Pedestrian bridges: Must see architecture marvels

Bridges have long been a traveller's favourite: once vital for trade, then vantage points from which to admire cityscapes, and more lately engineering marvels designed to impress. Here are 10 top pedestrian bridges that provide some of the world's most scenic strolls.

1 SAINT-BENEZET BRIDGE, AVIGNON, FRANCE

Few bridges have been immortalised in song, but everyone in France – and anyone who has ever learned French – knows the children's ditty about dancing on le pont d'Avignon. Only half of the medieval bridge across the Rhone remains, including a dainty 12th century chapel and a defensive tower, but it's still glorious and provides wonderful views of Avignon's towers, turrets and mighty papal palace. avignon-tourisme.com

2 MUR ISLAND, GRAZ, AUSTRIA

This steel structure, beautifully curved like a shell, is part island, part bridge. It links the two halves of Graz and invites pedestrians to admire the city almost from the Mur River's water level. Passers-by can sit on benches, have coffee at a floating cafe or enjoy free music concerts at a small amphitheatre, making this not just a bridge but a mini-destination. 

3 BRIDGE OF SIGHS, VENICE, ITALY

The famous baroque-era Venetian landmark connects the doge's palace with a prison across the canal. Short, arched and enclosed, it's hardly the stuff of bridge-building legend. However, English poet Lord Byron gave it its romantic nickname and suggested couples kissing beneath it would enjoy eternal love. Hopeful romantics float beneath in gondolas, making it a bridge to journey under instead of over. turismovenezia.it

4 CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE, VANCOUVER, CANADA

The world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge (137 metres) lies just outside Vancouver. Its cedar planks sway as visitors cross 70 metres above a plunging, forested ravine. Built in 1889, the bridge was a sensation in its heyday. These days, it might not be quite as thrilling as it was to Victorian-era spectators but is still thronged on summer weekends and surrounded by souvenir shops. capbridge.com

5 GATESHEAD MILLENNIUM BRIDGE, NEWCASTLE, UK

This harp-like bridge of steel strings frames views of Newcastle's revamped riverfront and the hillsides beyond. At night, it glows in changing colours to spectacular effect: orange to yellow, then purple. Unveiled in 2000 as the world's first tilting span bridge, it pivots out of the way for passing ships; otherwise, it peers like a giant Cyclops' eye along the Tyne River. newcastlegateshead.com

6 STONE BRIDGE, REGENSBURG, GERMANY

This arched bridge is rather plain but, when it was built in the mid-12th century, it placed Regensburg on strategic north-south trade routes and made it wealthy. Now it supplies fine views over the river towards the old town's majestic cathedral and towering townhouses built by its trading nouveaux-riches in the Middle Ages. On the riverbanks below, artists sketch and university students lounge. regensburg.com

7 CHAPEL BRIDGE, LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND

When this historic wooden bridge across the Reuss River burned down in 1993 it was a national calamity. The bridge has since been rebuilt to its original 1333 plan and is as pretty as ever, laden with petunias in summer and offering fine views across Lake Lucerne towards the Alps. Beneath the tiled roof are frescoes showing scenes from the life of William Tell. 

8 CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE, BALLYCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND

This teetering construction of wire rope and planks swaying 25 metres above a pounding sea, and often buffeted by wind, is just 18 metres long. However, the bridge buckles like a rollercoaster, testing the nerves of many a screaming tourist. Children jump up and down, sending the planks swaying and parents clutching the ropes in terror. Coastal views are magnificent. nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede

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9 SI OH SEH BRIDGE, ISFAHAN, IRAN

The Bridge of 33 Arches is a masterpiece of Safavid-era architecture. Built in 1602, it features a double layer of arches topped by a pedestrian roadway, flanked by arched walls that give outlooks to the Zayandeh River (if it hasn't run dry) and hills beyond. A teahouse under its arches provides lovely sunset viewing, as the bridge turns orange and the river shimmers. 

10 CHARLES BRIDGE, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Built in 1406, this bridge is decorated with scores of baroque-era statues in a forest of shepherd's crooks and swords. Above, spot-lit Prague Castle glows, its reflection shimmering in the Vltava River. Along the bridge, street buskers scrape at violins as hawkers sell jewellery and cameras click. Follow tradition and make a wish while touching the crucifix of St John of Nepomuk. prague.eu

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