Iconic, beautiful bridges come in all styles, shapes, and sizes, made of stone, wood, or cast iron. What makes a bridge iconic? What draws us to cherish any certain bridge? While they serve to get us from one side of water to another, bridges are certainly more than utilitarian. For centuries, bridges have been guarded with towers, decorated with sculptures, and valued for their art. Here are a few of my favorites.
Old Bridge, Heidelberg
This graceful arch bridge known as the Old Bridge crosses the Neckar river and is a symbol of Heidelberg, Germany. The current bridge is actually the ninth on this site. Earlier versions made of wood burned. This one, built in 1788 of sandstone, stands firm. Walking across it connects you not only with the other river bank but also with history. A sculpture of the Greek goddess Minerva decorates the bridge, along with sculptures representing important rivers.
So many German bridges fell victim to the destruction of World War II, but the Old Bridge remained undamaged. The best explanation is that the Allies were saving Heidelberg to use as a postwar base.
Charles Bridge, Prague
The Charles Bridge carries a history involving flood after flood, battles, beheadings, and statues of saints. It is the oldest bridge across the Vltava River in Prague and was once the only connection between the Old Town on one side of the river with the Castle on the other side. Today it is a prime place to visit in Prague, both for the bridge itself and the magnificent views of the city.
After restoration in 1978, all vehicle traffic is banned from bridge. So you can stroll across this pedestrian bridge without dodging traffic.
Chain Bridge and Liberty Bridge, Budapest
The Danube flows through the two parts of Budapest. All of the bridges connecting Buda and Pest were destroyed in World War II and have since been rebuilt. The most well-known is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge originally built in 1849 and named for the Hungarian Count who prompted the construction.
Bow Bridge, New York
A feature of New York’s Central Park, the Bow Bridge is a Classical Greek delight. It’s made of cast iron and is a pedestrian walkway across The Lake. The banisters are interlocking circles. Eight large urns decorate the bridge. Two of these were stolen long ago and only recently replaced.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the symbol of San Francisco. It opened in May, 1937 after taking 4 years to build. The roadway deck is held up by metal cables suspended from curving main cables draped over the two red metal pillars that give the bridge its recognizable outline. The bridge can sway as much as 28 feet to adapt to wind and weather. The Golden Gate Bridge is a marvel of engineering. You can drive across, but if you walk or ride a bike, you will be able to see the rivets up close. And the views from this bridge are mesmerizing. Whether you are on it or looking at it across the water, you will enjoy visiting this iconic bridge.
Bridges of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is crisscrossed by about 165 canals and you can walk or ride over about 1,500 bridges. The canals and bike-lined bridges of Amsterdam are a wonderful place to wander. You don’t need an agenda. Just set out and stroll and take in the sights. The buildings lining the canals date back to the 1600s, adding character and charm to the waterways.
This bridge is the historical site of the Battle of Concord, which kicked off the American War of Independence in 1775. British troops lined up on one side, and Minute Men from the colonies gathered on the other side. Shots rang out, and war began. Why fight on this bridge in this tranquil town? Rumors of a stash of weapons buried nearby. The current wooden pedestrian bridge is the fifth version on this site since the battle.
Pont Alexandre III, Paris
The Pont Alexandre III spans the Seine and is thought to be the most ornate and beautiful of the 37 bridges that cross this river in Paris. Linking the Champ-Elysee area on the Right Bank with the Invalides quarter of the Left Bank, the Pont Alexandre III invites you to stroll across and enjoy the art. Anchored by four golden sculptures that represent eras in the history of France, the bridge also boasts many more sculptures and Art Nouveau lighting. It is classified as a French Monument.
How about you? Do you have favorite iconic bridges?