Sometimes inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places. Take the humble bridge. How much thought do we give to a thing that simply transports us from one place to another? Necessity and practicality are words rarely associated with beauty, but our selection of 10 of the world’s best 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 £6.5bn. 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. Rising up to 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.
Vasco da Gama Bridge, Portugal
Measuring over 10 miles, 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 £88m to construct.
Golden Bridge, Vietnam
Since opening in June this year, 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
Certainly claiming the title for 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 possible contender for the world’s most famous bridge, San Francisco’s iconic crossing opened in 1937. Painted in international orange, the opening of the structure to the public resulted in a week long celebratory fiesta. The bridge is famous for more than just its engineering grandeur; nearly 1,700 people have jumped to their death from the bridge since 1937. This week marks the beginning of a two year construction project of a steel suicide prevention net that will hang six metres below the public walkway and which aims to put an end to any further deaths.
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 390m 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 1921-22 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 almost one and a half miles, the Eshima Ohashi Bridge connecting Matsue and Sakaiminato is the largest rigid frame bridge in Japan.