Hugo Xavier became one of the first people to cross the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge when it opened on Thursday near his tiny hometown of Arouca, in northern Portugal. “Oh … here we go!,” the 42-year-old said, anxiously, as he gathered the courage to step onto the see-through metal grid pathway of the 516 metre (1,693ft) bridge alongside his equally jittery partner and a tour guide. Hidden between rock-strewn mountains covered with lush greenery and yellow flowers inside the Unesco-recognised Arouca Geopark, the bridge, baptised “516 Arouca”, hangs 175 metres above the fast-flowing Paiva River. The gorge is strung with 8km (5 miles) of wooden walkways. The bridge is not for the faint-hearted. Held up by steel cables and two massive towers on each side, it wobbles a little with every step. “I was a little afraid, but it was so worth it,” a relieved Xavier said, on the other side. “It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.” The bridge opened only to local residents on Thursday, but from Monday everyone can book a visit. New glass bridge with 526-metre (1,725ft) wide span opens in southern China Locals hope the attraction, which cost about €2.3 million (US$2.8 million) and took around two years to build, will help revive the region, especially after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. “It is a breath of fresh air for our land because it will attract more investment, more people,” said tour guide Emanuel, adding that the region was rapidly ageing as many young people moved to big cities. “It will bring a new dynamic to Arouca.” Standing on the bridge, the mayor of Arouca, Margarida Belem, said the bridge was part of a wider strategy to encourage more people to move and stay in the region. “There were many challenges that we had to overcome … but we did it,” the visibly proud mayor said. “There’s no other bridge like this one in the world.” Arouca 516 breaks the record for the longest pedestrian suspension bridge held since 2017 by the Charles Kuonen bridge at Randa, in the Swiss Alps.