The Padlocks of Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

The love locks are a curious phenomenon in Paris. Although Parisians have a reputation for being romantic, they’re not necessarily known for spontaneity. Strikes are planned well in advance so everyone can prepare, people have their favorite bakeries which they frequent regularly, and folks keep to themselves on the métro. One might say that moderation is generally the watchword – one doesn’t want to be too gregarious, overtly emotional, or act in ways that might be too forthcoming or in a manner which might draw undue attention to oneself.

hearts - Pont des Arts, Paris

The city itself also doesn’t like to take any chances and perhaps rightfully so, to preserve the look and feel of Paris. So much so that when love locks appeared a few years ago on the Pont des Arts, there seemed to be some mystery to what actually happened to them during one fateful night.

pia and franz - Pont des Arts, Paris

However one of the French paradoxes is that there are a number of rules that must be rigidly adhered to, yet rules generally apply to others, and the city seems to be letting the locks stay on two bridges now: both the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Archevêché. Like San Francisco, where the song lets us know that people have left their heart there, in Paris, it seems like it’s not just Parisians leaving their everlasting sentiments on the bridges. Judging from the names, drawings, and scratchings, there’s an interesting selection of cadenas of all shapes and sizes by people who’ve left their “locks” in the city.

lily and mimi - Pont des Arts, Paris

steve and katie - Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

mortiz and lisa - Pont des Arts, Paris

blake shearer - Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

bridge locks - Pont des Arts, Paris

scott and meg - Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

bonnie and clyde - Pont des Arts, Paris

s & m - Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

 Pont des Arts, Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

diane and chris - Pont des Arts, Paris

lips - Pont des Arts, Paris


There is a movement to remove and stop people from leaving locks on the bridges. You can read more about it at No Love Locks, Love Locks Threaten Paris’ beloved Pont des Arts, and Paris Bridge Weighed Down by Love.

129 comments

  • Just passed near the canal de l’Ourcq recently, and saw a poster signe by the Maire, apparently they are building a “love bridge” specifically for the purpose of welcoming these locks…

  • I am Mexican and my guy is English. I live in Paris and the night we got engaged I took him to Pont des Arts as a surprise and we left our very personalized lock there… It is something we are planning to keep on doing every time we are in Paris together. I noticed that you took a photo of the area where we left ours… Too bad you didn’t spot it! In comparison to most locks, ours is very unique not because of the shape but because of all the stuff we wrote all over it.

  • I just read previous comment and I completely support all those who think that Des crottes des chiens partout are five thousand times worse than the locks. I cannot get over the sight of well-dressed Parisian women, some looking very snobby, but completely ignoring the huge pile of crotte that their pure-breed dog just left right in the middle of the friggin sidewalk!!! Those are the genuine scars on the face of Paris.

  • My husband proposed to me in Prague on the love lock bridge near the Lennon wall so we added a lock there and then when we honeymooned in Paris we left a lock on the Pont de l’Archeveché. We hope to return to these two spots one day to see if our locks are still there!

  • There are “locks of love” at the Great Wall in China. We were lucky enough to get a couple of site-seeing days just before receiving our daughter. I had never heard of such a thing and found it a curiously romantic tradition for China.

  • I think I saw mine! Really cool pictures by the way;)

  • Maybe I’m just too cynical but I say meh to the whole thing.

  • My favourite lock that I saw on the Pont des Arts this spring said rather simply ‘Forever Alone’!

  • A couple days ago some guests of ours spotted a couple love-locks attached to the Eiffel Tower along the stairs.

  • This would never fly in Copenhagen. Everything that doesn’t move already has a bicycle locked to it.

  • I forgot to add – we love our bicycles!

  • I just returned from Prague and hear the John Lennon wall there is the Love Bridge covered in locks – personally, I like the sentiment!

  • They do it in Cologne, Germany as well. That is where I spotted it the first time.

    I like the sentiment. That two people in love wish to share their commitment with the rest of the world. I like to see how many people wish to share their love. Makes the world a somewhat nicer place to live. Or well – at least it makes me smile.

  • The first time i saw the bridges and the locks – i thought it was so romantic and what better place than in paris. I returned this year at Christmas and surprised my wife with a lock that expressed our love and marriage – we hope to return each year and celebrate -

  • I loathe these locks on the Pont des Arts. It was my favourite place in Paris and now it makes me sad because it looks hideous.

    I know it means something to people that leave the locks there, but I wish it would stop.

    Sorry.

  • They do this in Italy too. It’s cool, simple, romantic, and artistic

  • Those are nothing in comparison to the ones in Korean on the Namsan Tower. Try googling an image, it is mind blowing. Apparently you can buy locks at the observation deck.

  • I just don’t understand this – people leave these trashy things on beautiful pieces of architecture in the most beautiful city in the world – then leave them for the Parisians to deal with when they rust, and cause problems with the bridges. Not to mention how horrendously ugly they look. I couldn’t believe how much worse they had gotten in just one year – and can only imagine what I’ll find in September when I go.

    Do people not have any sense of respect or responsibility when doing this?

    I see it as a totally senseless and narcissistic thing to do – the opposite of “romantic”.

    • I feel the same way about the graffiti and prolific (and repulsive) dog droppings left on the city sidewalks, which are quite disrespectful and irresponsible to the city. I’ve been really surprised to see how much worse both those problems have gotten in the last few years.

  • To say that there are worse problems doesn’t negate the issue. As I said here before, nobody publicly endorses adding dogsh*t and graffiti to Paris. But plenty of people have no problem saying “sure, add some more rusting pieces of junk to the monuments of Paris – it’s romantic!”

  • I can see how this topic can raise some ire. However, I was recently in Paris with my two children, age 6 + 9, and they were fully intrigued by the tradition. We left a lock on that bridge the night before we left (March 28, right before this was posted), as a memento of their first time in the city of Lights. The lock came with 3 keys, and we each have one (my daughter wears hers on a chain around her neck). No more harmful, perhaps, than the coins people throw into the fountain of Trevi. And, in similar tradition, we hope we will be called back to this beautiful place at some point in our future.

  • Hate them. The Pont des Arts used to be a beautiful, somewhat delicate bridge, now it looks like it’s covered with some kind of metallic disease. It’s also a straw man argument to say ‘how can you object to this if you don’t object to that?’ because I equally loathe the dog crap everywhere, and mindless tag graffiti.

  • Hideous and irritating, this is spoiling my view – the Pont des Arts used to be one of my
    favorite bridges, now I can’t stand to see it. I bet there is some jerk selling padlocks near the bridge, with little hearts on them. He should be shot.

    What they need to do is change the Pont des Arts railings to a style that does not allow padlocks to be put on it. I will contribute to the fund. Surely the amount they pay each year to continually cut them off would more than pay for a different railing. David, can’t you start a fund for this?

    • There are lots of things that need funding in Paris. If you’re interested in funding or contributing to a project, many people are using Kickstarter nowadays, which allows any individual to launch a campaign of any sort, so you may wish to investigate ways to contribute there.

  • We got engaged in Paris last year (see: http://fabulousfoodandalittlefrolicking.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/eurotrip2011-day-24.html ) not far from the bridge. I so wish we had placed a lock on the Pont des Arts in honour of the day…although I guess it’s a good excuse to return to the city…