… a surprising work which perfectly combines beauty, aesthetics and functionality

The Vizcaya Bridge (Puente Bizkaia) was inaugurated on 28 July 1893 as the first transporter bridge in the world built of metal. Its main purpose is to link the two banks of the Nervión Estuary, occupied respectively by the towns of Portugalete and Getxo near Bilbao in northern Spain. Reminiscent of the elegant structures of the Eiffel Tower, the bridge was a joint design between the architect Alberto de Palacio and the engineer-builder Ferdinand Arnodin, a disciple of none other than Eiffel himself.

The structure is made of four 61 metres high iron towers linked by a cross beam 160 meters in length at 45 metres above the Ibaizabal estuary. The transport of vehicles and passengers is carried out by a hanging carriage, or gondola, which is suspended from a 25 metres long 36-wheel trolley which travels along the rails of the horizontal section. It operates around the clock, throughout the year, as a regular service for ferrying passengers and vehicles, with a daily average of 16,300 foot-passengers and 1,200 vehicles.

At time of compeltion, its full construction consisted of 21,041 bolts, 88,248 kg of steel cabling, 10,629 rivets and 728,447 kg of laminated steel. The bridge’s total cost amounted to 808,911.60 pesetas.

 

The gondola approaching Getxo
The gondola approaching Getxo

Industrial World Heritage

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 13th July 2006, the Vizcaya Bridge is the first hanging transporter bridge in the world and one of the outstanding architectural iron constructions of the Industrial Revolution. It combines iron technology evolved for railways with the innovative technology of lightweight, twisted steel cables, a technique that impacted bridge construction around the world.

The Bridge was inscribed for its outstanding universal values, such as its spectacular and aesthetically pleasant addition to the river estuary, and for its exceptional expression of technical creativity reflecting a completely satisfactory relationship between form and function. In other words, a surprising work which perfectly combines beauty, aesthetics and functionality. By developing the shuttle mechanism and its fusion of iron technology with the use of new steel cables it created a new form of construction which influenced the development of bridges throughout the world.
(Puente Bizkaia/UNESCO)

 

Back to Portugalete
Back to Portugalete
Suspended in the air
Suspended in the air
The the walkway
The the walkway

 

Visit the bridge

Paid access via the elevator up to the pedestrian walkway 45 metres above the river. The ticket also includes a return ticket with the carriage. Audio guides are available in Basque, French, English and Spanish.

(NB! Access to the walkway only from the Getxo side – as of December 2016).

From Bilbao take the metro from San Mamés to Areeta (recommended) or Portugalete. It’s a 10-minute walk from either metro stops.

A view up the Nervión (Ibaizabal estuary), in the direction of Bilbao
A view up the Nervión (Ibaizabal estuary), in the direction of Bilbao

SOURCES & CREDITS
All photos © Asgeir Pedersen, Heredajo
Getxo Tourism
Puente Bizkaia
Bilbao Tourism
UNESCO