World Heritage

Thanks to the investments and private initiative, on 13th July 2006 in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, the World Committee of UNESCO declared the Vizcaya Hanging Bridge a World Heritage Site based on the following criteria:

Considering the Bridge as a spectacular and aesthetically pleasant addition to the river estuary and an exceptional expression of technical creativity reflecting a completely satisfactory relationship between form and function. In other words, a surprising work which perfectly combines beauty, aesthetics and functionality.

By developing the shuttle mechanism and its fusion of iron technology with the use of new steel cables it created a new form of construction which influenced the development of bridges throughout the world.


Todo tiene un comienzo


fusión entre tecnologias

With this recognition, the Vizcaya Hanging Bridge become the First World Heritage Site in the Basque Country, as well as the First Industrial Heritage Site recognised in Spain.

The World Heritage programme seeks to catalogue, preserve and promote sites of outstanding cultural or natural significance for the common inheritance of Humanity. There are currently 851 World Heritage Sites worldwide, forty one of which are in Spain.

The Bridge’s World Heritage Site Declaration was entered on 23rd May 2007 , together with the operating concession in the Property Register of Portugalete.

Universal Inheritance

The Vizcaya Hanging Bridge is one of the most outstanding constructions from the European Industrial Revolution and of iron architecture. Its monumental structure of metallic lattice and steel cables represents one of the best successes of late 19th century engineering and marvellous innovation in the known means of transport.

The Vizcaya Hanging Bridge synthesises the new technological advances in iron architecture and railways at its time in order to create an original, beautiful, harmonious invention capable of solving the transport requirements and adapted to a location with difficult orography and with complex naval shipping problems.

This bridge, assembly in 1893, totally representative of certain materials and with a unique technique and aesthetics from the past, has always been in a perfect state of repair and has never stopped functioning and still performs its initial objective with extraordinary efficiency. Its exceptional universal value also derives from being the first hanging shuttle bridge constructed in the world and has been used as the direct model or source of inspiration for many other bridges with similar characteristics in Africa, Europe and America, and is still the best conserved out of all of them. It is a pioneering means of transport in its conception and its long useful life has maintained its efficiency right up to the present day.

The Vizcaya Hanging Bridge also represents the high point of a long cultural tradition linked to the preparation and use of iron from Vizcaya. Iron has been intensively exploited since Roman times and throughout history has made a significant contribution to the growth of all of the European Atlantic countries and played a decisive role in the development of agriculture, mining and industry in Spanish colonial America.

The Vizcaya Hanging Bridge is situated next to one of Europe’s most important historical iron deposits, from which over 50 million cubic metres of mineral have been extracted and which was at its highest output at the time the Bridge was being built. Since the 13th century iron from these mines was exported in abundance to the markets of France, England and Holland and in the 16th century over 300 hydraulic iron works in the Basque Country distributed their metal products pretty much without competition not only in Spain and European markets, but to all of the new Spanish colonies in the American continent.

Up until the 18th century all of America was colonised with axes, ploughs and picks forged with Basque iron as throughout the Spanish overseas territories it was prohibited to build forges. In the middle of the 19th century the new production and exchange technique of the Industrial Revolution made the export and transformation of the iron mineral a main motor behind Basque economic development and at the mouth of the Ibaizabal river was born an extraordinary industrial landscape of iron works, ship builders, railway works, mines and port harbours, amongst which the Vizcaya Hanging Bridge stood out from the beginning as its main symbol and the most ambitious representative of the renewed iron culture.

Apart from its symbolism and historical representativeness, its construction characteristics, its size and its proportions converted it into a beautiful and unique reference image throughout the region. Furthermore, its aesthetic force and its importance as transport infrastructure has meant that it has had a notable influence on the entire urban setting.