The world's best bridges to see: Top 10 better than Sydney Harbour Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

While the Sydney Harbour Bridge stirs the emotions with sheer heft, San Francisco's competitor does so with a sense of grace and elegance. The gentle curve of this often fog-shrouded suspension bridge combines with the distinctive colour – officially called international orange – as it connects San Francisco to Marin County and stands guard over the bay.

The Iron Bridge, Shropshire, England

Sure, there are more impressive-looking bridges than the effort over Ironbridge Gorge. But this one is pretty important. It was, in 1781, the first bridge to be made of cast iron after Abraham Darby came up with the technique of smelting iron with coke. This makes the town of Ironbridge a strong contender for being called the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and the bridge itself the most potent symbol of it.

Tower Bridge, London, England

Some bridges are entirely functional, but it's safe to say that Tower Bridge leans towards the other end of the scale. The actual bridge part itself – which can be lifted to let ships through – is fairly mundane. But the ludicrous Victorian Gothic decorative towers either side are unashamedly showing off. It's possible to go inside to see the hydraulic system that lifts the bridge, and stroll across the walkway that links the tops of the towers.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

The Ponte Vecchio won't win many plaudits for engineering – structurally, it's a bog standard stone affair crossing a fairly narrow stretch of river. What makes it special is that it is absolutely crammed with shops. The medieval Italians clearly thought that sparing all that space purely to cross a river was wasteful, so built on the bridge as if it was a normal street.

The Dom Luis Bridge, Porto, Portugal

Stretching over the Douro river, the Dom Luis I Bridge is a spectacular double-decker, with both decks separated by a giant central arch. Part of its power comes from the sheer domination of the gorge, but there's considerable elegance in the ironwork too, which should come as no surprise given that the man behind it – Francois Gustave Theophile Seyrig – was a student and disciple of Gustav Eiffel.

The Oresund Bridge, Malmo, Sweden

As border crossings go, the Oresund Bridge is pretty darned impressive, stretching just under eight kilometres from the outskirts of Malmo in Sweden to an artificial island created specially for the bridge. From there, it drops down and becomes the Drogden Tunnel, stretching four kilometres until it arrives in Denmark. Taking the train across is the best way to get to Copenhagen.

Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, China

The Oresund Bridge is a mere baby compared to the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, which became the world's longest bridge when it opened in 2011. It's a scarcely believable 164.8 kilometres long, which, frankly, makes it more of an elevated road passing over the rivers, lakes and paddy fields of the Yangtze Delta.

The Millau Viaduct, France

It's nearly 2.5 kilometres long but the Millau Viaduct is about the height above the River Tarn valley. One support mast is 343 metres above the ground, making it taller than the Eiffel Tower and the viaduct the world's tallest bridge. One of architect Sir Norman Foster's masterworks, the bridge opened in 2004, and has been testing the nerves (and willingness to pay tolls) of vertiginous drivers ever since.

The Khaju Bridge, Isfahan, Iran

Built in the 17th century, the Khaju Bridge isn't particularly long or high, but it's delightfully dreamy. It was built to act as a building in its own right, as well as a weir and public meeting space. Therefore it takes on a somewhat palace-like look with a central pavilion and two long wings either side. It's the 23 stone arches that are key to making it.

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The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, USA

Architect Santiago Calatrava has a great track record for making beautiful but vastly overbudget bridges, often using a single white central mast, leaning heavily with suspension cables coming down from it. Examples include the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin, Alamillo Bridge in Seville and Katehaki Pedestrian Bridge in Athens. But for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, he tried something a bit different. This time the centrepiece is a giant, tight arch rising 136 metres above the Trinity River, that looks a little like a massive croquet hoop. When it opened in 2012, it instantly provided the Texan city with a new icon.

See also: The world's 10 most terrifying tourist attractions

See also: Whistler's new terrifying mountaintop suspension bridge

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