Bridges have long been a practical necessity for civilization, but many of them also serve as pieces of structural artwork.
Some of the world’s greatest architects have devoted their careers to creating incredible works of art through bridge structures across the world’s most well known rivers or other bodies of water.
In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous bridges in the world, as well as the architects who made them and some notable details about their lives and careers.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is widely recognized as one of the most iconic structures in the world. It’s one of the most visited places in the United States and it’s estimated that as many as 10 million people visit the Golden Gate Bridge every year.
Due to its distinctive red color and structural mastery, the bridge has become a symbol of the city of San Francisco since it was constructed.
Workers began construction on the bridge in 1933 and it wasn’t finished until 1937 after an immense effort on behalf of architects, laborers and many others who played a role in the project.
The Golden Gate Bridge was designed by famous engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917, but it took many years for funding to be approved and all of the parts of the project to come together.
The bridge’s main architect was Irving Morrow, a well known expert builder and designer who was also a California native.
The structure features 6 lanes of traffic that vehicles can use and stretches 4,200 feet from one end to the other with the top stretching as high as 746 feet. It’s one of the world’s largest suspension bridges and a true work of architectural mastery.
2. Tower Bridge
There are few bridges throughout the world that are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than the Tower Bridge. Located in London, this bridge is often called the Tower of London and is one of the oldest bridges in the historic city.
Its design includes a stone foundation that was initially laid by Edward VII, the prince of Wales, in 1886.
The Tower Bridge was first developed in design by master architect Horace Jones in the late 19th century and work began in 1894 on the stone foundation and placement of the bridge’s beams.
It’s considered to be one of the greatest landmarks in the city of London and is often the subject of postcards or businesses that reside within the city.
The bridge was first opened in the summer of 1894 and traffic across the massive 800-foot structure was relatively moderate for the first few decades.
Once automobiles began to be commonplace in England, the bridge’s design was able to accommodate the extra weight quite easily. It had to be repaired after a bomb destroyed part of the center section early in World War II, but it has stood the test of time for more than a century.
3. Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is one of the shortest bridges on our list, but it’s certainly one that deserves to be mentioned among the most well known bridges in the world. It stretches across the Arno River in Florence, Italy and is among the oldest bridges that are still standing from before the Industrial Revolution.
According to historians, the bridge was initially designed by Taddeo Gaddi, who was a famous architect during the medieval period in Italy.
The Ponte Vecchio is believed to have been constructed before 1,000 A.D. and there is evidence of the bridge’s mention in old manuscripts from 996 A.D. along with others that note the fact that it was destroyed and rebuilt after a massive flood in 1117 A.D.
Today, the Ponte Vecchio remains largely the same as it was after another rebuild around the year 1345. It is made of three segmented arches with one main arch in the center that is roughly 30 meters in length.
4. Millau Viaduct
The Millau Viaduct is a massive, sprawling structure that sits over the river Tarn and crosses the Gorge Valley in Italy.
The bridge is impressive in both height and length as it was initially designed to function as one of the only means of crossing the large valley without having to follow the winding roads that traverse through it.
The Millau Viaduct was constructed much more recently than most other bridges that we’ve mentioned on our list. It was designed by the well-known Italian engineer and design expert, Michel Virlogeux, who worked alongside a team of architects to plan and build the bridge.
As of 2022, the Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world at 1,104 feet and it stretches more than 8,070 feet across the valley. The concrete and steel frame is built to hold an exponential amount of weight and experts believe it could last at least 120 years in its present state.
5. Brooklyn Bridge
Another very large bridge that also serves as a landmark structure for the city where it’s located is the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Towering over Manhattan’s East River, the bridge is considered to be one of the must-see places in the Big Apple and it hosts many millions of visitors each year.
It’s distinct design is considered to be a Suspension/Cable-stay Hybrid bridge and its Neo-Gothic stone towers are one of the more iconic pieces of architecture in any part of New York City.
The Brooklyn Bridge was originally designed by John A. Roebling, a brilliant engineer who also passed the project on to his son, Washington Roebling, who later completed the design and assisted in the construction. Construction began on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1870 and it wasn’t completed for another 23 years in 1883.
It stretches more than 6,000 feet across the East River and sees more than 120,000 vehicles crossing the bridge each day. The suspension bridge is held together with many tons of steel, concrete and cable and has undergone at least 3 major renovations since it opened more than a century ago.
