Often a backdrop for many a city view, Europe plays host to some of the oldest, most famous and most photographed bridges in the world. Be it a picturesque little bridge crossing the canals of Amsterdam or Bruges, an important piece of architectural heritage, a touristic hotspot, an iconic landmark, a strategic crossing point from A to B or simply a feat of engineering brilliance, we’ve highlighted a select few of Europe’s most notable, sometimes lesser known and, in some cases, most special bridges, happily spanning the gap over untroubled waters.
The Pont des Arts or Passarelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris, crossing the Seine between the Institut de France and the Palais du Louvre. Built under the reign of Napoleon I, the Pont des Arts was the first metal bridge in Paris, however due to bomb damage from two World Wars, not to mention multiple collisions by boats, the bridge was rebuilt in the early 1980s. Today, the bridge sometimes serves as an exhibition space for painters, artists and photographers, but what’s particular special is the number of padlocks attached to its railings, upon which romance-infused tourists have engraved their names, shut the lock and thrown the key into the Seine as a grand symbol of eternal love. It is the city of amour after all…
From the romance of Paris to functionality of the Scandinavians, the Öresund is Europe’s longest combined road and rail bridge and tunnel, connecting Sweden with Denmark. Stretching nearly 8km between Malmo and Copenhagen, the Öresund carries some 60,000 travellers daily was officially opened in 2000 when Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden met at the midway point of the bridge.
Today one of the most visited sites in Prague, the Charles Bridge was commissioned by the Czech King Charles IV in 1357. Completed at the beginning of the 15th century, the bridge served as an important trade route between Eastern and Western Europe, for it was the only way at that time of crossing the Vltava River. Connecting Prague’s Old Town with the Lesser Town, Malá Strana, Charles Bridge now serves as a pedestrian walkway and during the day it buzzes with street artists and musicians. We recommend however taking a romantic sunset stroll across, as it serves as the perfect vantage point for some incredible views over the city skyline.
Venice’s Rialto Bridge is the oldest of four bridges crossing the iconic Grand Canal and is without doubt high on the touristic checklist for any city break to La Serenissima. Dating back to the 16th century, the Rialto was a stopping point for large cargo ships which would unload silk and spices from the Orient and sell to merchants who travelled from across Italy and mainland Europe to trade. Today it teems with visitors from all four corners of the globe, browsing the small gift shops lining both sides of the bridge. A tourist trap maybe, however it endures as a Venetian architectural icon.
The only Florentine bridge to survive World War II, the Ponte Vecchio, like Venice’s Rialto, is one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks. Straddling the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio is lined with shops, commonplace during the Medici era, yet the original butchers have long been replaced with jewellery sellers, art dealers and tourist souvenir shops. It’s also renowned for the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed passageway running from the Uffizi across the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, commissioned in the 16th century by the Grand Duke Cosimo de Medici.
Last but not least, we couldn’t not mention the gorgeous Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, a 204-metre covered wooden bridge (the oldest in Europe) spanning the Reuss River. Constructed in the 14th century with the aim of protecting the city from attack, the bridge, along with the Musagg Wall and the octagonal Water Tower (formerly a records office, city treasury and prison), formed part of the inner city fortifications. Destroyed by fire in 1993, it was speedily and faithfully rebuilt, and today remains one of Switzerland’s most popular, picturesque and photographed tourist attractions.