One of the loveliest of Paris' many bridges, the Pont des Arts is a photogenic delight. It's appeared in countless films, including one that shares its name. Connecting the central courtyard of the Louvre Palace on one side of the Seine River to the prestigious Institut de France on the other, the bridge seems to embody the city at its most elegant.
Tourists regularly flock to the pedestrian-only bridge, or passerelle, to take pictures of light reflecting off of buildings onto the gentle waters below. Clouds scattering on the horizon to reveal the Eiffel Tower in the near-distance also make for iconic shots. It may not be the most off-the-beaten-track place in the capital, but everyone should probably visit it at least once.
The Pont des Arts is a relative newcomer to the Parisian landscape. Emperor Napoleon I commissioned a metallic pedestrian bridge in around 1802. Consisting of nine arched structures, it would be Paris' first of its kind made of metal — a preview, perhaps, of the modern city to come. It was initially meant to resemble a suspended garden, lined with greenery, flowers and equipped with benches for passersby to enjoy. Initially, pedestrians had to pay a small fee to cross or sit on it. These days, of course, it's free to visit.
Following World War I and II, the bridge suffered structural damage from aerial bombing and boat accidents. After engineers deemed it unsafe in the late 1970s, it was closed to the public for a number of years. The city decided to reconstruct it, reopening the Pont in 1984. The new bridge is nearly identical to the Emperor Napoleon's, but only features seven arches instead of the original nine.
Since then, it's become one of the city's most popular spots for picnics, romantic views, and even art exhibitions: numerous painters and photographers chose to set up on the Pont to work on new landscapes and showcase their work.
The bridge became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, along with the rest of the banks of the Seine from the Ile Saint Louis to the Eiffel Tower.
Lovelocks: Controversy & Dismantling
Many couples visiting Paris still look forward to placing a metal padlock, or "lovelock" on the Pont des Arts to celebrate an anniversary or other romantic moment. Unfortunately, the city banned this practice in 2015 and completely removed around one million locks from the bridge. They were endangering the structural integrity of the bridge and caused damage to part of it.
The city mayor, Anne Hidalgo, added three glass panels to the bridge to discourage visitors from placing further padlocks on it. Tourists are now requested to simply take "romantic selfies" on and around the Pont, reminded that the lovelocks are a danger to the beauty and integrity of the historic bridge.
What to Do on the Pont des Arts
There's plenty to do and see on and nearby. Here are just a couple of ideas for making the most of your visit to the iconic bridge.
Enjoy a Dusky Picnic on the Bridge: During the summer, it's a daily occurence to see the whole bridge taken over after dusk with groups of friends enjoying picnics or glasses of wine. It's no wonder: the views and light shimmering on the water are both superb.
Don't be shy: stock up on delicious, typical Parisian fare such as fresh French bread and cheese, fruit and wine and stake out a corner of the bridge on the early side so you make sure you get a spot.
Bring a blanket and a small paring knife (both available at many city supermarkets like Monoprix and Carrefour) to make yourself more comfortable and able to enjoy your meal. You can check out our guide on where to find picnic goodies in Paris. Read up on the best bakeries in Paris for ideas on where to stock up on delicious breads, baguettes and authentic French pastries.
Take a Romantic Stroll at Sunrise or Sunset: When you visit the Pont, you'll soon understand why couples formerly elected it to place their lovelocks on it. This is a truly romantic spot: you've got the Eiffel Tower glimmering in the background, light hitting the waters of the Seine in just the "right" ways — and a sense of spaciousness that nevertheless feels intimate. We recommend you choose a stroll around the Pont at sunrise or sunset for the ultimate romantic moment together. If you're after real privacy, choose the early morning.
You can then go find some pastries nearby and continue your romantic walk around Paris as the city wakes up.
Admire Views of the Louvre & the Institut de France: Bring your favorite camera and take shots of the postcard-perfect scenery you're afforded from the bridge. From this vantage, you can take lovely shots of sights including the Louvre Palace (the central courtyard from the Seine-River side) as well as the Institut de France, where scholarly societies such as the Académie Francaise have their headquarters.
Location and How to Get There
The Pont des Arts connects the right bank and the left bank of the Seine river, and the Palais du Louvre buildings to the Institut de France. It also bridges the 1st and the 6th arrondissements (districts) of Paris.
The easiest way is to get there is to take the Metro to the Pont Neuf station (Line 7) and follow signs to the bridge. Alternatively, you can get off at Metro Chatelet in central Paris (served by multiple metro, bus and RER commuter-line trains) and take a leisurely stroll. Walk west along the banks of the Seine and the Quai de la Mégisserie, pass the Pont Neuf bridge, and continue along the Quai du Louvre and the Quai Francois Mittérand to reach the bridge.
From the left bank, you can get off at the Solférino Metro stop (Line 12) and walk to the riverside, heading east down Quai Voltaire to reach the bridge.
What to Do Nearby
Especially if you're visiting Paris for the first time, this can be a good focal point for exploring several iconic tourist attractions in the French capital.
Head over to the Louvre Museum and the adjoining Tuileries gardens for a morning or afternoon of fantastic art galleries, a glimpse at Paris' medieval and royal history and a stroll through stunning green lanes, flowerbeds and statuary.
Pop over to the rive gauche (left bank) to take in the world-famous impressionist art collections at the Musée d'Orsay, where masterpieces from Renoir, Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Dégas, and countless others await.
Finally, cut away from the riverbanks for a spell to the fascinating St-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood.
Famous for its sidewalk cafés once frequented by writers and philosophers and 6th-century medieval Abbey, visitors now covet it for its fantastic art galleries, chic boutiques and gourmet goodies from chocolates to croissants.