The Viaduc de Millau in Aveyron is an exceptional French road. A true architectural and technological feat, the viaduct is the tallest and longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.
Overhanging the Tarn from the top of its 343 meters (1140 feet), it allows the junction between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers on the A75 road. The panorama and the surrounding nature are remarkable.
The Viaduct du Millau, opened just 3 years of construction after the project was approved, celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2014.
Where is the Millau Viaduct located?
The Millau viaduct is the most spectacular link in La Méridienne road: the A75 motorway, connecting Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and Narbonne. It is the most straight forward and less itinerary route between Paris and the Mediterranean Sea.
Leaning to the north on the Causse Rouge (at the foothills of the Lévézou) and to the south on the Causse du Larzac, the Millau Viaduct crosses the Tarn valley, a few hundred meters from Peyre, one of the 10 “Most Beautiful Villages de France” in the department of Aveyron. It is of course also very close to Millau, a city of Art and History, the capital of outdoor sports, and the gateway to the Tarn gorges and the Causses and Cévennes territory, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can locate the bridge on the map just below:
Enlarge the map
Facts about the Millau viaduc:
General facts about the viaduct:
The Viaduct du Millau, with a height of 343 meters (1,125 feet), is the highest road bridge in the world. Its deck, rising 270 meters (885 feet) above the Tarn River, held the title of the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world at 2460 meters (8,070 feet) until 2013, when the Jia-Shao bridge in China, which is 2,680 meters (8,792 feet) long, or 220 meters (721 feet) longer than the Millau Viaduct, came into service.
Here are some additional figures, describing a completely non-standard set and an extraordinary technical challenge:
- 206,000 tons of concrete, ie 5 times the total weight of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle fully loaded
- 36,000 tons is the weight of the steel deck, ie 4 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower
- 87 meters (285 feet), it is the height of the pylons, that is to say, a building of 29 floors
- 400 million euros is the total cost of the work
It’s difficult not to be impressed by the Viaduct du Millau’s beauty. The combination of natural elements and engineering technology results in an absolutely breathtaking sight. The shrouds, which add a unique and distinct visual appeal to the viaduct, are a standout feature. These shrouds are a distinguishing feature of the viaduct. The image of a majestic sailboat gliding on an invisible sea or docked in a heavenly port comes to mind as you approach the area.
When was the Viaduc de Millau built?
The Viaduct du Millau was an impressive feat of engineering that was built in an impressive amount of time, taking only three years to complete, from 2001 to 2004.
The project had a total budget of 400 million euros. The viaduct was designed by French engineer Michel Virlogeux and English architect Lord Norman Foster, after 13 years of technical studies.
Despite the significant amount of planning that went into the project, with the construction of the approaching roads and infrastructure, it ended up costing more than 2 billion euros.
Itinerary of the road
The viaduct is accessible from the A75 freeway.
On the A75 freeway, the viaduct viewing area is located between exits 45 and 46.
The access is free to the rest area of the viaduct from the north before the toll, exit 45, or from Millau on the D911
You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:
How to discover the viaduct:
You can explore the viaduct by other means than the car. Indeed, for the more athletic, it is possible to go under the viaduct by canoe. It is also possible to hike to approach the bridge. The most courageous can fly over it in a paraglider or hang-glider.
Before or after the passage, depending on the direction in which you are driving, you can stop at the Millau viaduct freeway area (north side). Much more than a simple freeway area, it is a real free museum area with more than 200m2 of exhibition space to learn more about the viaduct. There are also different viewpoints within walking distance to take great photos. It is advisable to spend at least an hour there to enjoy it!
A preview of the drive:
If you are planning to drive this road, you should obviously watch this YouTube video to have an idea of this scenic drive:
Don’t forget about other classic bridges, such as the Eshima Ohashi Bridge in Japan.
Is the Millau viaduc open?
The bridge is open all year around.
You should also be aware that you can’t stop your car or bike on the bridge to take pictures: indeed, there is a minimum speed limit to avoid dangerous situations.
If you are in the area, it is impossible to miss this bridge. A true masterpiece of engineering! Do not hesitate to take advantage of a few hours in the area to fully enjoy this mythical route!
Pictures credits: By Bert Kaufmann on flickr.com / By W. Bulach – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73444269
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