Bridge of Vizcaya

The Bridge of Vizcaya also known as Portugalete Bridge is the amazing feat of engineering that spans the width of the Ibaizabal estuary, just west of Bilbao.

Designed by the Basque architect Alberto de Palacio and completed in 1893, stands 45-m-high and 160m wide. It features a mix of 19th-century iron working traditions with the then-new lightweight techniques of twisted steel ropes.

It was the first such bridge to carry both people and traffic on a high suspended gondola and served as the inspiration for many similar bridges in Europe, Africa, and America.

Because of its unique design, it is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding architectural achievements of the Industrial Revolution and was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006.

Vizcaya Bridge

Where is the Bridge of Vizcaya

The Bridge unites the two shores of the what is known as the ría de Bilbao (or The Idiazabal estuary). The western shore belongs to the villa de Portugalete y and the eastern shore to the city of Getxo. It is located 13 km north of the center of Bilbao, at the mouth of the estuary.

History of the Bridge of Vizcaya 

During the XIX century, the port of Bilbao was also quickly becoming one of the most important and busy ports in the country and therefore the estuary was becoming a highway for arriving and departing ships, and merchants were searching for a more efficient way to get goods across the river.

Also, bathing in saltwater was becoming a bit of a fad and was thought to be a good practice to improve one’s health. As a consequence affluent residents of Bilbao would flock to the shore every chance they got. But weekenders needed a means of quickly getting across the estuary to access the most fashionable spas and beaches, on the other shore.

To solve the dilemma Alberto Palacio designed a bridge that could get people and products across quickly but didn’t interrupt the steady flow of ships heading down river or out to sea. And thus, the first hanging bridge was invented. The bridge consisted of a metal structure, from which a gondola hung that was pulled from one shore to the other. This way ships could sail freely and the gondola would cross the river whenever there was an opening in the traffic.

How to get to the Bridge of Vizcaya? 

The bridge is accessible from both shores. If you are traveling by car, it will take about 20 minutes to get there from the center of Bilbao or from, for example, the Guggenheim Museum.

You can also take the Metro (subway). Just take line 2 to Portugalete station. From there you have a 15-minute walk before you arrive at the bridge. If you prefer to arrive on the western shore, take line one to Areeta station, from there you will have to walk 800 meters.

Visit the Bridge of Vizcaya

It is important to note that the bridge is still used daily by thousands of locals as a means of getting across the Ria de Bilbao. The gondola continually crosses the river 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If you want to buy a ticket to cross, you can do so. The ticket costs 0.45€ a person or 1,60€ if you are crossing with a vehicle, and the trip takes about 90 seconds.

If you want a more in-depth look at the bridge you can also buy a tourist pass. This pass will allow you to cross the bridge on foot, over the steel structure, and get back on the gondola. This option will cost you 9€ per person and 2€ extra is you want to rent an audio guide. If you choose this option, you can do so between 10:00 am to 19:00 in winter and 20:00 in summer.

This option will allow you to leisurely explore the bridge, take pictures, and enjoy one of the most unique and exhilarating views in all of Bilbao.

Video tour of the Bridge of Vizcaya

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