10 best bridge walks around the world

sydney harbour bridgeAround there globe, there are many amazing bridges that combine interesting history, incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Crossing a great bridge, especially on foot, can be quite a memorable experience, not to mention it’s completely free. While it is hard to choose only ten, here is a list of some of the best bridge walks around the world that everyone should experience.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney, Australia

When it comes to the Sydney Harbour Bridge you have a few options. You can either walk across the arch-shaped structure from one end to the other, taking in views of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, or you can climb to the top. In 2010, climbing the bridge was actually rated one of the World’s Top Ten Experiences by Lonely Planet. During the climb, which takes you up more than 300 feet, you will be given protective clothing to aid against the weather and will be secured by a wire lifeline. Beginning at the eastern side of the bridge, climbers will ascend to the summit and go down on the western end.Charles Bridge
Prague, Czech Republic

The historic Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and is about 1,700 feet long. Its construction began in 1357 under the sponsorship of King Charles IV. Today, the bridge is a lively attraction, with artists, entertainers, and marketers catering to tourists during the day. In the evening, the setting is a bit more peaceful and the bridge and Prague Castle are lit up, giving the structure an entirely different vibe. During both times, you will get great views of the city and its sites.

Brooklyn Bridge
New York, USA

One of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn and goes over the East River, giving walkers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. The main span of the structure is about 1,600 feet and is not only an icon of New York but also a National Historic Landmark. The bridge has been used during many situations by New Yorker’s to leave Manhattan on foot, such as during the blackouts of 1965, 1977, and 2003, as well as after the infamous 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

henderson waves bridgeHenderson Waves Bridge
Singapore, South East Asia

The Henderson Waves Bridge is an 899-foot long pedestrian bridge that connects Mount Faber Park with Telok Blangah Hill Park. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, sitting 118 feet above Henderson Road. What makes this bridge so special is it’s unique curved design, making it look similar to a roller coaster, with hidden alcoves and seats inside. Make sure to experience this bridge at night in between 7PM and 2AM when the LED lights are on.

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy

The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval arch bridge that spans the Arno River. It’s most famous for still having shops on it, as was once very common. Stroll across the bridge while perusing the goods of artisans, jewelers, and souvenir sellers while taking photos of Renaissance architecture. The bridge also has a bit of an ironic history. After being destroyed by floods and being rebuilt multiple times, it is the only bridge in Florence not destroyed during WWII.

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Montreal, Canada

The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a steel truss bridge that gives people access to Montreal Island, St. Helen’s Island, and Longueuil. It spans the Saint Lawrence River and walking over it will give you spectacular views of Montreal, especially at night. In the summer the bridge closes to vehicular traffic for the annual fireworks competition held at La Ronde, with the Jacques Cartier being the best viewing spot for the show, sometimes drawing more than 50,000 people.

golden gate bridgeThe Golden Gate Bridge
California, USA

The Golden Gate Bridge in a suspension bridge that spans the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean (also known as the Golden Gate) and connects San Francisco to Marin County. It has been declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers and has been said to be “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world” by Frommer’s travel guide.

Tower Bridge
London, United Kingdon

While the stroll across the Tower Bridge is short, the views make this a must-experience. Often mistakenly referred to as the London Bridge, the structure holds two towers that are connected by two horizontal walkways. For a bit of an adventurous experience, go inside the towers to explore the exhibits of film, photos, and interactive displays. Then, walk across via the upper walkway for photo-worthy views of the Thames River and London’s famous sites.

Pont D’iéna
Paris, France

Of course, a bridge that gives views of the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot Palace would have to be included in this list. The Pont D’iéna spans the Seine River and connects the Left Bank, where the Eiffel Tower is, to the district of Trocadéro on the Right Bank. Where the bridge begins on the Left Bank you will get the feeling that you are at a small fair, with the festive atmosphere and carousel ride. As you walk along, you can also see sculptures of warriors that were put there in 1853.

magdeburg water bridge germany Magdeburg Water Bridge
Magdeburg, Germany

The Magdeburg Water Bridge is a navigable aquaduct connecting Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittellandkanal. This unique bridge crosses the Elbe River and, at 3,012 feet, is the longest navigable aquaduct in the world. Basically, this bridge is a raised body of water that sits over another body of water, which can be a pretty interesting sight (as you can see in the photo on the right from Wikipedia). Snap pictures of the German countryside while watching the ships as they pass by.

