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9 French Bridges

Well known for its architecture, France boasts some amazing bridges, here we've picked 9 of our favourites...

1 - Millau Viaduct

Millau Viaduct - By Stefan Krause - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
Millau Viaduct - By Stefan Krause - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0

If you drove to the south of France in the 1990's, you probably spent hours stuck in traffic in the centre of Millau. After years of discussion a new route was proposed which bypassed the town and would require the construction of the new 'Millau Viaduc.' 

Enter Sir Norman Foster & Dr Michel Virlogeux, the architect & structural engineer tasked with designing & constructing what would become the tallest bridge in the world. In 2017 the bridge carried over 5 million vehicles, for the first time since it opened in 2004.

  • Construction started: 16 October 2001
  • Opened: 16 December 2004
  • Material: Concrete, steel
  • Location: Millau, Aveyron
  • Length 2460m
  • Height: 343m
  • Worth knowing: There is a service area at the northern end of the bridge with a visitor centre.

2 - Pont d'Avignon

Pont d'Avignon - By Chiugoran - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Pont d'Avignon - By Chiugoran - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Also known as Pont Saint-Bénézet, the Pont d'Avignon is one of the most photographed bridges in France. 

Originally spanning the Rhone, the current bridge fell into disrepair during the 17th century, with only 4 of the original 22 arches remaining in place today. 

The bridge features the chapel of St Nicholas, where the body of St Bénézet was originally interred and was made famous in the 15th century in the song 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon'

Visit Avignon on our Luxury Walking in the Luberon holiday

  • Constructed: 1234
  • Closed: Approx. 1644
  • Material: Stone
  • Location: Avignon, Provence 
  • Original Length: 900m
  • Current Length: 120m
  • Height: 25m
  • Worth knowing: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge attracts over 300,000 visitors per year.

3 - Garabit Viaduct

Garabit Viaduct - By Graeme Churchard - Own work, CC BY 2.0
Garabit Viaduct - By Graeme Churchard - Own work, CC BY 2.0

Instantly recognisable as the work of Gustave Eiffel; the Garabit Viaduct crosses the River Truyère on the rail route between Marvejols and Neussargues. 

At the time of construction it was the worlds highest bridge at 124 meters. 

Unusually there was no tender process for the construction, with the project going straight to Eiffel based on his work on the similar Maria Pia Bridge in Porto.

  • Constructed: 1882 to 1884
  • Opened: 1885
  • Material: Wrought iron
  • Location: Ruynes-en-Margeride, Cantal
  • Length: 565m
  • Height: 124m
  • Worth knowing: The bridge featured in the 1976 film 'The Cassandra Crossing'

4 - Fades viaduct

Fades viaduct - By Jean Michel
Fades viaduct - By Jean Michel

Still in the top 20 tallest railway bridges in the world, at the time of construction the Fades Viaduct was the worlds tallest in every category. 

Built to complete the Tulle-Clermont and Montluçon-Gannat railway, until its recent closure, trains ran across the Sioule River on a steel truss platform on top of quarried granite piers.

  • Constructed: 1901 to 1909
  • Opened: 10 October 1909
  • Material: Granite, steel
  • Location: Les Ancizes-Comps, Puy-de-Dôme
  • Length: 470m
  • Height: 132m

5 - Briare aqueduct

Briare aqueduct - By Michel CLAIR - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5
Briare aqueduct - By Michel CLAIR - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5

Allowing the Canal latéral à la Loire to cross the Loire river; the Pont-canal de Briare only lost it's title of world's longest aqueduct when the Magdeburg Water Bridge opened in 2003. 

Gustave Eiffel had a hand in the construction, producing the fourteen masonry piers. In exceptionally cold weather the 2.2 meter deep trough can be drained into the Loire below to prevent damage.

  • Constructed: 1890 to 1896 
  • Opened: 16 September 1896
  • Material: Massonry piers, steel trough
  • Location: Briare, Loiret
  • Length: 662m
  • Width: 6m
  • Worth knowing: The steel channel contains more than 13,000 tonnes of water

6 - Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf - By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0
Pont Neuf - By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0

We couldn't create a list of our favourite bridges in France without including at least one in Paris. The 2 spans of Le Pont Neuf (one on each side of the Île de la Cité) are the oldest to cross the Seine in Paris. 

The name literally means the 'new bridge' which it was at the time of construction, it has remained whilst all the older bridges have been replaced.

Find out more about Belle France holidays to Paris.

  • Constructed: 1578 to 1607
  • Opened: 1607
  • Material: Stone
  • Location: Paris
  • Length: 232m
  • Height: 22m
  • Worth knowing: In 1985, modern artist 'Christo' wrapped the bridge in more than 40,000m2 of fabric.

7 - Gignac Bridge

Gignac Bridge - By Serge Panabière
Gignac Bridge - By Serge Panabière

Spanning the Hérault River, the Gignac bridge was designated a national monument in 1950. 

Described as the 'the most beautiful bridge of the 18th century' traffic over the bridge has been much reduced since the opening of the new Languedoc Bridge on the A750 a couple of hundred meters downstream. 

Construction of the bridge was delayed due to the French Revolution before completion in 1810.

  • Constructed: 1776 to 1810  
  • Opened: 1810
  • Material: Dressed limestone 
  • Location: Gignac, Hérault
  • Length: 175m
  • Height: 20m
  • Worth knowing: The Michelin Green Guide describes it as "The finest 18C bridge in France because of its daring design and the beauty of its architectural lines"

8 - Pont Valentré

Pont Valentré - By Accrochoc, CC BY-SA 3.0
Pont Valentré - By Accrochoc, CC BY-SA 3.0

The 14th century Pont Valentré took 70 years to construct. Legend has it that construction took so long, the foreman signed a pact with the devil to complete the job. 

Designed to be it's own fortress, the 3 defensive towers never actually saw combat. A likeness of the bridge has been adopted by the town of Cahors as the city emblem. 

The nearby pumping station houses a museum detailing the history of the bridge.

Visit Cahors on our Compostela Trail Walking Holiday

  • Constructed: 1308 to 1378
  • Opened: 1350
  • Material: Stone
  • Location: Cahors, Lot
  • Length: 138m
  • Height: 40m (Tower height)
  • Worth knowing: Restoration was performed between 1867 and 1879 by the architect and head of the historic monuments of France, Paul Gout.

9 - Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard - By Benh Lieu Song - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Pont du Gard - By Benh Lieu Song - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The 3rd most visited attraction in France (after the Eiffel Tower & Mont St Michel) this Roman aqueduct consists of 3 tiers crossing the Gardon River. Origianlly built to carry water along the 50km long Nîmes aqueduct.

Until the bridge was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1985, you could still drive across the lower tier.

Visit the Pont du Gard on our Provence Prestige à Pied holiday

  • Constructed: 40-60AD Approx.
  • Material: Limestone
  • Location: Vers-Pont-du-Gard, Gard
  • Length: 275m
  • Height: 49m