12 of the Most Beautiful Bridges in Europe
Although the bridges are constructed in order to offer a quick way to get from point A to point B, they are also incredible architectural achievements as well as pieces of history kept over the years.
Below you’ll find a collection of bridges of all shapes and sizes. Some of them are new and destined to become modern wonders of the world, while others are nearly ancient and part of their appeal can be found in the way they have become such an important part of that destination, in addition to being architectural masterpieces.
If you can think of a European bridge that you think should have made the list, let us know in the comments section below the article.
1 – Millau Viaduct (Le Viaduc de Millau), France
The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge, which spans the valley of the River Tarn, in Southern France. It is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world (only 38 m shorter than the Empire State Building). The bridge was opened for traffic in 2004 (ahead of schedule).
During construction the bridge broke three more records: highest pylons in the world, highest mast (87 m / 285 ft) and highest road bridge deck in the world.
2 – Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto), Venice, Italy
Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge across The Grand Canal (out of the total 4 bridges) and, without a doubt, the most photographed bridges in Venice.
The first bridge over the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge but as Rialto market developed, the traffic on the bridge increased. It was replaced by a wooden bridge in 1255. During the uprising of 1310, the timber bridge was burnt but it was rebuilt. However, the new bridge soon collapsed under the weight of the crowds watching a boat parade. Soon after, in 1551, the authorities started to gather proposals for rebuilding Rialto Bridge, but this time, using stone. The present bridge was completed in 1591.
It looks remarkably similar to the wooden bridge it replaced. On either side of the central portico there are cowered ramps housing rows of shops.
3 – Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
Originally known as Stone Bridge, it connects the Old Town and Malá Strana. The construction began in 1357. However, Charles Bridge (named after the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who commissioned it) wasn’t the first to stand in that location. Judith Bridge was the first bridge over Vltava, but it collapsed in 1342.
There is a tower standing at both ends of the bridge but only the one at the Malá Strana end can be climbed (and offers some of the most magnificent views over the city). Thirty statues (most are copies of the originals) are placed on either side of the bridge. The statue of St. John of Nepomuk is the most popular, as touching it is supposed to bring good luck.
Did you know? The best time to visit the bridge is at sunset when the Prague Castle casts incredible shadows against the sky and river.
4 – Tower Bridge, London, England
Located close to the Tower of London (which gave its name), the Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge spanning the Thames. Over the years, the Tower Bridge has become an iconic symbol of London.
The construction started in 1886 and took 8 years. Between the two towers, the bascule bridge has a total span of 61 m (200 ft) while the two side-spans are suspension bridges, each spanning 82 m (270 ft). The high-level walkway between the two towers is currently part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
Did you know? Often times it’s wrongly called “London Bridge” which is actually the next bridge upstream.
5 – Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd), Budapest, Hungary
Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd, name after count Széchenyi) made the first connection between the two parts of the Hungarian capital: Buda and Pest. The bridge is 375 meters long and was open in 1849. Eight years later, the tunnel beneath Castle Hill was dug by the same engineer (Adam Clark), hence connecting the bridge with Buda hill.
During the 1945 siege, the Germans destroyed the bridge, which was reconstructed within several years, in its original form.
Chain Bridge played an important role in 1989 when the Hungarians protested on the bridge for freedom and independence. Ever since, the bridge became a symbol of the Hungarian liberty.
Did you know? Chain Bridge and the Tunnel below Castle Hill are exactly the same length.
6 – Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
Spanning over the Arno River in Florence, Ponte Vecchio (English: The Old Bridge) is famous for having shops built along it (a very common practice back in the medieval times). While initially butchers occupied the shops, currently you can find souvenirs, jewels and art dealers here.
The bridge first appeared in a document in 996, but it was destroyed by a flood. It was then reconstructed in stone but was swept away again. It was rebuilt in 1354 and it is still standing.
It is said that the concept of “bankruptcy” originated here. Each merchant had a table on which he sold the goods. When the merchant couldn’t pay his debts, the table was physically broken by the soldiers. The practice was known as “bancorotto” (broken bank). Without a table, the merchant could not sell anything.
Did you know? During World War II, it was the only bridge left standing by the Germans during their retreat.
7 – Pont Neuf, Paris, France
Pont Neuf is the oldest (standing) bridge over the river Seine, in Paris. It connects Ile de la Cite (the heart of medieval Paris) with both the right and the left bank.
Starting from 1550, it was known that a new bridge had to take the overload from Pont Notre-Dame but it was only in 1578 that the foundations for the piers were constructed. It was the first bridge in Paris not to support houses and, for a long time, it was the widest bridge in Paris.
8 – The Old Bridge (Stari Most), Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Spanning over the river Neretva, Stari Most (English: The Old Bridge) connects two parts of the city of Mostar. The bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the war but was later rebuilt. The 30-meter bridge is protected by two towers, one at each end.
The bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 and construction took nine years. Unfortunately, not much is known about building the bridge.
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9 – Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe and spans across Reuss River in Lucerne (Switzerland). The bridge was constructed in 1333 and was designed to protect the city from attacks. Much of the bridge – together with the paintings inside of it – was destroyed by the 1993 fire, but it was quickly rebuilt. Standing right by the bridge is the Water Tower, which served, over the years, as torture chamber, prison, treasury and watchtower.
10 – Anghel Saligny Bridge, Cernavoda, Romania
Spanning over the Danube and Borcea Rivers, Anghel Saligny Bridge (originally known as King Carol I Bridge) was built between 1890 and 1895. At the time of completion it was the longest bridge in Europe (and third longest in the world). The total length is 4037 meters and it stands at 30 meters above water, allowing tall ships to pass beneath it. The bridge is not longer used as it has been replaced by the new bridge (built right near it) in 1987.
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11 – Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice, Italy
Spanning over Rio di Palazzo, the Bridge of Sighs connects the old prisons with the interrogation rooms in the Dodge’s Palace. The enclosed bridge is made entirely of limestone. It was built between 1600 and 1603.
Lord Byron (in the 19th century) gave the bridge its popular name, suggesting that the prisoners would sight at the last view of Venice, before being taken to their cells. However, by the time the bridge was built, the inquisition was a thing of the past.
Legend has it that lovers are assured eternal love if they kiss under the bridge, at sunset (in a gondola, of course).
12 – Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Spanning over the Nieuwe Maas River, Erasmus Bridge is a beautiful cable-stayed bridge, which links the northern and southern halves of Rotterdam (Netherlands). Nicknamed “The Swan”, it was completed in 1996 and is 808 meters long.
Did you know? The bridge was featured in DJ Tiesto’s performance called “Tiësto at The Bridge, Rotterdam” in which a multitude of colored lights were attached to the bridge, while fireworks went off right by it.
Read more about bridges around the world:
Additional photo credits:
Millau by Fred © on Flickr, Rialto by wenzday01 on Flickr, Charles Bridge by paulafunnell on Flickr, Tower Bridge by Ben Harris-Roxas on Flickr, Ponte Vecchio by nitatravels on Flickr, Pont Neuf by sherseydc on Flickr, The Old Bridge by jaime.silva on Flickr, Chapel Bridge by raelb on Flickr, Anghel Saligny by hbunny on Flickr, Bridge of Sighs by stephengg on Flickr, Erasmusbrug by Reinier on Flickr