Sydney’s Chinatown means cheap eats, Australian seafood, famous noodles

“NOOOOOOOO!”

That’s the sound of me, arriving at Chinese Noodle Restaurant (Shop 7, 8 Quay St.), in Sydney’s Chinatown/Haymarket district. Two years I’d waited, eight thousand miles I’d traveled, to feast upon my beloved #4 pork noodle combo. Instead I found the following handwritten sign:

“Dear Customers, We will be closed…for kitchen renovation. We apologize for any inconvienience” The restaurant was scheduled to re-open the day after I returned home. What the hell was I going to do?

The answer, it turned out, was drown my sorrows in roti and cendol (an addictive concoction of coconut milk, palm sugar, and rice flour jelly) at Mamak, a newish, affordable Malaysian restaurant down the street. And it was good. So good, I returned three times in as many days. As the song goes, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

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As for my #4 obsession, allow me to explain why a plate of spicy, saucy ground pork atop dense, chewy noodles keeps me awake nights (I have issues, I know). These aren’t just any noodles. Chinese Noodle Restaurant specializes in hand-pulled wheat noodles from the northwestern Xinjiang province. Owner/chef Cin (like Cher, he goes by one name) hails from the region, and each day, he can be observed in the tiny kitchen, working his magic with ropey lengths of dough.

I don’t know about post-remodel, but in the seven years that I’ve been eating at CNR, the small, dingy dining room didn’t have much else in the way of decor, aside from some plastic grapevines–the kind you see in cheap Italian joints–festooning the walls. Because that totally makes sense in a Chinese restaurant. Anyway, it didn’t matter, because it’s all about Cin’s food. It’s not just me: one friend, a business traveler, is manic about getting her pork dumplings en route to and from the airport, and another, a chef from Port Macquarie up north, also hits the dumplings whenever he’s in town.

While CNR obviously has a cult following, there is something to be said for an open relationship. I’ve often referred to Haymarket as the “Disneyland of Chinatowns,” because of its wide, clean streets, tidy shops, and orderly throngs of locals and tourists. Sussex St. is the main thoroughfare, but the compact district has dozens of great markets, food court stalls, and restaurants to choose from. I lived in the Bay Area for many years, and while San Francisco’s Chinatown is a must-visit tourist attraction, it’s not where you’ll get the best Asian food (that would be the Richmond district), and the heaving crowds are off-putting. Oakland’s Chinatown has some fantastic Vietnamese holes-in-the-wall, but it’s seriously lacking in atmosphere. And other Chinatowns across the planet–New York, Vancouver, Honolulu, Buenos Aires–all are fascinating in their own right, but to me, Sydney trumps them all.

It’s not just the close proximity to Sydney’s CBD, and many other city attractions like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge (both a 15 minute walk away), because San Francisco can rival that. And it’s merely a bonus that Haymarket has a lot of hostels (“backpackers”), some of them excellent and geared toward a more diverse demographic than the college crowd. FYI, Haymarket really comes alive at night, so it’s nice to have digs nearby, even if you opt for one of the high-end hotels in the CBD.

Aside from how pleasant it is to just wander the streets without being trampled or skidding out on a giant phlegm glob or errant puddle of urine, it’s the seafood that makes Sydney’s Chinatown special. Australia is famed for its indigenous flora and fauna, and that applies to seafood, as well. Australians and visitors alike prize sweet, meaty, mud crabs from Queensland, blue swimmer and spanner crabs, Moreton and Balmain “bugs” (slipper lobsters), freshwater crayfish like yabbies and marron, mild Sydney Rock oysters, King George whiting from South Australia, wild and farmed barramundi, farmed abalone and Australian salmon.

