The world's most spectacular bridges

These incredible architectural feats will impress, thrill, and perhaps even make you fall in love.

As a child growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, crossing a big bridge meant entering a portal to a new world. The majestic, dual-span Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the 23-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel were our two main routes off of the rural shore towards “real cities” and airports with more than two gates. But they were also a trip in themselves— a chance to spot bottlenose dolphins and peregrine falcons, a chance to see both our home, and our destination, from a new, brave perspective.

Bridges all around the world, from West Virginia’s New River Gorge, to Dublin’s Samuel Beckett, to Myanmar’s U Bein, serve this same purpose, giving every type of traveler an opportunity to connect and explore. Whether you’re the glass-bottom-bridge-thrill-seeker type, or a Francophile drifting south from Paris, we’ve got a bridge for you.

Here are 12 bridges we just can’t get over.

If you’re in for a little mischief...

Die Rakotzbrücke: Kromlau Park, Kromlau, Germany

Rakotzbrücke Bridge

Die Rakotzbrücke Bridge

Video by Sven Hagolani, Getty Images

Commissioned by Friedrich Hermann Rötschke in 1860, Rakotzbrücke’s perfect parabola and basalt spires make it a legendary “devil’s bridge.” According to Rakotzbrücke’s myth, the builder crossed the finished bridge, sacrificing himself in exchange for the devil’s help. Board the Muskau Forest Railway to visit during spring rhododendron bloom.

You can also visit other devil’s bridges in Switzerland, Bulgaria, Italy, Wales, France, England, Spain and Arizona.

If you’re a nature lover…

Living Root Bridge: Nongriat, India

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The name gives it all away: The Living Root Bridge is made from living, grounded tree roots so that it is not washed away by floods.

Nongriat, India is one of the world’s wettest places—a jungle of waterfalls, beehives, and betel nut trees. For hundreds of years local Khasi have dealt with seasonal river surges by weaving living footbridges out of Indian rubber tree roots. Umshiang, a double-decker (soon to be triple-decker) root bridge is expected to survive several hundred years and can support the weight of 50 people at once.

For even more fresh air (both in and out of the city) visit Langkawi Sky Bridge, or Natural Bridges in Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, or Seoul Skygarden.

If physics is your favorite subject…

Rolling Bridge: London, England

Rolling Bridge, London, United Kingdom

The Rolling Bridge

Video Courtesy Heatherwick Studio

Completed in 2004, Heatherwick Studio’s Rolling Bridge provides access to the Grand Union Canal in London’s Paddington Basin. The bridge’s eerily quiet hydraulics were inspired by Stan Winston’s animatronic dinosaur tails from the film Jurassic Park. The shiny steel beams of nearby Paddington Fan Bridge mimic a Japanese fan as they cantilever open to boat traffic every Wednesday and Friday at noon.

To see other unexpected designs, visit Netherland’s Moses Bridge, Beijing’s Lucky Knot Bridge, and the infamous “Blinking Eye.”

If you’re not afraid of heights…

Inca Rope Bridge: Akpurimac River, Peru

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Each year the Q'eswachaka is untied and woven anew by local bridge builders.

Q’eswachaka, one of the last surviving Inca rope bridges, has spanned 124 feet across the Akpurimac canyon for more than 500 years. Every June, local bridge builders, Eleuterio Callo Tapia, Victoriana Arizapana, and their neighbors, gather to untie the existing bridge and weave a new one out of local ishu grass. The ancient bridge-building ritual is then celebrated with traditional song and dance.

Jet-setting north of the equator? Spot puffins and sharks from Ireland’s 100-foot-high Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge—first constructed by salmon fishermen in 1755. And if that’s not high enough, take a drive across France’s Millau Viaduct or China’s record-setting Beipanjiang Bridge—a whopping 1,854 feet above the Beipan River.

If you’re on two wheels…

Webb Bridge: Docklands, Melbourne, Australia

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The Webb Bridge connects the Docklands to Victoria Harbor in Melbourne, Australia.

The Guditjmara people have been harvesting eels in Lake Condah, Victoria, for more than 6,000 years, using a system of canals and traps that is one of the earliest surviving examples of freshwater aquaculture. These basket-woven Koori eel traps served as inspiration for Melbourne’s Webb Bridge, designed by world-renowned sculptor Robert Owen. Webb Bridge is best explored by bike via the Capital City Trail or by paddling the Yarra River on a moonlight kayak tour.

Other bike-friendly bridges include Copenhagen’s Bicycle Snake, The Big Dam Bridge in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Portland’s Tilikum Crossing, and Sweden’s Sölvesborg.

