Once made from wood and ropes designed to traverse streams, today’s suspension bridges are some of the most remarkable structures on Earth, linking cities, continents and cultures in ways never before thought possible. Spanning wide rivers, broad straits, deep gorges, and bustling harbours, the biggest suspension bridges and the world’s highest suspension bridge challenge the limits of what’s achievable and inspire awe with their monumental scale.
The earliest suspension bridges date back to ancient civilisations, and were made from natural materials such as vines, ropes, and bamboo. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date for their inception, there’s evidence to suggest that suspension bridges have been in existence for thousands of years.
These early suspension bridges were used for pedestrian crossings and facilitated transportation across rivers, gorges, and other challenging terrains.
Nowadays, the way the world’s largest suspension bridges are measured is by the length of the main span, rather than the total length from shore to shore. This can differ depending on the criteria in which the start and end point of specific bridges is measured.
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s biggest suspension bridges.
Sidu River Bridge
Location: Hubei Province, China | Opened: 2009 | Main Span: 900 metres
The world’s highest suspension bridge is believed to be the Sidu River Bridge in central China’s Hubei Province. The $100 million bridge opened to traffic in November 2009 and is approximately 500 metres above the river. It has a total length of 1,222 metres.
25 de Abril Bridge
Location: Lisbon, Portugal | Opened: 1966 | Main Span: 1,012 metres
One of the world’s largest suspension bridges was known as the Salazar Bridge until 1974, when it became known as the Ponte 25 de Abril, the date of the Carnation Revolution.
It bridges the Tagus River from Lisbon to Almada and has a total length of 2,277 metres. The six-lane road bridge sits on top of a two-track rail line. Around 150,000 cars and 150 trains use the bridge every day, and the length of the steel wires making up the main cables is over 54,190 kilometres.
Golden Gate Bridge
Location: California, USA | Opened: 1937 | Main Span: 1,280 metres
Sitting above the Golden Gate strait connecting San Francisco with the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge may not be the world’s largest hanging bridge but it is one of America’s most popular tourist sites. It’s been described as ‘possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.’
With a total length of 2,737 metres, the bridge carries approximately 112,000 vehicles per day and has been recognised by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Wonders of the Modern World.
Location: Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, UK | Opened: 1981 | Main Span: 1,410 metres
Eight years in the making, when the Humber Bridge was opened in July 1981 by HM Queen Elizabeth II, it was the world’s largest hanging bridge with a total length of 2,220 metres.
Prior to its completion, the only methods to traverse the river from where the bridge’s endpoints now lie were either by taking a ferry or embarking on a lengthy drive that ranged from fifty-five to eighty miles.
The bridge supports over 30,000 crossings every day and it’s believed to be the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world that can be crossed by cycle or on foot.
Great Belt Bridge
Location: Great Belt Strait, Denmark | Opened: 1998 | Main Span: 1,624 metres
Linking the islands of Funen and Zealand, the Storebæltsbroen has a total length of 6.8 kilometres. It is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges and with the Øresund Bridge and the Little Belt Bridge, cars can drive from mainland Europe, through Denmark, to Sweden.
It was due to be completed in February 1998 as the largest suspension bridge in the world but due to a slight delay, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge opened just eight weeks earlier.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Location: Kobe, Japan | Opened: 1998 | Main Span: 1,991 metres
The largest suspension bridge in the world for twenty-two years, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has a total length of 3,911 metres and took ten years to build.
The $3.6 billion bridge carries around 23,000 cars per day and links the island of Honshu to Awaji Island. It’s built to withstand winds of up to 286 km/h, 8.5 magnitude earthquakes and powerful sea currents.
1915 Çanakkale Bridge
Location: Çanakkale Province, Turkey | Opened: 2022 | Main Span: 2,023 metres
Named after the year of an Ottoman naval victory during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge spans the Dardanelles and is the largest suspension bridge in the world.
Including the approach viaducts, the total length of the bridge is 4,608 metres and it connects Turkey’s European and Asian shores. The seventy metre clearance has been designed to accommodate cruise ships and high-stacked container ships, and the six-lane road bridge is expected to be able to carry 45,000 vehicles per day.