For much of the world, bridges are necessary for transportation. But these 11 structures are far more than functional—they're awe-inspiring works of art from end to end.
1. PONTE VECCHIO // FLORENCE, ITALY
Its name translates simply to "Old Bridge," but don’t let that discount its inarguable beauty. Positioned at the narrowest point of the Arno River, the bridge's history reaches back as far as Roman rule. A massive flood spurred an all-stone rebuild in 1345. The bridge faced further floods and invading World War II forces, yet held strong. But one of its greatest assets is the line of shops that have long sat atop it. In the 13th century, everything from butcher shops to tanners and fishmongers filled the Ponte Vecchio. Their stinky waste polluted the river and fouled the air, so in 1593, Ferdinand defended the beauty of the bridge by only allowing goldsmiths and jewelers to set up shop there. Today, it's a popular tourist attraction, though perhaps best viewed at night when the lit windows from its shops give off gorgeous glow.
2. PONT DU GARD // REMOULINS, FRANCE
Construction on this three-tiered bridge aqueduct was completed roughly 2000 years ago. Designed to carry water from Nîmes over Gardon River, Pont du Gard was a model of function and design. Over the centuries, its waterways were clogged with debris, and so its aqueduct use was abandoned, though it thrived as a pedestrian walk for centuries. Today, this wondrous ruin measuring 902 feet long by 164 feet high is “the highest Roman construction in the world” and one of France's most popular tourist attractions, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
3. CHENGYANG WIND AND RAIN BRIDGE // GUANGXI, CHINA
Part bridge, part veranda, part Chinese pavilion, this radiant construction speaks to the heritage of the Dong people who created it. "Wind and rain bridges" are built with coverage to shield travelers from the heavy precipitation common here from May to August. This particular bridge dates back to 1916, and is built with stone and wood but without nails or rivets. Instead, this extraordinary structure employs dovetailed pieces of wood, which have held strong for 100 years and counting. Aside from its own grandeur, Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge offers views of the village, the Linxi River, and the tea trees that cover its hills.
4. MILLAU VIADUCT // MILLAU, FRANCE
Stretching 1125 feet high, this 2004 structure has earned the title of world's tallest vehicular bridge. The steel structure’s central pillar outreaches the Eiffel Tower. Its 1½ miles of lanes extend over the clouds that linger in the scenic Tarn Valley, giving drivers a uniquely thrilling sensation. The Millau Bridge cost a whopping $524 million to build in just three years, but was instantly embraced by the French nation. President Jacques Chirac appeared at its grand opening, and proudly declared it a "marvel of art and architecture."
5. TOWER BRIDGE // LONDON
One of London's most recognizable landmarks, the suspension bridge is striking not only in its Victorian architecture, but also its bascule element, which allows the center to divide and lift to usher passing ships through the River Thames. After eight years of work from 432 workers, the towering tribute to English diligence was completed in 1894. Since then, Tower Bridge has seen England's capital through two World Wars as well as grand celebrations like the Queen's Silver Jubilee, where its brown exterior was painted red, white, and blue. Today the towers on the bridge contain a popular exhibition, where tourists can explores its history, step inside its engine rooms, and even see the city from up high through its glass floor.
6. HENDERSON WAVES // SINGAPORE
Connecting Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park, this undulating bridge is the highest pedestrian passage in Singapore, measuring 118 feet tall. Henderson Waves is built from Southeast Asian Balau wood arranged on arched ribs of steel to achieve the curvy shape for which it's named. Completed in 2008, it also boasts cozy alcoves in its curves that have made it a popular weekend spot for couple and families. And at night, LED lamps give the bridge a surreal glow, making it prime time for snapshots.
7. BRIDGE OF SIGHS // VENICE, ITALY
Known as “The City of Bridges,” Venice has many beauties to boast, but this white limestone stunner that passes over the Rio di Palazzo is a true standout. The elegant passageway was constructed in 1600 to connect the courtrooms of the Doge's Palace and prisons, hence the barred windows. It's actually these windows which local legend claims inspired the name. Looking at their obstructed views, convicted men were said to let out a heavy sigh as they prepared to leave freedom behind in exchange for shackles. But a positive spin on the legend claims that lovers who kiss as their gondola passes under the Bridge of Sighs will be rewarded with love eternal.
8. THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE // SAN FRANCISCO
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The strong winds and thick fog off the Pacific Ocean made building this 4200-foot long bridge a true challenge for its workers. During the four-year process (1933-1937), 19 men joined the "Halfway to Hell Club," meaning they'd been ripped off the site by cruel winds, but were rescued by the safety netting demanded by structural engineer Joseph Strauss. It was also in the midst of construction that consulting architect Irving F. Morrow came up with the unique burnt red-orange color of the bridge. As it was erected, he became attached to the red lead primer of its steel beams, and began to consider a warm hue that would better suit the surrounding area of San Fran skyline and Marin hills rich with foliage. "The effect of International Orange," Morrow concluded, "is as highly pleasing as it is unusual in the realm of engineering.” Today, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the United States' most iconic landmarks.
9. MAGDEBURG WATER BRIDGE // BERLIN
Now known as the world's longest navigable aqueduct, this water bridge took nearly a century to be realized. Because of the low levels of the Elbe that flows underneath, plans for the Magdeburg Water Bridge began in the early 20th century. But World War II halted progress indefinitely, and the rise of East Germany meant the plan's utter abandonment. However, German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 renewed interest in this could-be bridge. Construction of the 3011-foot long water bridge lasted from 1997 to 2003 and cost 500 million euros. Along with its recordbreaking waterway, the bridge offers a generous footpath on either side that allows for breathtaking views.
10. SI-O-SE POL // ISFAHAN, IRAN
Built over the Zayandeh River from 1599 to 1602, this Safavid structure was originally known as the Bridge of Allahverdi Khan, after the general who commanded its construction. But as centuries passed, a new nickname arose speaking directly to its distinctive look: "The Bridge of 33 Arches." Within its 45-foot wide expanse, there's a narrow road built for carts modified for cars, and footpaths for pedestrians. Its interior walls are decorated by ceramic tiles, and once held erotic murals. But the latter have been lost to the centuries. Today, visitors are encouraged to come by Si-o-se Pol at night, when the lights make it an inviting spectacle against the dark sky.
11. BANPO BRIDGE // SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
The first double-deck bridge erected in the nation makes this list thanks to a 2008 "Moonlight Rainbow" makeover. Originally built between 1980 and 1982, the Banpo Bridge became a sensation when a fountain equipped with 380 nozzles and 10,000 LED lights was added to its exterior. The lights change color, creating a rippling rainbow effect that's timed to 100 different pieces of music. Not only has this made the bridge a popular tourist attraction at night, but also a Guinness World Record holder for longest bridge fountain, measuring in at a whopping 3740 feet and 1 inch! Even more impressive, the local government made sure the water was recycled from the Han River it hangs over, meaning this tourist attraction is environmentally sound.