Europe's most beautiful bridges

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Like an enclosed street, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) spans the Arno in Florence. It was finished in 1345. At first butchers and tanners sold their wares here. They threw the stinking scraps into the river. In 1565 they were replaced by decree by gold and silversmiths. There are still many jewelers here, who, along with street artists, create quite a special atmosphere.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Rialto Bridge in Venice

The Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal links the districts of San Polo and San Marco. 12,000 oak posts were rammed into the ground to support the structure. Around it arose trading companies and banks. Ships docked; goods were sold right on the bridge. Nowadays the businesses on the roofed bridge, decorated with frescoes, are tailored to mass tourism.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

Charles Bridge in Prague

Charles Bridge spans the Vltava with 16 arches – both colossal and elegant. It links the Old Town with the "lesser town," on which Prague Castle stands. Numerous statues of saints line its balustrade. The best known is the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk who, according to legend, was thrown into the river and drowned at this spot.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge was once served as a battlement walkway. Now it is a tourist attraction and landmark in the Swiss city of Lucerne. Built in 1332, it is considered Europe's oldest wooden covered bridge. In 1993 a fire, possibly caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette, destroyed large parts of it. Just a year later the bridge was restored and again open to pedestrians.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Old Bridge in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is the quintessential romantic German city. Not only do the Old Town and castle ruins contribute to that image — so does Heidelberg's famous Old Bridge. It was built of stone in the 18th century after its wooden predecessors were repeatedly destroyed by wars and flooding.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Merchants' Bridge in Erfurt

Is this a street or a bridge? Somehow it's both. The Merchants' Bridge boasts the longest series of inhabited buildings on any bridge in Europe. It was first built of wood, then, in 1325, in stone. Originally vendors sold luxury articles such as spices, precious metals and dyes here. Now you can stroll past specialist shops and galleries.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin

It's the loveliest and hippest bridge in Berlin: Oberbaum Bridge between the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. It's flanked by countless clubs and discos — an Eldorado for party-goers at night and sun worshipers during the day. Every few minutes Berlin's oldest metro line thunders over the bridge, which spans the River Spree like a fortress.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Pont Neuf in Paris

Although Pont Neuf translates as "new bridge," this is the oldest bridge over the Seine. When it was finished in 1607, it was groundbreaking. Usually bridges had houses built on them and were roofed, but the Pont Neuf remained free of buildings, which made it possible for passers-by to see the river and the surroundings — a good decision, given the lovely panorama of the city it offers.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

Tower Bridge in London

The world's most famous drawbridge gets its name not from its two towers but from its proximity to the Tower of London. Every day 40,000 vehicles drive over the bridge, but ships have the right of way. If a ship doesn't fit under it, the two middle sections are raised high enough for it to travel through — an impressive spectacle.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

This elegant railway bridge amid wildly romantic scenery owes its wider fame to the Harry Potter films. In reality, a steam train, The Jacobite, crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct on its way from Fort William to Mallaig, and in the films, so did the Hogwarts Express. 390 meters long, with 21 arches, it was a technological marvel around 1900 — the first bridge built of unreinforced mass concrete.

Europe's most beautiful bridges

The Three Bridges, Edinburgh

Three bridges span the Firth of Forth, linking Edinburgh with Fife. The red Forth Rail Bridge, at the time the world's longest single cantilever bridge and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, opened in 1890. It was followed by the four-lane Forth Road Bridge, a suspension bridge, in 1964, and in 2017 by the Queensferry Crossing — 2,600 meters of ultramodern engineering artistry.

Bridges create paths over waterways. They often represent power and influence; they're marketplaces, architectural marvels and tourist attractions. Here's a selection of beautiful historical bridges.