For thousands of years, bridges have been constructed to make transportation easier, thereby allowing cities and empires to flourish. But some bridges do more than just get you from point A to point B; instead, they marry form and function in unforgettable ways. Among the most iconic structures in the world, the best bridges rise to the level of art and become a permanent part of the landscape, seemingly encapsulating the local character. Each with a unique design and backstory, here are the 20 most beautiful bridges in the world.
By Annie Bruce
WHERE: New York City
Following 14 years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge officially opened in May 1883 and quickly became a New York City icon. Connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn over the East River, this National Historic Landmark is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. The original designer, John Augustus Roebling, passed away during construction, leaving his son, Washington, to take over and finish the grueling project. It’s estimated that about 4,000 people walk across the bridge each day, in addition to 120,000 vehicles and 3,100 cyclists.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide
Golden Gate Bridge
WHERE: San Francisco, California
With a 4,200-foot-long suspension span—a record-setting length when it opened in 1937—the Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most popular manmade marvels. The bridge runs across the Golden Gate Strait, giving the structure its name, and makes it possible for travelers to get from San Francisco and Marin to the northern areas of California. Its’ famous orange color was inspired by the state’s warm setting. On its opening day, more than 200,000 people crossed the bridge to celebrate.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Francisco Travel Guide
WHERE: London, England
A combination bascule and suspension bridge, this Gothic-style landmark gives visitors passage across the Thames. Construction of the Tower Bridge began in 1886 and took eight years to complete; it’s well known for its rising roadways that allow ships to sail beneath. The bridge itself holds a North Tower Lounge, walkways (including a new glass one) for visitors to view the London skyline, and the Victorian Engine Rooms, in addition to an exhibit about the structure’s history, called the Tower Bridge Experience. The color of the bridge has evolved over the years and was last painted red, white, and blue in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Travel Guide
WHERE: Bilbao, Spain
The Zubizuri (meaning “white bridge” in Basque) stretches across the Nervion River in Spain, connecting Campo Volantin’s right bank to the left bank of Uribitarte. This footbridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened in 1997 and features a glass deck that lights up at night. Although the glass path can get slippery on a rainy day, many use the bridge to reach the nearby Guggenheim Museum.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bilbao and the Basque Country Travel Guide
Tsing Ma Bridge
WHERE: Hong Kong, China
Known as the longest suspension bridge to hold rail and road traffic, the Tsing Ma runs just over 1.3 miles to provide a route between Hong Kong and Lantau Island. The structure was named after the islands on each end, Tsing Yi and Ma Wan. Once completed in 1997, former British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher took part in the suspension bridge’s official opening ceremony.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Hong Kong Travel Guide
Vasco de Gama Bridge
WHERE: Lisbon, Portugal
Sprawling approximately 11 miles, the Vasco da Gama is a true architectural feat. Because of the bridge’s length, engineers needed to consider the Earth’s curve in order to safely construct the platform, which officially opened in March 1998. Named after the Portuguese explorer, persistent traffic problems inspired the creation of the Vasco da Gama over the Tagus River, and it was finished in time to ease transportation at the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lisbon Travel Guide
WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic
The Charles Bridge is a historic landmark in the Czech Republic, dating back to 1357, when Charles IV commissioned its construction. The cobblestone structure, rumored to have egg yolks, wine, and milk mixed into the mortar to ensure its strength, draws crowds each day. (Those eager to enjoy the striking views of the Vltava River and the city should plan to arrive early.) If you enter on the Old Town side of the bridge, you can climb to the top of Old Town Bridge Tower to gain an even better vantage point of the 1,692-foot bridge and the 30 statues lining the sides.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Prague Travel Guide
Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge
WHERE: Brasília, Brazil
Named after the former Brazilian president, this 3,900-foot-long landmark stretches across Lake Paranoa. The 200-foot silver arches that jump across the roadway were designed by Alexandre Chan to emphasize Brasília’s sunsets. Sometimes referred to as the JK Bridge, this masterpiece has received several awards for architectural design since it opened in 2002, including the 2003 Gustav Lindenthal Medal at the International Bridge Conference.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Brasília and the West Travel Guide
Seri Wawasan Bridge
WHERE: Putrajaya, Malaysia
Taking visitors across the Putrajaya Lake, the Seri Wawasan Bridge design mimics a sail ship and features both a pedestrian walkway and six lanes for cars. The 800-foot long, cable-stayed bridge, which first opened in 2003, connects Precinct 2 on the Core Island with Precinct 8.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Malaysia Travel Guide
WHERE: Budapest, Hungary
