At the time of its opening in 1963, the Arrábida Bridge was the largest concrete bridge in the world. The 70m tall arch bridge crosses the Douro River between Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto, in northern Portugal. The bridge carries 6 lanes of vehicle traffic and spans 270 metres.
The bridge was designed by Edgar Cardoso as a response to the increasing amount of traffic wanting to cross the river. It was built during the rein of dictator Paiva Couceiros. During this period Porto saw a high level of investment and development. The bridge had a high construction cost and a number of homes had to be demolished to make way for it. At least four people died during the construction. This number could be much higher. It is rumoured that the government allowed the river to carry bodies away, rather than pay for funerals and officially report the deaths. Building such revolutionary structures often comes at high cost, which is more easily ignored in dictatorship regimes.
The Arrabida Bridge originally had 4 elevators for pedestrians to access the bridge from street level to walk across it. Many residents were so impoverished during the 1960s that they simply climbed one side of the bridge and slid down the other to avoid paying the fee for the elevators. These closed in the 1990s.
Climbing the Arrábida Bridge
Today a local company, Porto Bridge Climb, offers guided climbs of the bridge. The tour includes a knowledgeable guide, fantastic views and a harness and safety equipment. Climbing the Arrabida Bridge is a unique activity and the attraction is definitely worth visiting when in Porto. This attraction is only around a 30 minute walk from Ribeira, which is the heart of the old town. We chose to climb the bridge in the evening. This gave us the advantage of the views in both daylight and during sunset. Many of Porto’s visitor attractions are closed in the evening, so this also gave us the opportunity to make the most of our time in the city.
Last Updated on 10 February 2022 by Michael