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Part engineering marvel, part architectural expression, bridges have come a long way since the first humans happened upon a fortuitously fallen tree and used it to cross a river. The ancient Greeks brought arches into the equation — their Arkadiko Bridge is still in use today — but it was the Romans who really ran with the arch concept, utilizing concrete to cover their empire with massive stone structures across three continents. Many bridges today combine beauty with utility, adding a flair of elegance as they transport pedestrians, vehicles, or trains. Here are 15 of the most beautiful examples around the world.
Khaju Bridge (Isfahan, Iran)
Persian architecture is legendarily ornate, and the Khaju Bridge, spanning the largest river on the Iranian plateau, is no exception. The 17th-century structure is more than just a way to cross water — it’s also a public meeting space and a weir (low dam) which helps to control the flow of the Zayanderud River. Elaborately tiled and featuring 23 graceful arches, the four-story structure is a marvelous example of Safavid dynasty architecture.
Rialto Bridge (Venice, Italy)
In a city awash with amore, the Rialto Bridge manages to maintain supremacy as one of the most romantic spots in the city. The oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto had several earlier versions connecting the districts of San Marco and San Polo, which were destroyed before the current stone structure was approved. Michelangelo was one of the architects whose proposed design didn’t make the cut, but Antonio da Ponte was up to the task, and completed his version of the bridge in 1591. Today the elegant arched bridge is one of Venice's most popular tourist attractions.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Budapest, Hungary)
“Grand” doesn’t begin to describe this lion-guarded stone bridge straddling the Danube River. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge connects Clark Ádám Square in Buda and Széchenyi Square on the Pest side of Hungary’s historic capital. The two sites were previously only connected by a precarious pontoon bridge, but Count István Széchenyi dreamed of a grander, more permanent structure in the early 19th century. Although the count’s vision took 50 years to come to fruition (and was mostly destroyed by the Nazis in 1945), the reconstructed 1,230-foot Renaissance Revival bridge is once again the jewel of the city.
Brooklyn Bridge (New York, New York)
The first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge was also the first fixed crossing point over New York City’s East River, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Known for its graceful masonry arches, the Brooklyn Bridge took 14 years to complete (from 1869 to 1883) and is more than a mile in length, with a main span of almost 1,600 feet. Plagued by construction problems (including decompression sickness for workers toiling underwater), the hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge was a marvel of 19th-century engineering and retains its status as an iconic symbol of the city. The bridge accommodates six lanes of vehicles (no trucks), and walking on the protected pedestrian walkway guarantees an incredible view of the skyline.
The Helix (Singapore)
Singapore doesn’t do small-scale, and the cutting edge Helix is no exception. This futuristic footbridge in the island nation’s sleek Marina Bay area allows pedestrians to stroll across the Singapore River from the city center to the “new downtown” on the waterfront. Completed in 2010, the 919-foot bridge is inspired by the appearance of human DNA; the tubular truss is encircled by a stainless steel double helix structure. Viewing pods along the bridge offer stunning vignettes of the city skyline.
Tower Bridge (London, England)
One of London’s most iconic landmarks, the Tower Bridge (not to be confused with the more modern-looking London Bridge) is an extravagant Victorian Gothic confection that is both a suspension and a bascule (drawbridge) crossing over the River Thames. The eight-year construction was completed in 1894, and the bridge’s distinct appearance was designed to make it harmonize aesthetically with the nearby Tower of London. If you’re not prone to vertigo, make sure to traverse the glass floor on the bridge’s upper walkway.
Dragon Bridge (Da Nang, Vietnam)
A fire-breathing bridge? You’re not dreaming — you’re in Vietnam at Cầu Rồng. The fanciful steel structure stretches 2,185 feet over the Hàn River and emulates the appearance of a Ly dynasty dragon, symbolizing power, nobility, and good fortune. Opened in 2013 on the 38th anniversary of the liberation of Da Nang City by the North Vietnamese army, the country’s longest bridge offers a more direct route to the international airport, and provides better access to the beaches on the city’s north side. In addition to thousands of colorful LED lights, the dragon “breathes” both fire and water during shows at 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Pont Alexandre III (Paris, France)
In a city strewn with beautiful buildings and bridges, Pont Alexandre III is still something of a show-off. Spanning the Seine between the Eighth and Ninth Arrondissements, Paris’ most ornate bridge was commissioned for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and boasts views of the Invalides (the site of Napoleon’s tomb) on the Left Bank and the Grand Palais and Petit Palais on the Right Bank — both constructed for the same exhibition — as well as the Eiffel Tower. The Beaux Arts-style, single-arch bridge is 525 feet in length and has four 55-foot pillars topped with gilded winged horses — representing the Arts, Sciences, Commerce, and Industry.
