The Ponte 25 de Abril or bridge of the 25th April is one of the landmarks of Lisbon. Large and proud it crosses the Tagus, but crossing the Ponte 25 de Abril by foot is almost impossible.
The Ponte 25 de Abril reminded us a little bit of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The colour of the painting and the truss-like stiffening elements lend themselves to that comparison. But if you look at the pylons, the trained eye can already see differences and, of course, the bridge in Lisbon is also much smaller than the one in San Francisco.
History of the bridge
For many years, the construction of a connecting bridge between the city centre and the town of Almada has been considered. In 1953 the planning slowly took shape, and in 1958 a government commission recommended the construction running from Lisbon’s south bank to Cristo Rei. It took another 4 years for construction to begin. Up to 3,000 workers were employed on the huge construction site. They installed countless tonnes of steel, imported from the United States. In August 1966, the bridge was completed, almost six months earlier than expected.
At first, the bridge was called Salazar Bridge, it got given its present name after the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974.
The Ponte 25 de Abril has a total length of 3.2 kilometres. The main opening has a base of 1012.88 meters, its two main pillars are 190 meters high. Together with the two side openings and the connection openings, the steel suspension bridge reaches a length of 2275.64 meters. In addition, a 937-meter long foreland bridge was needed on the north bank of the Tejos.
It was created as a prestressed concrete structure. The lanes of the bridge are about 70 meters above the water level. As early as the days of construction it was clear that an extension for a railway deck was to follow in the future. Between 1996 and 1999, this extension was installed under the lanes of the bridge. In addition, the road was also extended by two more lanes. Since this extension, the A2 / IP7 motorway crosses the bridge.
So, this is why the Ponte 25 de Abril cannot be crossed on foot. The cost of bridge construction amounted to about 2.2 billion Escudos and was to be financed by toll gates. The plan was to reduce or even abolish tolls after 20 years. This, however, was never implemented, instead, an increase of the tolls was decided. Today, the toll is only due travelling northbound (into town) and in August it is indeed free to cross the bridge in both directions.
So, how can the Ponte 25 de Abril be crossed on foot?
Since 1991, there is one day per year on which pedestrians are allowed on the bridge. Every year in March, the half-marathon takes place in the city and has its start on the bridge.
But do not worry, you do not have to run a half marathon to cross the bridge. A large crowd crosses the bridge as part of a 7.2 km fun run. “Run” in the broadest sense of the word. Everyone takes part in this spectacle, from actual runners attempting to master the 7.2 kilometres to grandma with the walking aid. But! You have to sign up for the race and pay starting fees.
But honestly this experience is really worth it and whoever makes it to the finish line is rewarded with a medal as a souvenir for this experience. Entering the bridge on foot there are two possibilities – number one: being stood on the narrow concrete strip or, number two: make your way over the metal grate. When you stand on the grate you can see not only the railway line underneath, in some places one can also look down to the Tagus. A very strange feeling.
It is quite crowded on the first few meters on the bridge and you hardly move forward at all, but that really does not matter. Who really had the goal of actually running was far in front and had no hold-up to deal with. Further back, people stop, take photos of the bridge, of themselves on the bridge, from the bridge … After climbing over the barrier in the middle of the road to change from one side to the other, a crazy good view of the Tagus and Lisbon awaits as a reward. Don’t forget to take more pictures!
It seemed as if half of Lisbon’s population crossed Ponte 25 de Abril on foot on that day. On other days there is no opportunity like this!