If you like long walks in the sky…

Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge: Zermatt, Switzerland

Walking Across the World's Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge

At 1,620 feet long, the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge in Zermatt is the longest suspension footbridge in the world. Fairytale-worthy views of the Matterhorn may just be enough to distract you from the 278-foot drop between you and the valley floor.

Other sky-high bridges to walk if you dare: China’s new Hongyagu Glass-Bottom Bridge, Highline 179, Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge, and Austria’s Dachstein Glacier suspension bridge to the glass-walled Stairway of Nothingness.

If you’re a romantic…

Bridge of Sighs: Rio di Palazzo, Venice, Italy

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Visitors can take a gondola ride beneath the romantic Bridge of Sighs.

Poets, painters, and opera singers have swooned over Ponte dei Sispori, Venice’s Bridge of Sighs, for centuries. And gondoliers claim that kissing below the bridge during sunset, as the bells of St. Mark’s toll, is a surefire recipe for everlasting love. The connecting palace offers tours through the bridge with blue-lagoon views of San Giorgio Maggiore. Kayak the Rio di Palazzo beneath the bridge to see its 17th-century limestone mascarons, ornately carved masks meant to ward off evil spirits.

Other starry-eyed bridge strolls: the Si-o-se-pol Bridge in Iran, the Yeojwacheon Romance Bridge in South Korea, and the geranium-flooded 17th-century frescoes of Kapellbrücke in Lucerne, Switzerland.

If you love a little “suspense”...

Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge

Video by Getty Images

Over three million vehicles cross San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge every month. Skip the bus-fumy bridge sidewalk and opt for a bird’s-eye view of the mountain-high suspension bridge from Hawk Hill’s new trail, complete with easier slopes, new signage, and new guard rails. Or whale watch while lounging on a deck trampoline as you sail beneath the bridge at sunset.

Other epic suspension bridges include Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Tower Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, and Colorado’s Royal Gorge.

If you like to linger…

Henderson Waves Bridge: Singapore

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The Henderson Waves Bridge in Singapore is great for bird watching at sunrise, or from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. each evening when LED lights make it shine.

Steel and local Balau wood curve together to form the spectacular Henderson Waves, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The bridge connects Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber Park as a part of the six-mile-long Southern Ridges walk. Visit the bridge at sunrise for less crowds and excellent birdwatching, including a chance to see the rare black baza.

Other treetop bridges worth a linger: Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Kirstenbosch Boomslang Tree Canopy, Baumwipfelpfad in Germany, and the Inkaterra Canopy.

If you’re in for an adventure…

Pont du Gard: Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Pont Du Gard, France

The Pont du Gard

Video by Paul Mathon, Getty Images

Arching over the Gardon River halfway between Nîmes and Uzès sits the massive Pont du Gard, a limestone aqueduct built by the Romans roughly 2,000 years ago. Visit in summer for a leisurely paddle and afternoon swim, then wind your way past a 1,000-year-old olive tree on the way to Les Terraces for a sunset glass of Clairette.

Want more than a calm kayak? Visit Bosnia’s Stari Most for diving, Sydney Harbor Bridge for climbing, and Skypark Sochi for skybridge walks and bungee-jumping.

If you’re a history buff…

Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge: Selma, Alabama

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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the First Family are joined by former President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., former foot soldiers and other dignitaries to march across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015.

On March 7, 1965, 600 voting rights activists, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., began marching across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge towards Montgomery, Alabama. Due to the bridge’s design, they couldn’t see the violent counter-protestors waiting for them on the other side. And when that obstacle did appear, they marched forward anyway. Two weeks later, the march began again, successfully, with not 600, but more than 3,000 marchers. The annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee honors this historic moment of bravely moving forward even when the end is unknown.

Other bridges that have made their mark on history are: Turkey’s Taşköprü, West Virginia’s Philippi Covered Bridge, Israel’s Ad Halom, and Spain’s Alcántara.

If you like to up your steps on vacation…

Stepping stone bridge: Fenghuang, China

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A woman crosses this stepping stone bridge on a rainy day in Phoenix Ancient Town.

A traditional dingbu bridge, made of cut and sunken stones, stretches across the Tuojiang River in China’s Phoenix Ancient Town. Further up the river sits the Ming-dynasty Hongqiao, a lantern-strung, three-arch stone pavilion bridge. Its second-level teahouse offers comfy rattan chairs and unbeatable river views of diaojiaolou stilt houses, dragon boat racing, and, sometimes, some rather startled ducks.

Wander down other lovely footbridges in London, Paris, Bilbao, Spain, and Flims, Switzerland.

This list was compiled with the help of structural and civil engineers, Mark R. Cruvellier and Stephen Ressler. Cait Etherton is a Virginia-based writer and frequent contributor to National Geographic Travel. Follow her journey on Twitter.