The Millau Viaduct over the Tarn valley is the tallest bridge in the world. At its highest point it is 343 metres tall, making the 2,460 metres long structure taller than the Eiffel Tower. At 270 metres above the Tarn, it is also twice as high as the previous highest road bridges in Europe.
This marvel of engineering near the town of Millau was conceived by French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the British architect Sir Norman Foster. It took 3 years to build and opened in 2004.
The cable-stayed bridge was built to relieve heavy congestion on the A75 motorway during the infamous holiday getaway from Paris to the south of France and Spain.
Although it looks light, the total mass of the structure is 36,000 tonnes. The builders financed the €394 million construction cost in return for a concession to collect the tolls for 75 years, until 2080. But if the concession brings in lots of money, the French government can take back control of the bridge as early as 2044.
Driving from Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois to the Millau Viaduct takes around 90 minutes (91 miles, 146 km). From Béziers the A75 motorway goes up north towards Clermont-Ferrand and the viaduct. The A75 is also the shortest and cheapest route between Paris and Béziers, should you be driving to Le Fort from Holland or Belgium.
The motorway is free, but there is a charge for crossing the bridge. A visitor centre with viewing platform is open in het aire du Viaduc de Millau near the toll plaza. For other things to see and do, restaurants and events near the Millau Viaduct, visit www.tourisme-aveyron.com.