The Brooklyn Bridge has been the site of everything from famous and deadly stunts and terrorist attacks to arrests and even banquets and anniversary celebrations.
6. Sydney Harbour Bridge
One of the most famous bridge structures in Australia is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It stretches over the Sydney Harbour, which is formally known as Port Jackson and is another historic landmark among the many different structures that make Sydney a distinct city.
The bridge is one of the largest through arch bridges in the world and is made of steel with four massive granite-faced concrete piers on each end.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was developed by John Bradfield, an accomplished Australian architect who oversaw the project from beginning to end.
Construction began in the summer of 1923 and was carried out by the Dorman Long & Company. It was finally finished and opened in 1932 and garnered the nickname “The Coathanger” due to its vast arching design.
The bridge stretches 1,149 feet and has largely been replaced by the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which runs the length underneath the bridge and carries the majority of traffic across the Sydney Harbour each day.
The bridge has been a well-known destination for thrill-seekers who are daring enough to climb the southern half of the bridge during the day and night.
7. Rialto Bridge
Of all the bridges on our list, the Rialto Bridge is arguably one of the most unique, as well as the most aesthetically complex compared to the more modern, steel-constructed bridges. It sits across the Grand Canal and serves as a historic landmark and popular destination for travelers to Venice, Italy.
Although it is one of the smaller structures on our list of the most famous bridges in the world, the Rialto Bridge is also one of the oldest bridges that remains intact and in use by much of the local population.
According to historians, it was designed in the early 16th century by prolific Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor Michelangelo, who was a native of Venice and a prolific architect during the famous era.
The bridge’s arched design sets it apart from many other modern structures that are in use today and it only stretches roughly 104 feet across the narrow canal. It has been the subject of paintings, photographs and various films for centuries and remains one of the most well-known bridges in Europe.
8. Charles Bridge
Among the most famous and historic bridges in the world, few are more notable than the Charles Bridge, which is located in Prague, Czech Republic.
Its medieval design consists of beautiful Bohemian sandstone and was originally designed as a bow bridge with 16 consecutive arches connecting one another across the Vltava river.
The Charles Bridge was designed, according to historians, by Peter Parler in the early 1300’s. Parler was a member of one of the most well known families in Europe who were famous for their design and artistic skills.
What is perhaps most unique about the Charles Bridge is that it is lined with exquisite statues across either side, totaling more than 30 statues that are all done in the Baroque style.
Construction on the bridge started in 1357 and took decades to complete as the laborers and others taking part were working with extremely heavy stone material and very little means to move it other than backbreaking labor. It was finally opened in 1402 after nearly half a century of building and planning.
9. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge
Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is another very well known landmark that was built for practical purposes in the late 20th century. It is located in the city of Kobe on the island of Honshu and sits over the famous Akashi Strait, which separates Kobe from Awaji Island.
It is the second-longest suspension bridge in the world and the longest in the nation of Japan by thousands of feet.
The bridge was initially designed by Satoshi Kashima in the 1980’s and construction on the project began in 1988.
Significant alterations would have to be made following the Great Hanshin earthquake that took place in January of 1995 as the two main towers that were designed to maintain the suspension bridge were moved enough that the central span had to be extended a full meter.
The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was finally finished and opened in 1998. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world until the opening of the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge in Turkey opened to traffic in 2022.
The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is a staggering 6,532 feet in length and features 928-feet-tall pylons. Since it was built, it has become a major attraction for tourists visiting the island-nation of Japan and it is estimated to have at least 23,000 people crossing it each day.
10. Stari Most
There are few ancient bridges that also serve as landmarks with more fame and notoriety than Stari Most, which is also known as Mostar Bridge. This beautiful structure sits across the calm waters of the Neretva River in Mostar, which is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It long stood as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s dominance in the region and features a significantly middle-eastern style of architecture.
Stari Most is a bridge that was originally designed in the early 16th century by Mimar Hayruddin, who was an Ottoman chief architect and engineer who served under the rule of Sultan Bayezid II.
Construction began in 1557 and finished in 1566 and existed as a major trading passage for merchants, travelers and a host of other types of people during this time period.
Sadly, the original bridge was almost completely destroyed by Croatian forces during the Bosnian War in 1993. However, a project was quickly underway just a decade later to rebuild the ancient bridge to its former glory.
The newly-rebuilt Stari Most bridge opened in the summer of 2004 and still attracts many thousands of visitors each year to the site.