Arch bridges are often viewed as historic or iconic landmarks in the cities and metropolitan areas where they are located.
The use of arches to create massive bridges dates back to the 4th century B.C. when Greek builders utilized this concept to build bridges in areas where river crossing was extremely difficult or impossible.
Arch bridges have been done in cities across every continent on Earth, except Antarctica, and architects from various styles and movements have created many different kinds of arch bridges throughout the centuries since they were first built.
In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous arch bridges ever built and the architects behind each structure, as well as other details pertaining to each bridge.
Famous Arch Bridges
1. Sydney Harbour Bridge
One of the most iconic arch bridges in the world is located in Australia’s largest city. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a local landmark that’s widely recognized by tourists and anyone visiting the city.
It’s a massive 3,770-foot-long structure that was designed by Australian engineer John Bradfield, who worked alongside British architectural firm, Dorman Long, to complete the project.
Construction on the bridge began in July of 1923 and it took nearly a decade for the Sydney Harbour Bridge to be completed in 1932.
The bridge is located in the northern section of Sydney and stretches across the harbour, connecting the central business district with the North Shore area. Each side has two large concrete pillars that anchor the bridge and hold most of the weight of the steel structure.
2. Chaotianmen Bridge
The Chaotianmen Bridge is recognized as one of the most famous bridges in Asia and is often considered to be the Golden Gate Bridge’s equivalent in China.
This massive structure joins the city of Chongqing, China to the mainland and stretches across the Yangtze River.
It was designed by the Dorman Long & Company Ltd, who built the bridge in a manner that makes it appear very similar in overall structure and design to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Construction on the Chaotianmen Bridge began in 2004 and it was finished five years later in 2009 before opening to the public. It is one of China’s most-used bridges today and has many millions of people cross it each year.
The Chaotianmen Bridge measures 466 feet at the peak of the arch and is a whopping 5,712 feet in length. It offers six lanes of traffic heading in either direction and offers walkways along each outer edge, as well as a lower deck with two lanes of traffic on each side.
3. Bayonne Bridge
One of the most iconic bridges in New England is the Bayonne Bridge, which stretches across the Kill Van Kull tidal strait and connects Staten Island with the city of Bayonne, New Jersey.
The bridge is a highly popular destination for travelers as it carries drivers traversing New Jersey Route 440. It’s one of the longest through arch bridges in the world and was designed by Othmar Ammann, who was one of the most highly revered bridge designers in the early 20th century.
Ammann worked alongside Cass Gilbert, who was more well known as an architect of skyscrapers during this era, but was very skilled in developing structures that offer proper weight distribution.
Work began on the bridge in the 1920s and the Bayonne Bridge was finally completed in November of 1931. The massive structure measures 5,780 feet, which makes it the sixth-longest through arch steel bridge in the world.
4. New River Gorge Bridge
One of the most picturesque arch bridge structures in the world is the New River Gorge Bridge, which is located near Fayetteville, West Virginia.
Unlike most other arch bridges, the New River Gorge Bridge sits above a wide opening known as the New River Gorge and was a pivotal piece of infrastructure when it was built during the mid-20th century as it allowed travelers to cross the treacherous New River area in much less time than ever before.
The bridge was designed by architects from the Michael Baker Company, who worked under the guidance of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen and Corporate Bridge Engineer Frank J. Kempf.
The bridge sits roughly 876 feet above the New River and carries US 19 across the gorge. Its total length is measured at 3,030 feet and it is a popular location for tourists visiting the area.
5. Zhijing River Bridge
One of the most famous arch bridges in the world is the Zhijing River Bridge, which is located in Badong County, Hubei, China.
This bridge was recognized as the highest arch bridge in the world when it was completed, but it has since been moved to the second-highest as the Sidu River Bridge was completed in China just a few years ago and measures a height of 1,178 feet from the river to the structure.
The Zhijing River Bridge stretches across the Zhijing River and sits at a height of 964 feet above the water’s surface. The Zhijing River Bridge is also known as one of the longest arch bridges in China since it measures just over 1,410 feet from one side to the other
6. Rialto Bridge
Italy is home to one of the world’s most well-known arch bridge structures that is known as the Rialto Bridge. This world-famous river crossing is less recognized for its size or height, but is instead known for its architectural beauty.
The bridge dates back to the 12th century as it was originally the site of a pontoon bridge that was constructed in 1181 A.D. by Nicolò Barattieri and was known as the Ponte della Moneta.
It is one that has been featured in a large number of paintings, photographs and films over the years since it was completed. Over the years, the bridge was reconstructed and remodeled many times, the most recent version of the Rialto Bridge being designed by Antonio da Ponte.
It is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city of Venice, Italy and is widely recognized for the large, precisely-cut stone arches that join together in the center.
7. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the only arch bridges that has survived since the medieval period and remains today as one of the most famous bridges in Europe.
This bridge is located in the historic city of Florence, Italy and was built across the Arno River. Unlike many bridges that are designed in modern times, the Ponte Vecchio bridge features small shops and businesses that are actually set up on the bridge itself, alongside either direction.
The practice of designing bridges to have small shops or other types of businesses along either side was much more commonplace during the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Ponte Vecchio bridge was designed by Taddeo Gaddi, a prominent medieval architect who was known for his work in building bridges across Italy and other countries.
8. Mingzhou Bridge
One of the world’s largest and most impressive arch bridges from a size perspective is the Mingzhou Bridge, which is prominently known throughout China as the Mingzhou Great Bridge.
It stretches across the Yong River in Ningbo, Zhejiang, China and measures a staggering 4,100 feet from one side to the other. The bridge is roughly 150 feet in width and features multiple lanes of traffic headed in either direction across the river.
The Mingzhou Bridge’s design took years to develop and work began on the massive project in 2008. The bridge was fully completed in 2011 and opened to the public.
It remains today as one of the most visually impressive bridges due to its incredible height and length.
9. Stari Most
One of the oldest bridges in the eastern Europe is one that’s widely recognized as being among the most famous arch bridges in the world.
Today, the bridge is known as Stari Most, but in centuries prior to its name change, it was recognized as Mostar Bridge and The Old Bridge among many other monikers that have been bestowed on it throughout the centuries since it was completed.
Stari Most bridges Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and stretches across the river Neretva.
Its location is one that has had significant importance to various empires and nations throughout history as the Stari Most bridge is one of the only means of crossing this rugged landscape. It is believed to have been built 1557.
10. Stone Arch Bridge(Saint Anthony Falls)
One of the most prominent arch bridges in the United States is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and crosses the Mississippi River, which is one of the largest rivers in the world.
The bridge offers an archaic appearance and was built with a series of stone arches that support it as it stretches more than 2,100 feet across the river.
The Stone Arch Bridge was commissioned by notable oil tycoon James J. Hill and designed by Charles Smith. Construction on the bridge began in 1882 and was completed just a year later.