Long Bien Bridge

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Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi Overview

Built in 1898 by French Colonists, the Long Bien Bridge is an iconic landmark of Vietnam. The now-rusted wrought iron structure has lived through the American War and is (mostly) intact. It offers a spectacular view as you cross the river and get a bird's eye view of Hoan Kiem district. The incredible panorama makes this a great spot for photography and nature enthusiasts.

Built between 1899 and 1902, the bridge was designed by legendary architect Gustav Eiffel, recognized for his work on the Eiffel tower, and was constructed by the Vietnamese people using domestic materials. Long Bien Bridge is the only railway bridge with a pedestrian pathway, so make sure to take peaceful strolls on the bridge to acknowledge the perseverance and bravery of the Hanoians during the Vietnam War. The bridge encapsulates the bravery and hardship of the Hanoians but also exemplifies freedom and independence.

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Structure and Architecture

Built with 5,300 tonnes of steel, similar to the material used to build the Eiffel Tower, the Long Bien Bridge is sustained by 20 piers and spans over a length of 2.5 km making it the most prominent structure in Gia Lam and Hoan Kiem, the districts of Hanoi on both sides of the bridge. The bridge was the first steel structure built on the Red River and its incredibly rich history and distinctive architecture make it one of Hanoi's most compelling landmarks

Long Bien Bridge Walk

Walking across the Long Bien Bridge is an experience like no other. The sights and smells of the bridge are a welcoming break from the hustle and bustle in Hanoi city. Long Bien Bridge was built over a 100 years ago so it is important to remain cautious while walking, as the sidewalks are lined with small holes. With a distance of 1.6 km, the spans of the bridge are impressive and provide a spectacular view of the Red River. 

Tourists can also explore the beauty and charm of Long Bien Bridge by bike and catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the locals who return home on their bikes after a hard day's work. At the riverbank, you can bargain with the fishermen and sellers and enjoy some good quality fish at a great price. Walking across the Long Bien Bridge is an attraction that every tourist needs to experience to truly understand the culture and history of the Hanoian people.

History of The Long Bien Bridge

The Long Bien Bridge was formerly known as 'Doumer Bridge', named after the Governor-General of French Indochina at that time. It came to be known as Long Bien Bridge in later years, as it helped the Vietnamese transport rice to Dien Bien Phu with ease during the Indochina War, allowing them to win their independence from France in 1954. The French surrendered their weapons and marched across the bridge signifying the end of the battle.

Long Bien Bridge and the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi was a prominent target for US bombers as it was the only bridge that spanned across the Red River. In the spring of 1965, the Americans aerially bombarded the bridge in a scheme known as "Operation Rolling Thunder" which used anti-aircraft guns that were linked to the bridge towers. The bridge suffered fixable damages, as it was struck only on a few occasions. However, in August 1967 the main span completely ruptured and the rail link became inaccessible. The shrapnel and bullet holes are still visible to this day. During the eight-month reconstruction period an alternative form of transportation was built, a floating bridge, known as SH1 (Song Hong 1). This bridge maintained important rail transport connections between Hanoi and Gia Lam. In May 1972, Nixon's "Operation Linebacker" caused collateral damage to the bridge by using new laser "smart" bombs. Their main aim was to break down the crucial Hanoi transport system. The Americans tore down three more spans at four different times dismantling the vital link. A secondary pontoon bridge called the SH2 (Song Hong 2) was constructed between the capital and the north. Four spans and one vital column were destroyed during the Vietnam War. After the Paris Peace Treaty, the bridge was rebuilt from the remnants using steel provided by the USSR.

Significance to the Locals

The Long Bien Bridge is a symbol of the determination and perseverance of the Vietnamese people. With a history of wars that spanned over many decades, the bridge was bombed many times, most notably by the Americans in 1967 and 1972 which destroyed numerous bridge abutments. The Vietnamese courageously defended their bridge and, after enduring numerous attacks which leave only half its structure standing today, the Long Bien Bridge reminds us of the tenacity of its people. In the early 20th century, the Long Bien Bridge proved an important route that helped advance commercial transport. Trains and convoys transported numerous items such as vegetables, plants and coal and a pathway allowed cyclists to travel to other cities for work or leisure.

Important Information

  • You can rent a motorbike to drive through Long Bien Bridge but make sure to drive on the left-hand side. Biking tours on the bridge are very famous as they offer insight into the ancient heritage and contemporary culture of Hanoi.
  • For those who love warm weather, don't forget to bring tubs of sunscreen and wear protective hats to prevent your skin from the harsh sun.
  • While walking on the bridge, make sure to be careful of your belongings at all times, as there is always a case of pickpocketing. The bridge still has bullet holes, so be sure to hold on to the railing if you walk closer to the side of the bridge.
  • It would be advisable to come here with a local Hanoian who knows about the rich historical background of the bridge.
  • There are many photography tours that will give you an opportunity to take the best pictures. A great spot is at the centre of the bridge where there is a cluster of lush green trees that are perfect for beautiful candid pictures.
  • Take advantage of the evening Long Bien Bridge Marke where vendors sell fresh fruit salads like Hoa qua dam and traditional yet mouthwatering desserts like caramel pudding (Hang Than).

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