous invention made a fortune for one of the neighborhood’s earliest developers. This building is the first factory he built in Brooklyn.


Scottish-born immigrant and Civil War veteran Robert Gair was manufacturing paper bags over in Manhattan when a mistake in his factory gave him an idea for a new machine: one that could cut and fold layers of paper in one process. The result was the first easily foldable corrugated cardboard box, it was a revolution for manufacturers.


By the late 1880s Gair wanted to relocate from Tribeca to somewhere with better shipping access. He chose DUMBO. Fun fact, long before it was called DUMBO, this neighborhood was Gairville, and Robert Gair ended up building several of the most prominent buildings in the area — keep a lookout for his name on many of them as you walk around.


Eagle Warehouse