10 Incredible European Bridges You Should Visit
There’s something remarkable about European bridges. The convenience of their original tasks aside, so many of them are just a marvel to look at. Palatial buildings often reign supreme in Europe, which means we often forget to appreciate the engineering marvels spanning over once uncrossable waters. Next time you find yourself at the start of one of these fine European bridges, take a few minutes to appreciate their beauty.
Our top 10 European bridges
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
This medieval arch bridge in Florence is one of Europe’s most famous. It dates back to 1345 and spans across Florence’s Arno River. The bridge is a true work of art and pleasing both to walk across and view from a distance. There is a private aerial walkway above the main thoroughfare, as well as several wooden shuttered shops lining either side.
Did you know: The shops were built on the bridge in order to recoup the costs, and were originally intended for butchers.
Tower Bridge, London
London’s Tower Bridge is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It crosses the famous Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol for the city. Construction started in 1886, and it took eight years to complete. Today pedestrians and vehicles have free access to the main deck, though access to the Tower Bridge Exhibition requires an entrance fee.
Did you know: Critical reception was not always favorable in the early days. Some commentators in the early 20th century complained that it was pretentious and absurd.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest
Budapest has several grand bridges spanning the spectacular Danube. Széchenyi Chain Bridge, which connects Pest to Buda, close to the castle, is the most impressive of all. This suspension bridge dates back to 1849, and was the first permanent bridge across the river. It’s open to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and has featured in several films and music videos.
Did you know: Though most simply call it the “Chain Bridge”, it bears the name Széchenyi due to Hungarian politician and vocal supporter of the structure István Széchenyi.
25 de Abril Bridge, Lisbon
Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge spans a large distance across the Tagus. It leaves many visitors curious about its striking resemblance to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Its red coloring and suspension style may be a direct tribute to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was built by American Bridge Company, which did not in fact construct Golden Gate. The bridge dates back to 1966, with a train platform added some 30 years later.
Did you know: There are six car lanes on the upper deck, and two train tracks on the lower.
Ponte di Rialto, Venice
This is one of four bridges across Venice’s Grand Canal. It’s the oldest of all, and was designed in order to passage of large ships below. Workers finished the structure in just three years as a permanent replacement for several other wooden structures. It’s a popular tourist attraction in Venice, and though it has three walkways it is almost always crowded with sightseers.
Did you know: Architect Antonio da Ponte beat the likes of Michelangelo and Palladio to win the contract to design the Ponte di Rialto.
Lucerne’s covered wooden bridges may be for pedestrian traffic only, but these iconic structures are one of the city’s most popular attractions. The beautiful structures span diagonally across the Reuss. Multicolored flowers line the sides for much of the year. The bridges contained interior paintings that date back to the 17th century, though a fire destroyed many of these in 1933.
Did you know: Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe.
Stari Most, Mostar
This may be Europe’s most Instagrammable bridge. Stari Most, simply meaning Old Bridge, stood in Mostar for 427 years, until Croat forces destroyed it in 1993. The city reopened the bridge in 2004, and many still consider it to be one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. Stari Most drew instant favor from residents and travelers with Ottoman explorer Evliya Çelebi describing it as “like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other.”
Did you know: Each year at the end of June, divers launch themselves into the icy water as part of an annual diving competition.
Dom Luís I Bridge, Porto
If there was a city for large bridge fans, Porto may be it. With six structures spanning the Douro, many people know it as the City of Bridges. Dom Luís I Bridge, which opened in 1886, is a dramatic metal arch bridge that connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Pedestrians share the upper deck of the bridge, and the incredible 60 meter high views, with a metro line that run along its centre.
Did you know: At the time of construction, the bridge’s 172 meter span made it the longest of its kind in the world.
Charles Bridge, Prague
The Charles Bridge is one of the most iconic attractions in the city of Prague. The beautiful historic sandstone structure crosses the Vltava river and connects Prague’s Old Town to its castle. Construction started in 1357, and it took 45 years to complete.
Did you know: There are 30 statues of saints on the bridge added over the years, though many are now replicas of the originals.
Puente Nuevo, Ronda
A great chasm once divided the Spanish town of Ronda in two, making passage incredibly difficult. But in 1759, the town began construction on what’s still called Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge. This incredible stone structure is 66 meters high and 98 meters across, and took 34 years to build.
Did you know: The first bridge across the chasm, built in 1735, collapsed, killing 50 people.
It’s truly rewarding to take just a few moments to appreciate everything about these structures: their design, beauty, history and present-day importance. And with most major European towns and cities in Europe founded due to the presence of water, it’s common to find dramatic bridges like these throughout a trip with a Eurail Global Pass.
Want to see more of Europe’s incredible engineering and natural attractions? Check out these articles:
- Epic railway bridges you can cross on a Eurail trip
- 8 incredible natural attractions by train
- Best cities in Europe for urban exploration