The first bridge to link Buda and Pest across the Danube River, Adam Clark finished engineering this marvel in 1849. Stone lions sit on each side of the entrance, along with the Hungarian coat of arms, to greet visitors. During World War II, the Chain Bridge was completely destroyed by German bombs, leaving only the pillars behind, making it one of two surviving bridges designed by William Clark. The structure was rebuilt starting in 1947 and provides stunning views of Parliament, especially when the building is lit up in the evening.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Budapest Travel Guide
WHERE: Venice, Italy
Spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge opened in 1591 following three years of construction. Antonio da Ponte won a design contest to create the stone bridge, beating out Michelangelo and Palladio in the process. The Rialto features three walkways, with two leading visitors along the outside to enjoy the water views and one central path taking them along the shops inside, which feature jewelry, linens, and other items for sale. Through the years, the bridge has become one of Venice’s most popular tourist destinations.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Venice Travel Guide
WHERE: Creissels, France
Standing larger than the Eiffel Tower, the Norman Foster-designed Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world, reaching 1,125 feet at its highest point. On a foggy day, cars can be seen driving above the clouds across the Tarn Valley because the road itself sits 885 feet above the ground. The viaduct cost close to $600 million to construct and took almost 17 years to complete after the first sketches were drawn in 1987. The viaduct draws crowds from across the globe, and visitors can view the stunning display by canoeing beneath, hang gliding above, or stopping at one of the many viewing locations in the area.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s France Travel Guide
WHERE: Isfahan, Iran
Located on the Zayandeh River, the Khaju Bridge works as both a bridge and dam with its 23 arches and system of gates below. Shah Abbas II commissioned the structure in 1650 to connect the Khaju quarter on the north side of the bank and the Zoroatrian quarter. Meetings were formerly held inside the bridge, and you can still see the remains of the Shah’s stone seat today.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Africa and Middle East Travel Guide
The Helix Bridge
WHERE: Marina Bay, Singapore
The unique structure of the Helix Bridge, which almost resulted in it being dubbed the DNA Bridge, has gained attention since it opened in 2010 as the world’s first curved bridge. The spiral tubes that create the double helix design are lit up in the evenings to create an even prettier display over the Marina Bay, and you can catch stunning views of the Singapore skyline as well. Artwork by local members of the community is displayed in an outdoor gallery on the bridge during designated times of the year.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Singapore Travel Guide
WHERE: Boston, Massachusetts
Created as part of Massachusetts’ Big Dig highway project, the Zakim Bridge was named in honor of both Lenny Zakim, a civil rights activist, and those who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Visitors can drive across the structure, which takes them across the Charles River to or from Boston. The Y-shaped elements of the cable-stayed bridge, designed by Christian Menn, were created to match the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Boston Travel Guide
WHERE: Klosters, Switzerland
A recipient of the 2001 Outstanding Structure Award, the Sunninberg Bridge spans more than 1,700 feet across the Landquart River valley as part of the Klosters bypass. The bridge, designed by Christian Menn (who also crafted the Zakim Bridge), was created to fit in with the Swiss Alps atmosphere and officially opened in 2005 (after being in operation for a number of years) in a ceremony performed by Prince Charles.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Graubünden Travel Guide
Puente de la Mujer
WHERE: Buenos Aires, Argentina
With a notable, rotating, pedestrian pathway, Puente de la Mujer (meaning “Bridge of the Woman”) opened in 2001 to cross Dock 3 of the Puerto Madero district. Created by Santiago Calatrava, the bridge is designed to look like two people dancing the tango. The bridge was originally built in Victoria, but parts were shipped to Buenos Aires over five months as a gift to the city.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Buenos Aires Travel Guide
Nelson Mandela Bridge
WHERE: Johannesburg, South Africa
Connecting Newtown and Braamfontein, the Nelson Mandela Bridge opened in 2003. Now known as the biggest cable-stayed bridge in the area, it took incredible skill to construct the platform without interrupting 42 railroad lines in the area. The bridge has car, pedestrian, and bike lines and was created in the hopes of reinvigorating and providing easy access between the two major business areas.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s South Africa Travel Guide
WHERE: Sydney, Australia
Though perhaps less iconic than the arched Sydney Harbour Bridge, you might recognize the ANZAC Bridge from its place in the 2000 Olympic marathon events. After its launch in 1995, the bridge, which crosses Johnstons Bay, served as a connection between Sydney City and the nearby western suburbs. The structure was named in honor of those who makeup the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sydney Travel Guide
WHERE: Iwakuni, Japan
A long history of high waters, typhoons, and flooding has historically made it difficult to build a lasting bridge across the Nishiki River; the current Kintai Bridge marks the fourth construction there since 1673. The structure, which sits at the bottom of Mt. Yokotama and the Iwakuni Castle, was most recently rebuilt in 1951. The entire area was categorized as a National Treasure in 1922 and tourists flock to the area to take in the view, especially during the annual Cherry Blossom festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Japan Travel Guide