The structure at Arouca Geopark spans 516 metres and hangs 175 metres above the river Paiva in north of the country
People living nearby hope the Arouca bridge will reinvigorate the local economy, which has been affected by coronavirus. Photograph: Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters
The Guardian-Staff and agencies in Arouca
First published on Thu 29 Apr 2021 21.21 BST
The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge has been completed in northern Portugal, where residents of the nearby town hope the tourist attraction will help revive a region whose economy was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hidden between rock-strewn mountains covered with lush greenery and yellow flowers inside the Unesco-recognised Arouca Geopark, the 516 metres (1,700 feet) bridge hangs 175 metres above the fast-flowing River Paiva.
Before Sunday’s official opening ceremony, people from the nearby town of Arouca were on Thursday allowed to walk over the megastructure’s see-through metal grids.
Hugo Xavier was the first person to muster the courage to make the crossing
“I was a little afraid, but it was so worth it,” a relieved Xavier said on the other side. “It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.”
Rui Brandao said he avoided looking down – but still recommended the experience.
“I strongly advise you to come even if, like me, you have vertigo,” he said. “I have to say I haven’t felt it at all.”
“The inauguration is important because it will enable us to resume our tourist activities,” Arouca’s mayor, Margarida Belem, told AFPTV.
The bridge, which took around two years to build, was a “fundamental attraction” for the region, she added.
“It is a breath of fresh air for our land because it will attract more investment, more people,” said a local tour guide named Emanuel, adding that the region’s population was rapidly ageing as many young people moved to big cities. “It will bring a new dynamic to Arouca.”
The structure, baptised “Arouca 516”, crosses the steep Paiva River gorge, which is already strung with 8km (5 miles) of wooden walkways.
“I live round here and when I first heard about the bridge project, I didn’t really believe it,” said Macio Soares.
“But today I’m very proud to be here … it’s a unique experience,” he added.
Arouca 516 breaks the record for the longest pedestrian suspension bridge, held since 2017 by the Charles Kuonen Bridge at Randa, in the Swiss Alps.