The focus of this paper is to illustrate the importance of model calibration and in situ vibration testing by comparing the finite element model predictions of the earthquake response of the two historical arch bridges, Osmanli and Senyuva, before and after model calibration. The three-dimensional finite element models of these two arch bridges, built in the ANSYS finite element program, are used to predict bridge dynamic characteristics, such as natural frequencies and mode shapes. Following the analytical study, ambient vibration tests were conducted to experimentally obtain dynamic characteristics of these two bridges. During ambient vibration tests, accelerometers were placed at several points on the bridge to collect the vibration response due to natural and operational excitation sources. Enhanced frequency domain decomposition and stochastic subspace identification techniques were used to extract the experimental natural frequencies, mode shapes and damping ratios. Finite element models of the two arch bridges were adjusted such that the model predictions reproduce the ambient vibration test results with increased fidelity. The behavior of the masonry arch bridges under earthquake excitation recorded during the Erzincan Earthquake in 1992 is simulated by both the initial and adjusted finite element models. The findings of this study emphasize the importance of model calibration and ambient vibration testing. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.