Bridges aren’t built just for utilitarian purposes such as alleviating traffic jams and facilitating the flow of commerce and ideas by connecting cities. Many are also engineering marvels – in China, a bridge was built by rockets, and in Japan, there’s a bridge that seemingly leads to the sky. Others, centuries old and majestic, exude charm and character. Here are 10 of the world’s most spectacular bridges.
Millau Viaduct, France
This is the tallest bridge in the world, soaring across the rugged and picturesque Tarn Valley and linking two limestone plateaus. Opened in 2004, Millau Viaduct was built to solve traffic congestion in the Tarn Valley and the impressive structure measures a tad higher than the Eiffel Tower at 343 metres. It’s a cable-stayed bridge, meaning that cables from pillars are transmitted to support a particular section of the bridge.
Somerset Bridge, Bermuda
At just 22 inches wide, Somerset Bridge is the world’s smallest – and probably its cutest – drawbridge. The pint-sized, man-powered stone bridge was built in 1620 and connects the Main Island with Somerset Island. A typical sailboat, including its mast, should be able to pass through, but larger ships require passersby to manually lift the gates – all part of the charm.
Golden Gate Bridge, US
The Golden Gate Bridge hardly needs an introduction – it’s been the backdrop of many Hollywood movies including the Star Trek films and Pacific Rim. Before construction started in the 1930s, people were sceptical if the structure could withstand earthquakes, but it has indeed withstood many. The orange-coloured bridge – it’s only named Golden Gate after the Golden Gate Strait – looks beautiful on foggy and sunny days and a popular option is to walk or cycle across it, from San Francisco to Marin County, California.
Eshima Ohashi, Japan
Dubbed the “rollercoaster bridge,” this bridge which links Matsue in Shimane Prefecture and Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture over Lake Nakaumi looks absolutely terrifying. The rigid frame structure bridge took seven years to build, with a grand reveal in 2004. The 44 metre ascent makes Eshima Ohashi look like a bridge that goes up into the sky but the reason why it’s so tall is so that ships can pass by underneath.
Sidu River Bridge, China
It took rockets to build this suspension bridge – they were used to launch pilot cables across the valley – which stretches 1,222 metres across the magnificent Sidu River valley in Hubei Province. The Sidu River Bridge opened to traffic in 2009, connecting two previously disparate parts of China that were hard to reach due to its mountainous terrain and rivers. The suspension lines dip in the middle then rise back up, but don’t worry – it’s very sturdy.
Royal Gorge Bridge, US
This suspension bridge in Cañon City, Colorado is part of a sprawling 360-acre amusement park. Built in 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge hangs over the Arkansas River, a popular place for whitewater rafting and fishing. Besides walking across the bridge, there’s plenty to do in the area. For a more heart-pumping rush, there’s a zip line and a gondola ride from one side of the canyon to the other.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
One of the most easily recognisable icons in the world, construction on the Sydney Harbour Bridge started in 1923 and finished in 1932. Sydneysiders call it the “coat hanger” and at the right angle, the steel-arch bridge does look like one. There are many ways to soak in the views, for instance, there’s the bridge climb, which involves wearing a jumpsuit and safety harness to scale the bridge, but a more laid-back way is a boat tour of the Sydney Harbour.
Ponte Vecchio, Italy
Not only is the Ponte Vecchio historical, but it’s also really pretty. On the bridge’s façade are paintings of colourful buildings that are identical to real-life ones by the riverbank. Butchers and fishmonger shops once occupied this covered Medieval stone bridge over the Arno River in Florence, but the stench got so strong, they left, and jewellers and goldsmiths took their place by the late 16th century. It’s just as lively today, with many art and antique shops that entice passersby.
Khaju Bridge, Iran
It’s said that in the mid-17th century, just when the bridge was built, Shah Abbas II use to sit at the pavilion and admire the Zayanderud, the largest river in central Iran. The Persian-style structure serves as both a bridge and a weir but looks more like a celestial palace, especially with its 23 stone arches lit at night. The original geometric tiles and paintings are left intact on the façade of the bridge and are lovely to admire on a stroll.
The Humber Bridge, UK
Approval for a bridge that connects Hull and Grimsby was granted in 1959 but construction didn’t start until 1972 and it was only in 1981 that the Humber Bridge opened to traffic. Though not the most aesthetic of bridges – there’s enough wire to go around the moon more than six times – it holds the title of the UK’s longest single-span suspension bridge and is the longest in the world that can be crossed by foot or bicycle.