As an aside, if you visit the Sydney Fish Market in nearby Pyrmont, browsing the stalls can be likened to a jewelry store (if, like me, you prefer crustaceans to carats). Rows of brilliant, gem-colored catch glitter under the lights: sapphire-hued crabs, tiny, emerald-striped pipis (mollusks), ruby Coral Trout dotted with neon blue, psychedelically-splotched parrot fish. Over 100 species and 50 tons of seafood are auctioned and sold every day at the world’s second largest seafood market (next to Tokyo’s Tsukiji). There’s also a cooking school and tours of the auction floor and sashimi pavilion–something I highly recommend.

Back in Chinatown, Golden Century (393-399 Sussex St.) is the place for excellent, Hong Kong-style seafood, like salt-and-pepper squid and braised abalone. You select your dinner from the many tanks lining the front windows. Be prepared for your waiter to bring still-wriggling sea creatures to the table for your approval before dispatching them to the kitchen (I hope PETA isn’t reading this). This is the place to indulge in some first-rate Australian seafood, if you can spare the cash. Golden Century is also open until 4am, and a popular late night chef’s hang, should you have a drunken craving for congee and some local color in the wee hours.

Speaking of local color, the infamous B.B.Q. King (18 Goulburn St.) is a post-shift tradition for many of Sydney’s chefs and cooks. It’s also the ultimate drunken, post-clubbing/bar-trawling restaurant (open until 1am-ish, which might mean 3am), where plates of fried rice and roasted and barbecued duck and pork are cheap and plentiful. It’s located next to a porn shop, and the irony of the hanging carcasses and sides of meat in the restaurant windows never fails to amuse me. It’s an utter pit, the waiters are beyond surly, and the food is mediocre. Yet, I adore it. It’s one of those places that should only be patronized whilst ripped to the gills, but it’s a great little slice of late-night Sydney.

For cheap, no-frills, snacking, there’s Mother Chu’s Taiwanese Gourmet (86/88 Dixon St.). This family-owned restaurant is at the lower end of the Dixon St. pedestrian mall. It’s all about the outrageously delicious, made-to-order scallion pancakes, which are about a buck fifty a pop. I’ve never had luck with the entrees, but it’s popular with noodle soup and congee-loving locals. The staff are wonderful; you can watch women rolling out dough and stuffing dumplings. They’re not above giving you a bit of sass, either, so take some time to chat with them.

For higher end yum cha (dim sum, but the term technically refers to the full experience of drinking tea while dining on it), I loved the Regal. In June, it merged with Marigold (883/689 George St.), which I’ve consistently heard is very good.

You’ll find an array of more spendy, touristy restaurants along the mall (as well as annoying hawkers trying to lure you with menus). Save your dollars and instead head to Dixon House Food Court (corner of Dixon and Little Hay Streets.) or the Sussex Centre Food Court (401 Sussex St.). You’ll find the usual suspects in both: greasy steam-table Chinese noodle and rice dishes, but also tasty street food items, hot pot, Korean, and Malaysian food. In Dixon, try the pressed-to-order sugar cane juice, and bubble tea/Asian dessert stall.

Thai Kee Supermarket (399 Sussex St.) is great for any Asian ingredient you might desire (think canned and dried goods for souvenirs), as well as snacks like delightfully squishy rice and mung-bean sweets. Paddy’s Market is of historic importance, in that it’s been a Haymarket landmark for 150 years. Unfortunately, its current incarnation is a jam-packed, cacophonous multi-story mall/produce/household goods/souvenir market. If you feel the urge to purchase a fake Akubra hat or tacky t-shirt, this is the spot.

Whatever your budget, Haymarket is a vibrant distillation of the many Asian immigrant cultures that have made Australia their home, and for that alone, it’s worth a visit. I’ll see you at the noodle joint.