Root Bridges (Cherrapunji, India)
Meghalaya translates to “abode of the clouds,” and this northeast Indian state at the base of the Himalayas has one of the world’s wettest climates, receiving up to 45 feet — yes, feet — of rainfall each year. Stone and metal structures won’t last in this wild and remote region, but the local Khasi peoples have tamed the deep gorges and swift rivers by bioengineering living bridges from the flexible aerial roots of rubber fig trees (Ficus elastica). The trees are planted on opposing sides of a chasm, and the roots are gradually trained until they are tightly woven and strong enough to support pedestrians. Ghostly and gorgeous, these living root bridges can last for centuries.
Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, California)
Synonymous with San Francisco, the orange-shaded and often fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge is an Art Deco masterpiece spanning almost 9,000 feet across the strait that separates San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean and the city of San Francisco from the headlands of Marin County. Opened in 1937, the suspension bridge features two towers that each soar 746 feet high, and the entire structure — which was initially proposed to have black and yellow stripes — has its own proprietary paint color, known as “Golden Gate Bridge International Orange.”
Sydney Harbour Bridge (Sydney, Australia)
Together, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and its dramatic neighboring opera house form the Australian city's most iconic image. Completed in 1930 and stretching 3,770 feet across the harbor, from the Central Business District to the city’s north shore, it is one of the longest steel arch bridges on the planet. Accommodating six lanes of traffic and two railroad tracks, the bridge also has a dedicated pedestrian path on its east side and a cycleway on the west. Daredevils can climb 1,332 steps to the top of the bridge on guided tours.
Chengyang Yongji Bridge (Liuzhou, China)
This unusual and lovely lángqiáo (covered bridge) in southern China’s Guangxi Autonomous Region was constructed in 1912 by the local Dong minority. Known as a “wind and rain” bridge, the 211-foot-long sheltering structure consists of five painstakingly dovetailed tile-roofed wooden pavilions supported by stone pillars. Benches along the bridge’s exterior walkways provide a pleasant spot for relaxation and enjoying the breezes that blow across the Linxi River.
Storseisundet (Møre og Romsdal, Norway)
The setting for a thrilling car chase in the 2021 James Bond movie No Time To Die, Storseisundet is one of eight bridges connecting a five-mile stretch of Norway’s famed Atlanterhavsveien (Atlantic Ocean Road), known as one of the world’s most scenic drives. Cantilevered Storseisundet is the longest of the bridges, curving as gracefully as a swan’s neck as it stretches 850 feet along the archipelago that reaches from the mainland to the island of Averoy. No less than 12 hurricanes interrupted the bridge’s six-year construction, which was completed in 1989.
Jambatan Seri Wawasan (Putrajaya, Malaysia)
The administrative center of Putrajaya, located 15 miles outside the capital of Kuala Lumpur, was designed around a 2.5-square-mile artificial lake, which provides cooling and recreational opportunities for the residents of this planned “garden city.” A number of gorgeous jambatan (bridges) span the lake, but the futuristic Seri Wawasan is especially stunning. The asymmetric cable-stayed bridge has a forward-leaning support pylon that gives the 787-foot structure the appearance of a ship under sail. Programmable, color-changing lights illuminate Seri Wawasan, creating dramatic evening displays.
Kintai Bridge (Iwakuni, Japan)
In western Japan’s Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kintai Bridge is fit for a fairy-tale. In Japanese, it is known as the “Bridge of the Brocade Sash,” as the bridge’s five delicate wooden arches recall the curves of a kimono’s obi (sash). Originally constructed in 1673, the bridge was a masterpiece of Japanese woodworking — the entire structure contained no nails. Kintai crosses the Nishiki River and sits at the base of Mount Yokohama, which is crowned by the samurai-era Iwakuni Castle. One of Japan’s most famous bridges, Kintai is a popular tourist attraction throughout the year and an exceptionally beautiful site during cherry blossom season.
Mohammed VI Bridge (Rabat, Morocco)
The longest cable-stayed bridge on the African continent, Morocco’s six-lane, 3,100-foot Mohammed VI Bridge is named in honor of the country’s current king. Completed in 2016, the bridge spans the Bou Regreg river valley and connects the capital of Rabat to the city of Salé. Its two 650-foot-tall towers and 160 cables are extravagantly lit with an energy-efficient state-of-the-art LED system that turns the structure into a colorful work of art each evening.