If you are heading off for a driving holiday in France or even further to Spain this summer make sure you plan your route via the Millau Viaduct, one of Europe’s most astonishing modern structures.
It is a cable-stayed bridge spanning more than one and a half miles (2,460m) across the River Tarn gorge near Millau in southern France.
It is the tallest bridge in the world, with one mast’s summit at 343.0 metres (1,125.3 ft) above the base of the structure.
Many people in these parts describe it as the eighth wonder of the world.
It was designed by the English architect Sir Norman Foster and French structural engineer Dr Michel Virlogeux, and the road deck carries you almost 900 feet in the air along the A75-A71 autoroute from Paris to Béziers and Montpellier.
Plan your driving holiday in France around the Millau Viaduct
The crossing is simply breathtaking, it will make your day, and it has chopped hours of frustration from the long journey south to the sun (and back home again).
The only way to enjoy the view from the top is from your car as it is inaccessible to pedestrians as it is part of the motorway network.
However, the most convenient place to get a good photo of the viaduct is at the motorway services just north of the bridge (Aire du Viaduc) where there is a special viewing area a short walk from the car park.
The food at this place is significantly better, though slightly pricier, than the average motorway fare, too, the restaurant specialises in delicious local sausages and aligot (cheesy mash!).
The toll charge to cross the bridge is €5.60 for cars, rising to €7.40 during the peak summer months of July and August. But you will agree, it is money incredibly well spelt.
The cost of construction was approximately €394 million and it was built over three years and opened to traffic on December 16, 2004.
And, if you need to ask for directions don’t get confused, the French pronounce Millau as “Meow”, like a cat. As far as they are concerned the structure is the Viaduc de Meow!
Catch Millau’s record-breaking structure on your driving holiday in France
The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time, and received the 2006 Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
The Millau Viaduct set a number of construction records:
- The highest pylons in the world: pylons P2 and P3, 244.96 metres (803 ft 8 in) and 221.05 metres (725 ft 3 in) in height respectively, broke the French record previously held by the Tulle and Verrières viaducts (141 metres or 463 feet), and the world record previously held by the Kochertal Viaduct (Germany), which is 181 metres (594 ft) at its highest;
- The highest bridge tower in the world: the mast atop pylon P2 peaks at 343 metres (1,125 ft);
- The highest road bridge deck in Europe, 270 metres (890 ft) above the Tarn River at its highest point; it is nearly twice as tall as the previous tallest vehicular bridges in Europe.
However, since opening, the deck height of Millau has been surpassed by several suspension bridges in China.
Need tips and advice for your driving holiday in France?
If you are heading for Millau here are some driving tips to read and make sure your motor insurance is up to speed for the long trip.