Hugo Xavier is one of the first to cross the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. Near his small hometown of Arouca in northern Portugal, he stands on the platform that merges into the metal grid path of the 516-meter-long bridge – and collects all his courage. The fast flowing Paiva river shimmers 175 meters below. “Oh … here we go,” says the 42-year-old and enters the building with his equally jittery partner and a tour guide.
The bridge, named »516 Arouca«, hangs hidden between the mountains covered with lush greenery and yellow flowers in the Unesco-recognized Arouca Geopark, about 60 kilometers southeast of Porto. On Thursday it was only open to residents, from Monday everyone can book a visit. Held by steel cables and two massive towers on each side, the lattice path wobbles a little with every step. “I was a bit scared, but it was so worth it,” says a relieved Xavier on the other side. “It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.”
The »516 Arouca« cost around 2.3 million euros and took around two years to build. Locals hope the attraction will help revitalize the region, especially after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s a breath of fresh air for our country because it will attract more investment and more people,” said tour guide Emanuel, adding that the region is aging rapidly as many young people move to the big cities. “It will bring a new dynamic to Arouca.”
The bridge is part of a larger strategy to encourage more people to move to and stay in the region, says Arouca Mayor Margarida Belém. “There were many challenges that we had to overcome. But we did it, ”she told Reuters. “There is no other bridge like this in the world.”
So far, the record as the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world has been held by the Charles Kuonen Bridge near Randa in the Swiss Alps. The 494 meter long structure at a height of 85 meters on the eastern side of the Mattertal was opened at the end of July 2017. In front of the Swiss bridge, the Titan RT in Saxony-Anhalt had the title for a short time: The 483-meter-long rope bridge hangs next to the Rappbodetalsperre in the Harz Mountains and was released in May 2017.