Most often bridges make us wonder how technology made possible their construction. They are a means of getting from one point to another but although we walk or drive on them (almost) daily, we don’t always stop to admire them. Many bridges made history because of their uses, locations and popularity. Some of the most famous bridges in the world can be either walked across or climbed and some are open for the pedestrians for special occasions only.
Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni, Japan
The Kintai Bridge is a historical wooden arch bridge, in the city of Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. The bridge was built in 1673, spanning the beautiful Nishiki River in a series of five wooden arches, and the bridge is located on the foot of Mt.Yokoyama, at the top of which lies Iwakuni Castle.
The bridge is composed by five sequential wooden arch bridges on four stone built piers as well as two of wooden piers on the dry riverbed where the bridge begins and ends. Each of the three middle spans is 35.1 meters long, while the two end spans are 34.8 meters for a total length of about 175 meters with a width of 5 meters.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
The most recognizable landmark in Sydney is, without a doubt, the vista of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The bridge connects the central business district with the North Shore and offers dramatic views of the harbor. It is the place where crowds gather to watch the New Year’s Fireworks and climbing the bridge is one of the most appealing attractions for those visiting Sydney. The bridge opened in 1932.
Pedestrian access is possible on both sides and the bridge can be access from several places on either side. The southeast pylon has always served as a looked out point. Guided tours are available for those who want to climb the southern half of the bridge. Both daylight and night climbs are available. It is also possible to climb the upper arches of the bridge and it is possible to view the bridge’s internal structure.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, USA
It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Finished in 1883, the bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn and is a landmark featured in many movies. Miranda and Steve (Sex and the City: The Movie) chose to meet on the bridge to reunite and continue their marriage. Romantic, yet with a possible tragic end and one if them wouldn’t show up.
The bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway available for walkers and cyclists, located in the center of the bridge. Its role of allowing pedestrians to cross gained significant importance during times of trouble when the usual means of crossing the river weren’t available (after the 911 attacks is one of the most recent moments).
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA
The Golden Gate Bridge has to be the most photographer bridge in the world. The bridge spans over the Golden Gate, the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean connecting San Francisco to Marin County. The construction began in 1933 and the bridge was completed in April 1937.
The bridge is open for pedestrians during the daylight hours. However, pedestrians are allowed only on the east sidewalk (city side). It takes about an hour to walk on it and you can also visit one of the vista points. If possible, plan to walk on the bridge on a clear day. Guided tours also include the bridge (and of course, you’ll also learn about the bridge during the tour).
Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul. The first plans to construct a bridge at the location where Galata Bridge stands now were laid in 1502, but Leonardo da Vinci’s ambitious plans were not put into practice. Michelangelo was asked to design a bridge as well but he refused, so the idea of building a bridge in the located was postponed.
It was only in 1845 that Galata Bridge was built. In 1863, the first bridge was replaced by a wooden one. A third bridge was completed in 1875 and by 1912 the forth bridge was completed in the same location. Unfortunately it was badly damaged in a fire and it was only in 1994 that a new bridge was reconstructed just few meters from the old one. All city tours in Istanbul include the bridge and the passageway to the Old City of Constantinople.
Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Bosphorus Bridge is one of the bridges in Istanbul which spans the Bosphorus straight, connecting two continents (Europe and Asia). The bridge has a total of eight lanes. Each direction has three lanes, a sidewalk and an emergency lane.
During the first four years of service pedestrians were allowed on the bridge. Today, the only possibility to cross it by foot is in October when anyone can sign up for a “fun run” (at the same time when the Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon takes place in the city).
Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
Charles Bridge is a pedestrian bridge crossing the river Vltava in Prague. At the time it was built, the bridge provided the only link between the Old Town and the adjacent areas. It is protected by three towers. It is decorated with 30 statues (replicas of the original ones) and during the tourist season, it is filled with vendors, artists, musicians and tourists.
For the most spectacular views of the Old Town, make sure to walk on the bridge at sunset. The beautiful lit Prague Castle creates interesting views against the evening sky and the setting sun.
Tower Bridge, London, England
Often wrongly referred to as London Bridge, Tower bridge spans over the Themes and has become an iconic symbol of the British capital. The bridge’s two towers are connected by two horizontal walkways. Construction started in 1886 and two five years to be completed. The bridge was needed because of the rapid development of commercial ties between East End and London.
The high level walkways, once having a bad reputation of being a haunt for pickpockets and prostitutes, are now open as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The views from above are absolutely magnificent and contribute to the tower’s high popularity among tourists.
Pont des Arts, Paris, France
It is a pedestrian bridge in Paris, which crosses the river Seine, connecting Institut de France and the central square of the Louvre. In 1804 a steel bridge was completed on the location where Ponts des Arts stands today. But in 1976 several deficiencies were reported on the bridge because of the damage sustained during the two world wars and because of the collisions caused by boats. By 1984, the present bridge was constructed.
Today it is a live studio for painters, photographers and artists who are drawn to the unique location and scenery. It is a popular (and romantic) location for picnics, during the summer, both among tourists and locals.
Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
Rialto Bridge is one oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal (Venice). The first crossing over the Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181. Thanks to the development of the Rialto Market the traffic on the bridge increased and by 1255 it was replaced by a wooden bridge. During the early 15th century, shops were built along the sides of the bridge which insured the money for maintenance (because of the taxes paid by shop owners).
It partially caught fire in 1310, while in 1444 it collapsed under the weight of the crowd watching a boat parade. It collapsed again in 1524. The present stone bridge was completed in 1591. On either side of the bridge there are rows of shops.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
It is a Medieval bridge which spans over the Arno River, in Florence. It is believed that a bridge was first built by Romans. It first appeared in a document in 996 and had quite a troubled history. It was destroyed by a flood in 1117, reconstructed in stone and swept away in 1333 again. In 1345 it was reconstructed again. During the World War II the Germans didn’t destroy the bridge (unlike destroying all other bridges in Florence.
It is said that the term “bankruptcy” originated here. When a merchant couldn’t pay his debts, the table on which he sold his goods (banco) was broken (rotto) by soldiers and the process was called “bancorotto” (broken table). Even today the bridge has shops over the bridge making it a major tourist attraction in Florence. Initially, butchers occupied the shops but today most shops offer jewelry and souvenirs for sale.
Jacques Cartier Bridge, Montreal, Canada
The bridge crosses Île Sainte-Hélène in the centre of the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal. It is the second busiest bridge in Canada. Construction started in 1925 and the bridge, originally named Montreal Harbour Bridge, was finished in 1940. In 1934 it was renamed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s first voyage up the river.
During the summer the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic for the firework competition held at la Ronde. It becomes passenger only during the event (mid June to mid August annually, during the day). It is also closed for traffic for the Oasis Montreal Marathon, each year in September.
Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
Spanning over the Danube and connecting Buda to Pest, Chain Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe. It opened in 1849 and it was the first bridge over the Danube. Anecdotes and urban legends have always been linked to the bridge. It’s a famous urban legend that the lions at both ends of the bridge don’t have tongues, while the tunnel built under the Buda Castle is said to be there only to offer rain protection to the bridge (as both have the same length so the bridge can easily fit into the tunnel).
It is possible to walk on the bridge. At night, the views are magnificent regardless of which direction you are looking to. For a spectacular view, climb on the top of the Citadel and look down. You’ll see the square at the Buda end and the entire bridge.