Bridges aren’t usually the first thing you think of when choosing where to go on vacation, but these often-overlooked passageways can be architectural marvels.
Whether it’s for vehicles or pedestrians, a bridge connects two places — even if it’s simply two sides of a river. While these spanning structures are certainly convenient, they’re also a great place to see beautiful works of art and impressive feats of engineering. Across the world, people have been finding innovative ways to build sturdy spans that not only make commutes more efficient, but also add aesthetic value. A beautiful landscape is only enhanced when you’re standing on a beautiful bridge.
Famous bridges around the globe boast their own style and decor — whether it’s stone sculptures of animals and mythical creatures, intricate balustrades, or even decorative paint and tile work. In some places, like New York City for example, bridges can be an important part of the city’s skyline.
This is why bridges make for a great tourist attraction no matter where in the world you are. In places like New York, San Francisco, and Paris, people flock to famous pedestrian bridges for the experience of walking across them (or for taking a quick selfie). After all, what’s a visit to the Big Apple without a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge?
Take a look at some of the world’s most iconic and gorgeous bridges. We guarantee you’ll want to update your bucket list.
Tower Bridge — London, England
One of London’s most iconic sights is Tower Bridge, a structure that was built over 125 years ago. The castle-like edifice is both a bascule (moving, pivoting) and suspension bridge. Since it’s such a well-known landmark, it has also been featured in Hollywood films like “Sherlock Holmes.”
The top of the bridge has a glass floor that allows visitors to challenge their fear of heights while enjoying one of the best views in London.
Charles Bridge — Prague, Czech Republic
This ancient bridge, which crosses the Vltava river in Prague, was built between the 14th and the 15th centuries, making it the oldest bridge in the city. It was originally called Stone Bridge, since it was the only one made of stones at the time. Perhaps the bridge’s most beautiful feature is the 30 baroque-style statues that decorate its balustrade.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge — Budapest, Hungary
This suspension bridge over the Danube river opened in 1849 and has seen a fair amount of history since then. The bridge was destroyed by the German army in 1945 and had to be rebuilt in 1949. One of its most distinctive features are the stone lions that were originally sculpted by János Marschalkó.
Pont Alexandre III — Paris, France
This famous French bridge is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in Paris, if not the world. One of its prettiest features are the gilded, iron, and stone statues of nymphs, pegasus, lions, and cherubs. But the best part of this bridge is its significant location, close to Champs-Élysées and near the tomb of Napoleon.
Rialto Bridge — Venice, Italy
Venice is a city full of bridges, but the Rialto Bridge is the oldest structure crossing the Grand Canal. It was originally built as a pontoon bridge in the 12th century and serves as an access point to the financial center of Venice. Since the bridge was built using several different materials over the course of its history, it has collapsed and been rebuilt several times. The current bridge is made out of stone and was completed in the late 1500s.
Stari Most — Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Stari Most translates literally to “Old Bridge.” The original limestone bridge opened in the 16th century, and at the time was one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world. The bridge remained for over 400 years before being destroyed in 1993 during the Croat–Bosniak War. It was rebuilt in 2004.
Today, men can enter an annual diving competition off the bridge — a tradition that honors the diver’s transition into manhood.
Helix Bridge — Marina Bay, Singapore
This bridge may not be as ancient as others on the list, but it’s certainly a breathtaking sight. The pedestrian bridge opened in 2010 and was greatly inspired by the double-helix model of human DNA. In addition to its stunning, colorful lights, the bridge is built with canopies to provide shade and shelter.
Dragon Bridge — Da Nang, Vietnam
Yes, this 2,185 foot bridge has a decorative dragon on it. Not only does this yellow, steel dragon have thousands of LED lights, it also breathes fire. You would think that a fire-breathing dragon would be a traffic hazard, but this creation stays well out of the way of cars.
The bridge was opened in 2013 to honor the 38th anniversary of the North Vietnamese taking over Da Nang near the end of the Vietnam War.
Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge — Liuzhou, China
This covered bridge is also known as the Yongji Bridge of Chengyang. The impressive, three-story structure is built with both stone and wood, comprising of five pavilions and 19 verandas. It’s the perfect place for sightseeing and viewing the surrounding environment.
Kintai Bridge — Iwakuni, Japan
Built in the 1600s, Kintai remains Japan’s most famous bridge. Perhaps its most striking feature is its impressive arch pattern, which is made up of five arches set on four stone and two wooden pillars. Incredibly, the bridge was constructed without the use of nails — instead utilizing interlocking pieces of wood to maintain its sturdiness. Later on, the bridge was reinforced with sheets of copper.
Today, Kintai Bridge is a well-known tourist spot, especially for visitors going to Iwakuni Castle or attending the yearly Kintaikyo Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Root Bridges — Cherrapunji, India
There are many living root bridges in India, but the town of Cherrapunji is particularly famous for them. This area on the India-Bangladesh border is known for being one of the wettest environments on earth, so locals “grow” bridges by shaping the roots of the rubber tree by pulling, twisting, or tying them so they go in the right direction. The result is an intricate, Narnia-like bridge that you’d read about in fantasy novels.
Khaju Bridge — Isfahan, Iran
This massive structure serves as both a bridge and a dam on the Zayanderud, one of the biggest rivers on the Iranian Plateau. The bridge has 23 beautiful arches that are decorated with paintings and tile work, making it a true cornerstone of Iranian art and architecture.
Brooklyn Bridge — New York City, New York
One of the most recognizable and iconic bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge is more than just a gateway between two boroughs — it’s also a gorgeous piece of architecture. Built in 1883, it became the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge. Because of its novelty, according to Mental Floss, P.T. Barnum — the man behind Barnum & Bailey Circus — marched 21 elephants across the bridge in 1884 just to prove how sturdy it was.
Today, the bridge is a major tourist attraction and a crossing for thousands of pedestrians and vehicles each day.
Golden Gate Bridge — San Francisco, California
This California bridge isn’t actually “gold” but more of a rusty orange color that complements the bridge’s natural surroundings while allowing it to stand out. When it first opened in 1937, it was the longest and tallest bridge in the world, spanning almost a mile (4,200 feet) and measuring 746 feet high. The bridge connects the city of San Francisco with the San Francisco Bay over the Pacific Ocean.
Sydney Harbour Bridge — Sydney, Australia
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, situated close to the city’s iconic opera house, is one of the most recognizable sights in the world. The steel arch bridge is an integral part of the Sydney skyline, especially when it lights up at night. Originally opening in 1932, it’s still the world’s tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 439 feet from its highest point to the water below.