We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.
Footbridges have been around for centuries to provide pedestrians access across challenging obstacles such as rivers, lakes, mountain terrain, or busy roads. While they still serve this basic purpose, today’s pedestrian bridges elevate the concept to the next level, often taking cues or inspiration from art, architectural innovation, and adventure. From structures that date back to the 14th century to groundbreaking feats of engineering, here are some of the world's most incredible bridges designed for pedestrians.
Aiguille du Midi Bridge (Chamonix, France)
Aiguille du Midi is a 12,605-foot-tall mountain in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. Bridging the short gap between the mountain’s north and south peaks is the vertigo-inducing Aiguille du Midi Bridge. This is the place to come for wondrous views of Mont Blanc — in fact, the only way to get closer to Europe’s second-tallest mountain is by hiking or climbing it. Reaching the bridge is an adventure in itself via what was once the world’s highest cable car. The cable car’s second stage still holds the record for the highest vertical ascent.
BP Pedestrian Bridge (Chicago, Illinois)
Linking Millennium Park with Maggie Daley Park in Chicago’s downtown Loop district is Frank Gehry’s BP Pedestrian Bridge. The 925-foot-long serpentine footbridge is the first bridge designed by the renowned architect. It crosses over busy Columbus Drive and offers walkers views of the Chicago skyline, parks, and Lake Michigan. The bridge’s stainless-steel panels compliment the facade of the nearby Jay Pritzker Pavilion, another Gehry design, and act as an acoustic barrier from the heavily trafficked thoroughfares below.
The Bridge of Peace (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Opened in 2010, the Bridge of Peace sits above the Mtkvari (Kura) River and connects Old Tbilisi with Rike Park. Impressively, this 512-foot-long glass-and-steel river crossing was brought to the city from Italy in 200 unassembled pieces. Every day, starting 90 minutes prior to sunset, more than one thousand LED lights illuminate the distinctive curved canopy and walkway with an array of rhythmic patterns. The lights also communicate messages in Morse code, which are activated by the steps of the pedestrians. Visitors come for the views of Tbilisi’s historical and natural landmarks in addition to the bridge’s innovative design.
Caminito del Rey (Ardales, Spain)
For over a century, the adventurous have been walking the “King’s Little Path” in Spain’s Malaga province. This wooden pathway clings to cliff sides on either side of a dramatic gorge, rising 328 feet above a reservoir. Access from one side of the gorge to the other is via a short suspension bridge, which has jaw-dropping views straight down to the water. First built for workers at a nearby hydroelectric plant in 1905, the bridge and trail opened to the public in 1921. The original, and somewhat more precarious, path can be viewed below the present construction. It continues to be one of the world’s scariest hikes.
Capilano Suspension Bridge (Vancouver, Canada)
Floating 230 feet above Vancouver’s Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge offers resplendent views of a verdant forest and treetop ecosystem. Scottish engineer and Vancouver park commissioner George Grant first erected a hemp bridge above the river in 1889, providing access to his otherwise hard-to-reach cabin. Today’s bridge was completely redesigned in 1956 and can withstand the weight of a loaded Boeing 747 airplane. After crossing the river, the bridge connects with a network of treetop walkways in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Ballintoy, Northern Ireland)
A narrow gorge separates the Northern Ireland mainland from the small island of Carrick-a-Rede on the northern coast. Locals have fished for Atlantic salmon here since the 1600s, and in 1755, fishermen erected a rickety rope bridge. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which originally had only one handrail, lessened the fishermen’s need to use boats to access the island and their nets. Salmon fishing is now a thing of the past, but tourists come to cross for the dizzying trek 100 feet above the water. It’s worth the short walk across for views of the North Sea and wildlife such as dolphins, oystercatchers, and sharks.
Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic)
Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) is an emblematic Prague landmark that has stood since the 15th century. It forms part of the Royal Route, a coronation procession between the Old Town Square and Prague Castle. The stone bridge stretches for almost 2,000 feet over the Vltava River and is supported by 16 arches. Thirty baroque-style statues decorate the balustrades, and local lore states that they bring good fortune when touched. Besides its historic significance, the bridge serves as an exhibition space for artists, caricaturists, and street performers.
Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Gateshead, England)
While most river crossings utilize drawbridge mechanisms to allow boats to pass, Gateshead Millennium Bridge has a more ingenious design. This is the world’s first tilting bridge, opened in 2001 as a route between the cities of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne. It features a graceful arch and a curving deck over the River Tyne, with individual lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. The entire deck tilts as if mimicking the movement of a blinking eye to let boats travel beneath it, earning it the nickname the Blinking Eye Bridge.
Golden Bridge (Ba Na Hills, Vietnam)
Suspended high above the mystical landscapes of Vietnam’s Da Nang mountains is Cau Vang (Golden Bridge). This 492-foot-long footbridge curves around a mountainside in the popular Ba Na Hills resort, held in place by a pair of giant weathered stone hands that look as if they were carved out of the cliff face in a bygone era. While its practical purpose is to connect a cable-car station with the resort’s picturesque gardens, the awe-inspiring views from the bridge and the fairytale-like hands make the bridge itself a popular draw for tourists.
Henderson Waves Bridge (Singapore)
Singapore’s highest pedestrian-only bridge, Henderson Waves Bridge is an undulating masterpiece juxtaposed against lush greenery. Curved steel arches, which give the impression of rolling waves, rise above and below a hardwood walkway 118 feet above the ground, creating small niches for seating and shelter. Stretching for nearly 900 feet, the footpath winds between Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park, part of a three-mile-long scenic trail known as the Southern Ridges Walk.
