Why Are Paris's Famous "Lovelocks" Being Removed from City Bridges?

  • 01 of 04

    All About the "Lovelocks" of Paris: The Demise of a Romantic Gesture

    A worker begins removing thousands of
    Colette Davidson

    For years, couples from around the world have landed on Paris to lock in their love on the Pont des Arts bridge – affixing padlocks inscribed with initials, hearts and affectionate messages, and throwing the keys into the Seine river below. But just as love often fades, so has this endearing fad. In the Spring of 2015, city hall led a campaign to have the hundreds of thousands of "lovelocks" removed due to safety and aesthetic concerns.

    “It’s over for the padlocks,” said Bruno Julliard, Paris’s deputy mayor, who officially launched the removal of the locks of love on the Pont des Arts, in a statement. “[These padlocks] take away from the beauty of the structure, deteriorate it and can potentially cause accidents.”

    At the time this went to press, the bridge held an estimated 45 tons worth of padlocks and there were rising concerns that the weight would cause portions of the bridge to come crashing down on the tourist sightseeing boats passing underneath.

    Read related: Sightseeing Boat Tours of Paris 

    Bridge Closures and Reactions to the Dismantling

    The famous bridge was closed for a week in early June, while city workers began the process of removing whole sections of the side barriers. The padlocked portions are to be replaced with plexiglass panels so that tourists can once again see the Seine river rushing below. But in the meantime, the city is covering the bridge barriers with works from international street artists Brusk, Jace, El Seed and Pantonio. The theme for that art? Love, of course.

    Read related: Stunning Street Art in Paris, and in Pictures

    For the steady stream of tourists who visited the site during its closure, there was certainly a fair amount of disappointment. Mike and Ciaran were visiting Paris from Dubai and had initially planned to lock in their love on the bridge.

    “I actually bought a lock and was hoping to bring it here, but then saw on the news what was happening so I left it in the hotel,” says Mike. “It’s a shame what’s happening – [putting the lock on] is a nice thing to do; it’s very romantic – but there was a safety issue.”

    While questions about the locks’ effect on the bridge’s safety was previously of concern, local officials truly took notice last year when a portion of the bridge’s side barrier collapsed under the weight of the locks.

    However, safety is not the only reason the locks are being removed. Many say the padlocks ruin the aesthetic integrity of an important Paris landmark. The advocacy group No Love Locks has been urging the city to ban the practice altogether: one that extends to other bridges such as the Pont de l'Archevêché and the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, and even to objects like lamp posts and metallic garbage receptacles.  

    Read related: How to Stay Safe in Paris (Essential Warnings and Advice)

    The locks consist of "vandalism that damages the city and hurts the people of France — culturally, economically and emotionally," the association says on their official website.

    READ NEXT PAGE: A brief history of the lovelocks craze-- and is it really all going away? 


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  • 02 of 04

    How the Lovelocks Fad Caught On  (And Is It Really Going Away?)

    A close-up of
    Colette Davidson

    How did the lovelocks craze originate, anyway? And is it doomed to disappear entirely? 

    The Pont des Arts bridge was inaugurated as the first iron bridge in France in 1804, during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I. It started attracting sentimental couples – padlocks in hand – around 2008, but the phenomenon actually has its roots in Italy. Many attribute the custom to a 2006 novel by Frederico Moccio, in which couples attach padlocks holding messages of love to Rome’s Milvian bridge, before throwing the key into the river.

    The Paris tradition became so popular that amateur padlock vendors could be found along the bridge’s quays, selling locks and pens for those unprepared to make the sentimental gesture.

    Will the Locks Simply be Thrown Away?

    In short, no. For all those who have already locked in their love on the Pont des Arts, all is not lost. Paris’s city hall has vowed to keep the padlocks in a storage unit and use them at a later date in a “new gesture of love.” However, there are currently no plans to dredge up the more than 700,000 keys at the bottom of the Seine.

    But among the tourists visiting the bridge this week, many wish the city could have found another way to deal with the weight of the locks instead of getting rid of them.

    “It would have been nice to see them reinforce the barrier or put them through the middle of the bridge instead of getting rid of them entirely,” says Brent, who was visiting Paris for the first time with his partner Penelope. The couple had planned to put a lock on the bridge until they read about what was happening.

    Will they try to lock in their love elsewhere in the city?

    “No, says Penelope. “This place is so iconic.”

    Some tourists feel differently, however, and are willing to try their bets at continuing the fad at other sites in the city. For example, couples started affixing locks to one section of the Pont de l'Archevêché, situated near Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité, in the past few years. And at the nearby Pont Neuf, smatterings of locks have recently been appearing. It may be harder to dissuade couples from keeping the ritual going than initially expected. 

    NEXT: Another shot of the bridge and the locks: charming, or cheap and cheesy? 

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  • 03 of 04

    Another Shot of the Pont des Arts and Its Lovelocks

    lovelocks pont des arts
    Colette Davidson

    One thing is certain about the lovelocks phenomenon: they're highly polarizing. Some think they're charming and add color to the city's almost austerely graceful air; others feel they're kitschy and cheap tokens that detract from the beauty and aesthetic harmony of the capital. 

    UP NEXT: Creative use of a garbage can-- but is it really romantic? 

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  • 04 of 04

    Love and Garbage: Do They Really Go Together?

    Lovelocks attached to a garbage receptacle in Paris, France.
    Colette Davidson

    For some couples in Paris eager to jump on the lovelocks bandwagon before the practice is subjected to an all-out ban, surfaces like garbage cans and lamp posts are suitable places to attach their symbols of love. Hmm, we're not quite sure this association augurs well... 

    Read related: Paris for Couples