Famous bridges are found all over the world. Fame doesn’t always come from being the longest or the tallest, and it is not always the newest ones or the greatest engineering marvels that enter into the popular consciousness. Famous bridges the world over encapsulate the epitome of beauty, engineering, and sometimes simple practicality.
There has been a London Bridge on the same site for nearly 2,000 years, and it has played part of London history throughout the centuries. A “new” one was destroyed by a storm in 1091. It was rebuilt and destroyed by fire 1136. Another new bridge was built in the twelfth century, and nearly destroyed by fire again in 1666. That one became outdated and a yet another new one was opened in 1831. That one was sold to a Missouri entrepreneur in 1967, dismantled, and reassembled in Lake Havasu, Arizona where it is now a tourist attraction. It is an urban legend that the buyer thought he was purchasing the more picturesque Tower Bridge. The current London Bridge was built to cross the River Thames in 1973, and it is still an important transportation link for the city. This is one of the famous world bridges that almost everyone in the world knows at least something about.
Some of the oldest famous bridges in the world today can be found in Japan. Many of these are stone bridges dating to the Shogunate era of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as the lovely Kintai Bridge. Other historic bridges of note include the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy (dating to the fourteenth century) and the Rialto Bridge (1181) over the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Other famous world bridges that date to the first few hundred years of this millennium include the Chapel Bridge, the oldest wooden bridge (1333) in Europe located in Lucerne, Switzerland. A bit more modern are the Pont Neuf, built across the Seine River in Paris in 1607 and the Chain Bridge of Budapest, Hungary that was built in 1849 as the first permanent bridge over the Danube River. Many Americans look to the covered bridges of New Hampshire and other northeastern states for history. Most of these wooden bridges were built in the mid-nineteenth century.
Some famous bridges aren’t manmade at all. The beautiful Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area of southern Utah is one of the most beautiful natural rock formations in the world. Many who visit Lake Powell will see it, and they might even head south to Arizona where they can visit the Glen Canyon Dam. There are a number of famous American bridges that actually are dams, many of which have roadways that allow them to double as bridges for transportation. Chief among these is the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State, which is the largest dam in the United States.
These days, it is famous suspension bridges that grab the most attention. While the Chain Bridge of Budapest is an older suspension bridge, it is the more modern structures that appear on almost any list of tallest, longest, and most beautiful marvels. Famous suspension bridges in the longest category start with the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge that links Kobe to Honshu Island in Japan. This gargantuan structure is 6,532 feet long. Topping off the list of the top five are the Xihoumen Bridge in China (5,414 feet), the Halsskov Sprogo Bridge in China (5,328 feet), the Rinyang Bridge also in China (4,888 feet), and the Humber Bridge in England (4,626 feet).
Many other famous suspension bridges spent time on the longest list, and remain famous because they are signature landmarks or are remarkable in some other way. One of these is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. At 4,200 feet in length, this lovely span was the world’s longest suspension bridge from 1937 until it was replaced in1964 by the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City.
Other modern famous world bridges include the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, which, along with the soaring Sydney Opera House, is an integral part of one of the most beautiful and recognizable cityscapes in the world. Others, like the Bridge to Nowhere that was supposed to connect Ketchikan with Gravina Island in Alaska, are more infamous than famous.