Because people need to live near a water supply, we also tend to live near bridges. Chances are you’re within a few kilometers of a bridge right now, unless you are currently trekking in the Gobi Desert and have paused to surf the Web.
Most bridges go unnoticed because they merely do their job of conveying traffic over water, but there are some that do catch our eye; some are even tourist attractions in their own right. What follows is a list of ten of my favorites. These are not chosen for the feats of engineering that brought them into existence, but mainly because I find them aesthetically pleasing.
10. Nanpu Bridge, Shanghai — The distinctive feature of this bridge is its spiral approach, which corkscrews up to great views along the Huangpu River, especially at night.
9. Seven Mile Bridge, Florida — This ribbon of concrete and steel connects some of the Florida Keys as part of the so-called Overseas Highway. As the name suggests, one’s car travels quite a distance over water.
8. Old Bridge, Heidelberg, Germany — A low stone bridge that spans the Neckar River (a tributary of the Rhine), it affords views of Heidelberg Castle and the picturesque Old Town. Although there have been bridges on this site since the 13th century, the current Old Bridge isn’t very old; it was restored following World War II.
7. Brooklyn Bridge, New York — The familiar gothic arches span the East River, connecting lower Manhattan and the borough of Brooklyn. It is counter to the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The GW has its admirers, but I prefer the comfortable-old-boots look of the Brooklyn.
6. Charles Bridge (Karluv Most), Prague — This pedestrian bridge is adorned with statues of saints, some dating back to the 17th century. During the day, Charles Bridge is lively with street musicians and artisans selling their stuff; at night lovers stroll the bridge holding hands (and bottles).
5. Ponte Vecchio, Florence — When it was built in the 1300s, shops and houses were incorporated into the structure. Once these were butcher shops; the bridge is now basically a mall of jewelry stores. Personally, I prefer seeing the beautiful Ponte Vecchio from the banks of the Arno River rather than walking on the bridge itself.
4. Harbor Bridge, Sydney — The entire harbor has great views in every direction; it’s worth a walk out onto the bridge to take in the nearby Opera House and surroundings.
3. Tower Bridge, London — Some people mistakenly think this distinctive bridge is London Bridge. It’s called Tower Bridge because of its proximity to the Tower of London. This bridge is a landmark; London Bridge, just up the Thames, is relatively forgettable.
2. Pont Alexandre III, Paris — Decorated with bronze lamps and statuary from La Belle Époque, this bridge is a great vantage point from which to marvel at the Eiffel Tower and all of central Paris.
1. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco — It’s painted that distinctive orange color partly to keep ships from slamming into it on foggy days. When the visibility is good, however, the bridge and the bay and the hilly landscape are components of the most gorgeous urban setting in the United States.
There are lots of other great bridges, of course, like Lion’s Gate in Vancouver and the Rialto in Venice, but these are my favorites (as of today). What else belongs on the list? What would be your top pick?