Late last year, the Chinese opened the world’s highest bridge, the Beipanjiang Bridge, which rises 1,854 feet above the river below. It’s one of many notable bridges built in recent years. Mankind’s first big civil engineering project was likely a bridge, perhaps so early humans could cross a gorge to find better hunting grounds. Many millennia later, bridges still serve utilitarian purposes, but they’re also capable of inspiring awe. Here are 10 of the most visually and architecturally impressive bridges in the world, some new, others classics that have stood the test of time.
10. Vasco da Gama Bridge
This bridge across the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal, is the longest bridge in Europe (7.6 miles, including viaducts). It opened in 1998 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the famed explorer’s discovery of an ocean route from Europe to India.
9. Sheikh Zayed Bridge
The architectural firm that designed this bridge in Abu Dhabi describes it as a “sinusoidal waveform.” That unique design is supposed to evoke images of desert sand dunes. It opened in 2010.
8. Jiaozhou Bay Bridge
When compiling a list such as this, it’s impossible to ignore the world’s longest bridge over water (in aggregate terms), even if it looks much like any other viaduct. Opened in 2011, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge stretches 26.4 miles in eastern China’s Shandong Province.
7. Russky Bridge
Completed in 2012, this is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, with the third-tallest bridge pylons. While the term “Russky” is derogatory American slang for “Russian,” the bridge takes its name because it connects mainland Vladivostok with Russky Island.
6. Sydney Harbour Bridge
What really makes this bridge “pop” visually is its location near the Sydney Opera House along one of the world’s most famous waterfronts. Chances are you’ve seen this bridge featured in massive fireworks shows, maybe during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, or on a New Year’s Eve. Completed in 1932, it’s the tallest (440 feet) steel-arch bridge in the world.
5. Brooklyn Bridge
This bridge presented an imposing challenge for the era when construction began in 1869. The structure earned a place in the BBC documentary, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, featuring great engineering feats since the Industrial Revolution. But what took 14 years to build has been torn apart in seconds in some popular disaster movies, including Cloverfield and I Am Legend. By the way, one of the greatest adventures for visitors in New York City is to walk across the bridge, as seen above.
4. Beipanjiang Bridge
China has built dozens of the world’s highest, longest and most architecturally impressive bridges in recent years. Completed in late 2016, the Beipanjiang Bridge in Liupanshui, China, has the highest road deck in the world, at 1,854 feet.
3. Millau Viaduct
The huge piers give the Millau Viaduct a surreal appearance; the tallest pier is 1,125 feet tall, making it the tallest bridge structure in the world. The bridge in Millau-Creissels, Aveyron, France took just three years to build, opening in 2004. Former French President Jacques Chirac once called the structure “a miracle of equilibrium.”
2. Tower Bridge
This bridge crossing the River Thames in London opened in 1894, but with its medieval appearance it could pass for a 12th century structure. While some prominent British architects in the past described the bridge as “tawdry” and “absurd,” it is beloved by UK residents today, and recognized as one of Great Britain’s most iconic landmarks.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
It’s not the longest bridge, or the highest, but San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous bridge in the world. The iconic bridge celebrated its 80th anniversary in May 2017.