High Trestle Trail Bridge (Boone County, Iowa)
The eye-catching High Trestle Trail Bridge spans half a mile and rises 13 stories over the Des Moines River, where the Union Pacific Railroad tracks once lay. A series of spiraling steel frames create a tunnel-like effect, especially when lit up at night. The lights appear similar to a mine shaft, a nod to the region’s mining heritage, and walking or biking through from dusk until midnight is a popular activity. The bridge marks the middle section of the 25-mile-long High Trestle Trail.
Highline179 (Reutte, Austria)
Europe’s third-longest footbridge is modeled after classic Tibetan suspension bridges, hanging 374 feet above a meandering river in Austria’s breathtaking Tyrol region. Highland179 links the ruins of two hilltop landmarks: the 13th-century Ehrenburg Castle and 17th-century Fort Claudia. Construction began by anchoring supporting cables to the hills on either side of the river. Engineers then placed the deck and crossbars piece by piece while being supported by the cables. A maximum of 500 people are allowed on the bridge, which can sag up to three feet. Crossing the bridge makes for a memorable way to gaze at the snow-capped Austrian Alps.
Kapellbrücke (Lucerne, Switzerland)
Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, winds across the Reuss River from the New Town of Lucerne to the city’s medieval Old Town. It dates back to 1332 and was once part of the city’s fortifications. An almost 700-year-old history makes it among the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe. Flowers decorate the outside of the bridge, and paintings portraying scenes from Swiss history adorn the roof’s triangular frames. Adding to the landmark’s intrigue is a restored 14th-century water tower in the center of the bridge, which previously also served as a treasury and a prison.
Langkawi Sky Bridge (Pulau Langkawi Island, Malaysia)
Those with a fear of heights tend to avoid the Langkawi Sky Bridge because it sits 2,300 feet above sea level. The cable-stayed footbridge and observation deck dangle over jungle landscapes from the top of Mount Machinchang, its curving shape giving the impression of a never-ending floating walkway. Panoramic views stretch over forested mountaintops, the Strait of Malacca, and the islands of the Langkawi archipelago. Glass panels are embedded into the deck to allow for views down into the jungle, as well. Reaching the bridge is also an adventure, via either a cable car or hiking trail.
Mozesbrug (Halsteren, Netherlands)
During a recent renovation of the West Brabant Line — a series of moated forts and military defenses established in the 17th century — architects designed a hidden, sunken bridge to reach Fort De Roovere. Instead of going over the moat, Mozesbrug (Moses Bridge) goes through it and parts the water in the way that Moses parted the Red Sea. This upholds the idea that a fort’s moat should be impassable by a conventional bridge. Made from waterproof wood, Mozesbrug blends harmoniously with the moat and the surrounding greenery. Users walk at eye level with the water before climbing a staircase to the fort’s entrance.
Puente de la Mujer (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
In the 1990s, a major revitalization project turned Buenos Aires’ old port into a modern dockside district called Puerto Madero. Every street was named after significant and pioneering women in Argentine history. To maintain the celebration of women, Spanish architect Santiago Calavara designed the Punete de la Mujer (Women’s Bridge). It’s said to portray a couple dancing tango, a dance that has historical connections to the city’s working-class ports. The whitewashed mast symbolizes the man, and the curving deck represents the woman.
Rolling Bridge (London, England)
Award-winning design team Heatherwick Studio unveiled the Rolling Bridge on London’s Paddington Basin canal in 2004. This 39-foot-long marvel spans a short canal inlet and is part footbridge, part kinetic art exhibit. When boats need to pass, the bridge’s eight triangle-shaped sections curl slowly upwards to create a steel octagon sculpture on the towpath. Adding to the impressive spectacle is that the opening and closing is done in almost complete silence. Bridge enthusiasts should plan in advance to see it in action because it opens only three days a week.
Fan Bridge (London, England)
A short walk along the canal from the Rolling Bridge is the equally striking Fan Bridge. When it’s lowered and accessible to pedestrians, the bridge could easily be mistaken for a typical bridge. Yet it unfolds gracefully into the shape of a Japanese fan when a boat needs to pass below. The deck is made up of five individual steel beams, whose motion is controlled by a clever cantilever system. The opening times are synchronized with the nearby Rolling Bridge.
Webb Bridge (Melbourne, Australia)
Looking at Melbourne’s Webb Bridge, you might find it hard to believe that it's a revamped railroad crossing. The southern section features a futuristic, curving steel-lattice structure inspired by the fishing traps of the Koori aboriginal people. It symbolizes an appreciation of the nation’s indigenous heritage and the merging of the city’s old and new districts. The aesthetic is enhanced by a nighttime illumination that casts a mirror-like reflection on the Yarra River.
Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Bridges often grab your attention with top-down views. In New Plymouth, on New Zealand’s North Island, is a bridge that astounds from a different perspective. As you walk through the curving white arches of Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, they are aligned to perfectly frame a distant volcano straight ahead in the distance. Looking from the bridge’s northern side on a clear day, you can see the snow-capped Mount Taranaki. These same skewed arches evoke images of a whale’s skeleton and a breaking wave. The bridge presents anglers, surfers, and walkers with easy access across the Waiwhakaiho River and to the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway.