Although most of us are very familiar with driving across bridges to get from one place to another, we don't usually pay them any attention. Bridges are functional, and in most cases, necessary. But if we'd stop to actually examine and admire bridges, we'd be able to see the meticulous, intricate engineering necessary to make them functional. And in many cases, there is just as much attention paid to making them beautiful. Many of the world's most famous bridges are open to pedestrians, so you can get a first-hand look at what makes bridges so fascinating. Here are brief discussions of six of the most beautiful.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is perhaps one of the most recognized bridges in the world. The bridge covers the Golden Gate, which is the finger of water where the San Francisco Bay opens out into the Pacific Ocean, connecting the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California. The bridge was constructed between 1933 and 1937, and the city side of the bridge is open to pedestrians during daylight hours. Walking across the bridge and back takes about an hour, and there are vista points along the way. To learn about the bridge while you're walking it, take a guided tour.
The Tower Bridge in London is often incorrectly referred to as the London Bridge. The bridge spans the Themes River, and is firmly ensconced as an iconic symbol of London itself. The reason for the bridge was the rapid development of commerce between the city of London and East End. The Tower Bridge was designed and built between 1886 and 1891. Its distinctive design features two stately towers that are connected by horizontal pedestrian walkways. The walkways used to have a negative reputation as being a hangout for prostitutes and pickpockets, but now they are open to the public as a feature of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The bridge is very popular among tourists in London because it affords magnificent views of the city.
No visit to Prague would be complete without walking across the Charles Bridge, which crosses the Vltava River in the capital of the Czech Republic. When the bridge was first constructed, it was the only link from the Old Town of Prague to the outlying areas around the city. The bridge is decorated with replicas of the 30 statues that were part of the original bridge, and three towers protect it. During the summer the bridge is filled with artists, musicians, vendors, and tourists. Walking on the bridge at sunset affords spectacular view of Prague's Old Town, with the beautifully lit Prague Castle silhouetted against the evening sky.
The Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy, is one of the oldest bridges still in use. Spanning the Arno River, the bridge was first built by the Romans, evidently in 996. A flood destroyed the bridge in 1117, and it was rebuilt in stone, only to be swept away again in 1333. The bridge was reconstructed in 1345. Although the Germans destroyed almost all bridges in Florence during World War II, they did not touch the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is covered with shops, which were initially occupied by butchers. Today most of the shops offer souvenirs and jewelry, making the bridge a major tourist attraction for visitors to Florence.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Practically every popular photograph of Sydney, Australia, is a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built in 1932. Located beside the world-renowned Sydney Opera House, the bridge connects the North Shore with the central business district, and affords dramatic views of Sydney Harbour. Crowds gather on the bridge every year to watch the fireworks on New Year's Eve, and one of the most appealing attractions for tourists visiting Sydney is to climb the bridge. Pedestrians are welcomed on both sides of the bridge, but the southeast pylon of the bridge has always been a good lookout point. For those wishing to climb up the southern half, there are guided tours available, both during the day and at night. Tourists are also welcome to climb on the upper arches and to view the internal structures of the bridge.
Last but not the least is another iconic symbol, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in America. It connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, and is frequently used as a landmark in movies, television shows, and novels. The bridge features a wide walkway for pedestrians and cyclists, which is located down the center of the bridge. The pedestrian walkway was of particular importance during the events of September 11, 1991, when the usual methods of crossing the East River were not available.
These were some of the bridges of the world that you should take a walk on. Their beauty and construction is something extraordinary to behold.