It was 50 years ago this August that the impressive landmark of the Salazar Bridge across the Tagus at Lisbon opened. The first dramatic landmark crossing of the Tagus was Europe’s longest suspension bridge and drivers from all over Europe travelled to be able to drive across a span of more than a kilometre.Salazar Bridge was built by Portugal’s fascist dictators but after the bloodless revolution of 1974 has since become a symbol of the country’s freedom. It was renamed the April 25th Bridge to commemorate the collapse of the old regime.
Today the crossing is still a spectacular sight and allows you to enjoy a memorable drive across the great river. To celebrate the 50th birthday of the April 25th Bridge we’ve chosen the ten best bridges to drive across in Europe. How many have you driven across?
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10. The Atlantic Road, Norway
It’s an eight-mile stretch of causeways and bridges connecting a string of tiny rocky islands along west Norway’s County Road 64. The sweeping bold engineering is so dramatic that this stretch has become a major tourist attraction. It’s especially impressive during rough stormy seas. Visitors head here simply to drive over the bridges, particularly the striking twist of the Storseisundet Bridge.
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9. The Tagus Bridges, Lisbon, Portugal
We’ve mentioned the 25th April Bridge, which is celebrating its birthday, but don’t neglect its neighbour the Vasco de Gama Bridge. This much newer construction gives you a chance to drive across the longest bridge in Europe. It’s an incredible 17.2km long, so should take you at least quarter of an hour to cross its gently curving span.
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8. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England
Your satnav might tell you the road is just the B3129 but what it doesn’t tell you is that you’re in for a visual treat. That’s because you’ll be driving over an elegant 150-year-old suspension bridge, a dizzy 331 ft above the River Avon.
The views from the narrow span above the sheer rocky gorge are memorable. The bridge was designed by renowned 19th-century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and has become a symbol of this West England maritime city.
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7. Puente Nuevo Bridge, Ronda, Spain
Driving across the ‘New Bridge’ at the beautiful old town of Ronda is a sobering experience – and not just because of the daunting drop below. Puente Nuevo was used by both sides in the Spanish Civil War – for executing prisoners by pushing them off the side. The chamber in the centre of the bridge was also a notorious prison.
The dangerous job of building the ‘new’ arched stone bridge spanning this 400ft deep chasm was started in 1751 and sadly 50 builders were killed before it was finished.
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6. The Chain Bridge, Budapest, KL
The grand twin-towered Szechenyi Chain Bridge across the River Danube was the first permanent link between the two halves of the country’s capital city, Buda and Pest. It was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark, who was one of the most celebrated 19th-century pioneers of building suspension bridges. When it opened in 1849, The Chain Bridge was considered one of the modern marvels of the world.
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5. Alcantara Bridge, Alcantara, Spain
You might slow down and think: “This bridge seems a bit old…” And you’d be right. The ancient stone bridge near Alcantara was built by the Roman Emperor Trajan more than 2,000 years ago. Yet it still carries the EX-117 across the River Tagus on five graceful arched pillars almost 200ft above the water. As you drive across you’ll pass through the Triumphal Arch in the centre of the bridge, which bears a Latin inscription saying: ‘I’ve built a bridge that will last forever’. So far it seems to be correct.
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4. Ponte della Liberta, Venice, Italy
Take SS11 towards Venice and it seems like the land slips away either side of the dual-carriageway road. You end up driving just above seawater on both sides.
The Ponte della Liberta, or Freedom Bridge, is the 4km bridge that leads from the mainland to the ancient city of Venice, which stands on islands in the middle of a lagoon. Go slowly to fully appreciate the view as the old towers and domes of Venice loom into sight ahead.
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3. Tower Bridge, London, England
It’s one of dozens of crossings of the River Thames as it winds through London but Tower Bridge’s extraordinary Victorian gothic style has made it an icon of the city and one of the world’s most famous bridges. It was originally designed to blend in with the Norman Tower of London on the bank of the river alongside.
Today you can simply freely drive across it on the A100, called ‘Tower Bridge Road’. If you want to explore the towers, high-level walkways and original bridge-raising mechanism a small charge is made.
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2. Oresund Bridge, Sweden
Europe’s longest road-and-rail bridge is also one of its most breathtaking. It bends for eight kilometres across the sea to a small man-made island between Sweden and Denmark.
If that’s not exhilarating enough, the road then plunges underground through the middle of the island into a tunnel to reach the Danish shore 4km away. This creates a clear stretch of water for shipping to use. The tunnel is built from 55,000-tonne concrete tubes, which are the largest in the world.
Oresund has become a minor TV celebrity too. It is one of the stars of the hit Scandinavian TV crime drama ‘The Bridge’.
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1. Millau Viaduct, France
Take the A75 motorway south from Paris across the River Tarn and you’ll have the amazing experience of crossing the world’s tallest bridge. Slow down, enjoy the view but try not to be distracted. The highest part of the bridge is 1,125ft above the ground.
Since it opened in 2004, the 400-million Euro wonder has also been judged one of the world’s best-looking bridges. It curves across the valley for 2.5kms and is so high that sometimes you can be driving above the clouds.
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