Sometimes inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. Take the humble bridge; some have been traced back to Roman times, others are continuously being built, but how much thought do we give to something that simply transports us from one place to another?
Necessity and practicality are words rarely associated with beauty, but some of the world’s bridges have become the ultimate symbols of their respective cities, such as New York’s Brooklyn Bridge or London’s Tower Bridge.
While appearance is often a factor, as technology advances, newer bridges can incorporate modern ingenuity into their construction, meaning that the most spectacular bridges on the planet are often a mix of aesthetically pleasing features and ingenious feats of engineering.
You may have previously thought of bridges as simply facilitating travel, but our selection of the world’s most incredible bridges could make you see these majestic structures through new eyes.
Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, China
At 102 miles in length, this extensive bridge is the world’s longest. Opened to the public in 2011, it took around 10,000 people to construct it over just four years and cost $8.5bn. This incredible structure connects Shanghai to the town of Nanjing, the capital of China’s Jiangsu province.
Millau Viaduct, France
Surpassing even the mighty Eiffel Tower in height, France’s Millau Viaduct holds the current title of the tallest bridge in the world. With a structural height of 343 metres, the bridge opened in 2004 and straddles the Tarn Valley between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers and Narbonne. For a different view of the statuesque structure, bridge enthusiasts can canoe underneath.
Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire
Comprised of 24 stone arches and sitting 32 metres above the moorland below, the Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the UK’s best examples of Victorian engineering. Built between 1870 and 1874, the bridge secured Grade II listing in 1988. Forming part of the picturesque Settle-Carlisle railway route, the bridge is located in the middle of the Three Peaks mountain challenge and is on the border of Cumbria and Yorkshire.
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Vasco da Gama Bridge, Portugal
Measuring over seven miles long, the Vasco da Gama Bridge connecting northern and southern Portugal is the longest bridge in Europe. Opened to the public in 1998, it was named after the Portuguese explorer who was the first European to reach India by sea in the 15th century. Spanning the Tagus River, the bridge cannot be accessed on foot and has been built to withstand winds of up to 155mph.
Beipanjiang Bridge, China
Over 560m in height, the Beipanjiang or Duge Bridge is the highest in the world. The structure has substance as well as style; this critical stretch of motorway links the cities of Liupanshui and Qujing, reducing travel time by up to three hours. At nearly double the height of London’s Shard, the bridge cost ¥1.023bn (roughly £112m) to construct.
Golden Bridge, Vietnam
Since opening in 2018, Vietnam’s 150 metre long Golden Bridge has become a major tourist attraction. Perched on a mountaintop near the city of Da Nang, the distinctive bridge is designed to look as if it is being held up by a giant pair of hands.
Pont du Gard Aqueduct, France
Claiming the title of the oldest bridge in this list, the Pont du Gard aqueduct is a Roman monument built in the first century AD. Originally designed to supply the city of Nîmes with water, this three tier aqueduct is 50 metres in height. Constructed from soft, yellow limestone rock, this remarkable edifice was declared a historical monument by the French government in 1840.
Golden Gate Bridge, USA
A contender for the world’s most famous bridge, San Francisco’s iconic crossing opened in 1937 – just six months after the city’s other main bridge, the (Oakland) Bay Bridge – at a cost of $35m at the time. Painted in international orange, the opening of the structure to the public resulted in a week-long celebratory fiesta. Last year, the US government approved a $400m project to help protect the bridge against earthquakes.
Hartland/New Brunswick Bridge, Canada
Opened in 1901, the longest covered bridge in the world was declared a National Historic Site in 1980. Also known as a “kissing bridge”, the 391m long structure dates back to when young men “trained” their horses to stop halfway across the bridge in order to steal a few kisses, before continuing on to the other side. This one-way bridge was covered over in 1922 despite opposition from local people, who worried that “covering” the bridge was a threat to the moral fibre of the young people. In 1995, a Canadian postage stamp was issued honouring the bridge.
Eshima Ohashi, Japan
Looking at a picture of this infamous bridge, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for some sort of endurance run for racing cars. Proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover, this seemingly incredibly steep motorway only has a maximum gradient of 6.1 per cent. For comparison, cyclist’s favourite Box Hill in Surrey has an average gradient of five per cent. At just over one mile, the Eshima Ohashi Bridge connecting Matsue and Sakaiminato is the largest rigid frame bridge in Japan.
1915 Canakkale Bridge, Turkey
Opened in March last year, the 1915 Canakkale Bridge is now the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a distance of 2,023 metres on its main span. Overall, the structure measures 2.9 miles long, and was built over five years at a cost of £2.1bn. It won the record from the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan, and will serve a connecting link on Turkey’s new Kınalı-Tekirdağ-Çanakkale-Balıkesir motorway.
Sky Bridge, Czech Republic
The world’s longest suspension footbridge opened in May 2022 in the Dolni Morava region in the east of the country. Measuring 721 metres long and just 1.2 metres wide, it overtook the recently-opened Arouca 516 in Portugal by 154 metres, and sits 95 metres above a steep valley for a unique, if perhaps unsettling, walk in the Dolni Morava resort.
George Washington Bridge, USA
One of several famous bridges in the Big Apple, the George Washington bridge is the busiest bridge in the world, reportedly carrying over one hundred million vehicles per year (or up to 250,000 per day). The original structure was completed in 1927, though a lower level was opened in 1962, meaning that today the bridge shuttles vehicles over 14 different lanes of traffic (the most of any bridge in the world).
Rod El Farag Axis Bridge, Egypt
The Rod El Farag bridge, also known as the Tahya Misr bridge opened in 2019 and immediately became the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Built at a cost of LE164m (roughly £4.1m), the bridge stretches for 540m along the River Nile and contains pedestrian passageways and glass-floored walkways, and has become a tourist attraction for those wanting views of the river.
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