By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination Specialist and Europe River Cruise Expert
Europe has some of the most famous and interesting bridges in the world. Bridges are designed to bypass some type of obstacle such a river, or valley but they often have developed into a more important function as a symbol of uniting places that once were separated. So, in no particular order, here are some bridge pictures of what Anne and I consider some of Europe’s most interesting bridges.
Kapelbrucke, Luzern, Switzerland. (Chapel Bridge) and Wasserturn (Water Tower) date to the 1300s. This covered, wooden bridge is Luzern’s most famous landmark. The tower has been used as a treasury, a prison and a torture chamber.
One of the 110 medieval paintings that originally adorned the covered roof. A fire destroyed the bridge and only 25 original paintings survived. The paintings recounted scenes from the history of Luzern and Switzerland.
Stone Bridge Regensburg, Germany. The guarded tower entrance to Regensburg on top of the Stone Bridge. The Stone Bridge, built 1135–1146, is a highlight of medieval bridge building. The knights of the 2nd and 3rd crusade used it to cross the Danube on their way to the Holy Land.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy. This famous bridge, which crosses the Arno River, is lined with gold and silver shops. It is the oldest bridge in Florence. One of the reasons this is an important bridge is that it still has shops lining the bridge—a common practice in the Middle Ages and it is one of the last remaining bridges in existence in Europe with the old shops.
Pont du Gard. This is actually part of the aqueduct of Nîmes, which was built by the Romans almost 1900 years ago to deliver water to the city of Nîmes. The aqueduct and bridge cross the Gardon River (it is also known as the Gard River). Look at the people on the bridge to get an idea how large this structure is–it is only 6 feet smaller in height than the Roman Colosseum.
Charles Bridge–The Charles Bridge is famous for the many statues of saints that line the bridge along its length (there are 30 statues). For centuries, this bridge was the only link in Prague between the Old Town on the left bank of the Vltava River and the Castle Quarter on the opposite side.
Venice has over 400 bridges. Here are two of the most famous:
Bride of Sighs, Venice Italy. A great picture of the canal under the Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy. There are two stories about how the bridge became known as the bridge of sighs. The first legend of this bridge is about prisoners. The bridge connects the Doge’s palace and the prison, and it is said , that the condemned got their last look at the beauty of Venice and “sighed” as the moved to their cells. The second story is about romance. In this version, it is said that lovers who kiss under the bridge in a gondola and will be granted eternal love. It is said they “sigh” at the romantic backdrop and pledge of love.
Rialto Bridge Venice Italy. It is one of the four bridges that spans the Grand Canal in Venice. The current bridge, after several other earlier bridges, was built in 1588. This sturdy bridge has become the symbol of Venice. For over 300 years, it was the only way to cross on foot the Grand Canal. It houses many shops on the bridge and adjacent area.
Bridges with Interesting Stories
Skinny Bridge, Amsterdam Netherlands. The Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) is often touted as the most beautiful bridge in this city that has more than 1,200 of them. The story of this bridge is that two women – the Mager sisters – lived on opposite sides of the Amstel River. According to the tale, they had this bridge built to make it easier to visit one another. Mager is the Dutch word for “skinny”.
Avignon Bridge, Provence River Cruise November 2013. This is the famous bridge of the children’s song “Sur le pont d’Avignon”–(on the bridge of Avignon). During the middle ages, it was an important bridge for pilgrims to cross the Rhone River on the way to the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.
Love Locks on the Pont des Arts on the Seine River, Paris, France. Government officials have removed all these locks in June of 2015 due to damage to the bridge. The idea of the love locks is that they symbolize that a couple’s love is forever and often the key was thrown in the river after locking the lock on the bridge. In 2014, when we were there, part of the rail collapsed due to the weight of the locks. I just read the other day that the government of Paris is auctioning the locks off to the public.
25 De Abril Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal was inspired by 2 US bridges–it’s orange color is just like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; and it’s design is like the Bay Bridge in Oakland. The bridge is named to commemorate the Carnation Revolution that returned democracy to Portugal–the protesters put carnations into rifles of the military forces and it was a “bloodless” coup.
The Chain Bridge, Budapest Hungary. This was the first permanent bridge built across the Danube in Budapest. It was built between 1840 and 1849. It is 375m long and 16m wide. This bridge connected the towns of Buda and Pest and was a major reason the two towns became Budapest. In 1989, it was a site of protest for freedom and independence from communist rule. Today, the bridge is a symbol of Hungarian liberty. Buda castle is in the background.
Bosporus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey. Where East meets West, this is the bridge across the Straits of the Bosporus, Turkey. The left bank of this picture is Europe; the right bank of this picture is Asia (SW Asia or the Middle East). It was built in 1973, and is 1,560 meters long. The bridge is a toll bridge and the highway on the bridge has eight lanes.
Tower Bridge London, England. London’s Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. Its Victorian Gothic style stems from a law that forced the designers to create a structure that would be in harmony with the nearby Tower of London.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. The small bridge in the background crosses the Vltava River.
Alexander Bridge Statue, Paris France. Of the 19 bridges crossing the Seine River, this is considered the most beautiful. The bridge links Les Invalides, the site of Napoleon’s tomb, on the Left Bank with the Champs-Élysées on the Right Bank. It was built in 1900 for the world’s fair of 1900—small parts of the exposition hall can be seen in the background of this photo.
Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) crossing the Neckar River in Heidelberg, Germany. The Tower entrance to Heidelberg Old Bridge, is one of the most photographed scenes in all of Germany and was part of the old city walls.
Bicycle on a bridge in Edam, Netherlands. Bikes are one of the symbols of the Netherlands and with all the water crossings in this low country, we feel this is a good picture to capture some of the essence of life in this fascinating country.
Brugge Bridge, Brugge, Belgium. The canals of Brugge are a special place—it is Anne’s favorite Europe city. This twilight picture captures what we would consider the best part of this tranquil city—unmatched scenery with fairly-tale like buildings. Enjoy!
Le Salve Bridge, Bilbao, Spain. This bridge, also known as the Princes of Spain suspension bride, is incorporated into the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The giant spider sculpture in the foreground is a nice contrast to this large bridge. Also the red arches were added to the bridge in 2007 to help blend it in with the art museum.
Øresund Bridge, Øresund Strait. The Øresund Bridge is the longest combined rail and road bridge in Europe. It connects Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo. Part of this is a bridge and part is a tunnel. This is a picture taken at sea by Anne.
Our Final Thoughts
It took a lot of trips to compile these photos. But more than a collection of trips, it shows the amazing capacity of humans to overcome obstacles to unite landmasses. Maybe, in a way, it will serve as a reminder to us to bridge the gaps and obstacles we face as humans to better understand others and their cultures. I know for sure it has changed both of us for the better. We hope this will inspire to travel to Europe soon. We look forward to helping you in the future to take your next trip. When you are ready, why not give us a call (Hank at 713-397-0188) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you plan a wonderful travel experience. We want you to: Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!