Meet the Millau Viaduct: The Tallest Bridge in the World

The Millau Viaduct during a cycling race in 2012.
The Millau Viaduct during a cycling race in 2012. / REMY GABALDA/AFP via Getty Images

If someone asked you to imagine an especially impressive bridge, you’d probably picture an extremely long one. Maybe China’s Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, which, at 102 miles long, holds the Guinness World Record for longest bridge in the world. Or Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge, whose 23.87 miles earned it the Guinness nod for “longest bridge over water (continuous).”

But bridges can gain fame for their height, too. Take France’s Millau Viaduct, which carries drivers across the Tarn River in Creissels, a southern French commune about an hour and a half’s drive northeast of Montpellier. This cable-stay bridge spans 2460 meters, or a little over 1.5 miles—not exactly record-breaking. Its height, on the other hand, is. According to Britannica, the bridge itself is 270 meters (nearly 886 feet) above the ground, and its tallest tower reaches 340 meters (about 1115 feet). The Eiffel Tower is 1063 feet tall—antennae included—making the Millau Viaduct the tallest structure in France. It’s also the tallest bridge in the world.

The viaduct from a distance.
The viaduct from a distance. / Janoka82/iStock via Getty Images

The Millau Viaduct, part of France’s A75 motorway, helps travelers coming from Paris get to the Mediterranean coast as efficiently as possible. It was developed by French engineer Michel Virlogeux and Foster + Partners, the British architectural firm that won the 1996 competition to design the bridge. They broke ground in 2001, and the Millau Viaduct officially opened for business in December 2004.

“We were attracted by the elegance and logic of a structure that would march across the heroic landscape, and in the most minimal way connect one plateau to the other,” leading architect Norman Foster said in a press release at the time.

The team’s commitment to maintaining the aesthetic beauty of the countryside proved successful: The Millau Viaduct is breathtaking in its own right, and it also cuts down on traffic. A true win-win.