Puente Bizkaia – Portugalete and Las Arenas – Spain

The Bizkaia Bridge, opened on 28th July 1893, was the first transporter bridge in the world built with a metal structure. It stands at the mouth of the river Ibaizabal, at the point where the navigable estuary of Bilbao opened out to the sea up to the 19th century, and was designed for its great iron body to link the localities of Portugalete and Getxo, one of the banks steep and rocky and the other low and sandy. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007.

All Iron Bizkaia. The Iron Trail

ALL IRON BIZKAIA. Burdinaren Ibilbidea, the Iron Trail, is a project led by the Bizkaia bridge which seeks to help publicise the landscapes of the Bilbao estuary, using the unifying concept of the iron trail. In this way the bridge is abiding by its commitment to the good practices in the 6C strategy laid down in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, by publicising the whole culture of iron and promoting responsible tourism on this basis.

Co-financed by Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia, the Bizkaia provincial authority assistance for promoting and developing the Bilbao-Bizkaia destination in 2018.


The origins of the bridge date back to the end of the 19th century. The Bizkaia Bridge was built to link the two sides of the mouth of the Nervión without hindering shipping in one of the busiest river ports in Europe.

The design was the work of Alberto Palacio Elissague, also known for his part in the building of the crystal palace in the Retiro park in Madrid. The French engineer Ferdinand Joseph Arnodin took charge of construction, and the Bilbao textile magnate Santos López de Letona was the main backer and financier of the project.

An architect from Bizkaia province, Alberto de Palacio, assessed the different options available: gondolas, swing bridges of all kinds, lifting bridges, bascule bridges and so on. Finally, he ruled all of them out after technical analysis, before deciding on the invention he called the Palacio Transporter Bridge.

The Bizkaia Bridge was the brilliant result of combining two different technological innovations: modern suspension bridge engineering developed in the mid-19th century and large mechanical vehicles powered by steam engines. This meant it was hailed from the start as the triumphal arch of the new industrial civilisation.

Work began in 1890, and it was finally opened on 28th July 1893.

The bridge in figures

  • Distance between towers: 160 metres

  • Gondola crossing time: 90 seconds

  • Weight: 400 tonnes

  • Length of gondola: 15 x 10.4 metres

  • Height of the towers: 61 metres

  • Height of the platform over the water: 45 metres

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Credits and intellectual property

Top picture: CC BY 4.0 (Creative Commons) Javierme

Gallery 1: Archivo Histórico Foral de Bizkaia / Bizkaiko Foru Agiritegi Historikoaren (AHFB/BFAH) / ©El Transbordador de Vizcaya S.L.

Gallery 2: ©El Transbordador de Vizcaya S.L. / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Creative Commons) Gorkaazk / ©Gabriel Portell Torres / CC BY-SA 4.0 (Creative Commons) Ebaki / CC BY 2.0 (Creative Commons) Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela / CC0 (Creative Commons) Zarateman

Video: ©Sabin Egilior