Parisian Living

Love Locks on the Pont des Arts: Symbols of Love, or Tacky Vandalism?

by Sylvia Sabes

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Pierre-Louis FERRER

Pierre-Louis FERRER

From lazy fall mornings spent under a cozy comforter with a steaming café crème and a rich, buttery croissant within arm’s reach, to the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower at midnight — any moment of the day in Paris has the potential for extreme romance.

Love Locks in Paris

Eduard Díaz i Puig

Around sunset, dramatic cotton candy clouds breeze through crystalline blue skies, the Seine tinted a warm amber as it ambles by, the gold statues of the Pont Alexandre III aglow. The beauty is so overwhelming it has inspired some of art’s greatest masterpieces and countless romantic proposals.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Derek Key

Derek Key

A lot of these proposals have been happening on the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian span that joins the Institut de France, where Cardinal Mazarine’s library has been serving the reading public since 1643, to Europe’s largest palace, the Louvre. Standing on the bridge gives lovers an ideal view of Paris, the islands dramatically dividing the river, crowned by the majestic Notre Dame to the east, that breathtaking sunset to the west. It is no wonder the incredible scenery has everyone looking for symbols to mark the moment.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Erica Berman

Erica Berman (5 years ago!)

Built in 1804, it took someone just over 200 years to come up with the ultimate romantic gesture, eloquently poetic in its symbolism: taking a padlock and locking the symbol of one’s love to the bridge, before throwing the key into the depths of the Seine. Some have gotten even more creative, taking valuable, custom-made locks and engraving their names on them before connecting them to Paris for posterity. Others have gone a more exuberant direction with oversized, brightly colored locks, hoping they’ll stand out in the crowd.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by PreteMoiParis

PreteMoiParis

And that is what it is. A crowd. Paris receives 27 million tourists every year. Even if only 1 percent of visitors leave a lock, that’s 270,000 locks per year, creating a love-locked mass that is greater than any one, or even three, bridges can possibly handle. Which means, the city of Paris has had to start removing all those (un)enduring symbols of love.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by *Aenima*

*Aenima*

Cynics will find it appropriate that they end up in a garbage dump, or at the bottom of the Seine as the weight of all the locks tears off portions of the bridge and they tumble down. And then there are the locks that get covered in spray paint, tagged by graffiti artists who know tacky when they see it. So before ordering your lock, think about it. Do you really want a lasting symbol of your love for one another ending up as trash?

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Alessio Luzi, Paulin'a

Alessio Luzi & Paulin’a

There are some spots on the bridge that are 6 inches deep in locks. People have started using bike chains and even plastic garbage bags, so the bridge is starting to look more like a dump than the architectural marvel it was before pop-symbolism took hold. Some locks are becoming an even greater problem, as egotistical visitors attach them to the original19th century lamp posts on the Pont des Arts, or even worse, the gold-leafed, Baroque sculptures on the Pont Alexandre III, turning a symbol of love in to an act of vandalism. The city itself is ambiguous on the subject, having published articles begging people to stop, while also suggesting it as a romantic activity on their tourism website.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Derek Key

Derek Key

I’m not so ambiguous. The taggers are right, this is a tacky business and there is no way I’d have Mr French hanging up our love among the masses like a bit of garbage. I prefer a more elegant gesture, something as precious as our feelings for one another, and just as unique as we are.

It’s sad that so many people fall into this tourist trap — because it is indeed a trap for tourists. The French find it mind boggling, as noted in an New York Times article from last August.


Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Erica Berman

Erica Berman (5 years ago!)

Two insightful American women, Lisa and Lisa have taken their distaste several steps further, creating a No Love Locks logo, a website with Facebook and Twitter to promote their petition to the mayor to act against the locks.

Parisian jeweler Tournaire, on the incredibly chic Place Vendôme, came up with a truly enduring alternative to the locks with an entire collection dedicated to the theme (starting at 290€). The lock idea is nothing new to the iconic house of Hermès which created the ultimate Parisian lock for their Kelly bag, a symbol that inspired jewelry (as low as 425€) and keepsakes to wear as a daily reminder of one’s true heart.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by RozSheffield

RozSheffield

While these are fantastic options, they’re considerably more expensive than a hardware store lock. Some astute lovers have been leaving the Seine for Ali Baba’s magical cavern in the hardware store at the BHV Department store and purchasing a Parisian lock (5,26€) they can engrave with the date of their romantic holiday and lock up, safely at home.

For something to share with the world, I opted for a collaboration with the street artist Gregos, infamous for the plaster of Paris (love the irony!) faces that seem to be walking through walls across the city. He’ll send you the mask of your choice (50€) to be personalized, then installed it in your hometown: a symbol of your love and Paris that you’ll pass as you go about your day and you can share with your community.

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Davide Oliva

Davide Oliva

Or take a series of photos and put them through the Waterlogue app (2.99$) to turn them into stunning watercolors that you’ll want to frame for your home, a constant reminder of a loving moment for the two of you.

As you choose a symbol of your love in Paris, try to steer away from the trash, and keep in mind that what really matters is that you do it together. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Loving isn’t the way you look at one another, but looking together in the same direction.”

Love Locks, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Oliver Degabriele

Oliver Degabriele

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Written by Sylvia Sabes for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

Written By

Sylvia Sabes

When not hitting the ol’ cobblestones hunting down the hottest new addresses for her job as Paris Expert for Afar magazine and Luxe City Guides, Sylvia pretends to be swamped disguised as a wife and mom. You can read more of her work at www.SylviaSabes.com (link below) or follow her adventures on FB @SylviaDublanc View Sylvia Sabes's Website

15 comments on “Love Locks on the Pont des Arts: Symbols of Love, or Tacky Vandalism?

I’m thrilled about the plexi panels, too. Let’s hope it works! The city of Venice has gone even further, making it illegal to put up a lock. It’s now an international issue!

I am thrilled that the Marie de Paris has finally started replacing the mesh panels of the bridge with glass panels. This prevents more locks from being attached and the further degradation of the lovely bridges. There are many other ways of expressing love without buying a tacky lock and attaching it amongst thousands of others to rust.

It’s better than graffiti.

I definitely see a couple sides to this. For one, even after living in Paris for years, never saw this bridge as a nuisance. With a city that can throw the modern building of the Centre Georges Pompidou plop in the center, I don’t necessarily find this one bridge tacky. I do agree it can get a bit crazy with all the locks and it is not good for the structure, but just like many of the other “tourist traps” in Paris, I don’t think it needs to be removed or taken care of. If the Moulin Rouge gets to stay, I don’t find any harm in the Pont des Arts 🙂

Carin Olsson (HiP Paris)

Thanks for your input Coco!

Irene, good for you!
Sherrill, that is actually a great idea… I love the hardware store in the basement of the BHV. They have everything you need to make a custom pair of shoes. Now how romantic is that? Making your own pair of shoes in Paris, to take home with you!
Samantha, I think you hit the nail on the head; there is no reason to make a public declaration that is permanent.

the masks look wonderful its the public declaration of love on public property [that ends up looking like a garbage dump too ]that’s so annoying!

i agree i have always found those locks, not only the locks, but the idea really obnoxious!and they have been destroying a beautiful bridge ,the structure and the looks.i dont see why those people havent been fined for vandalism from the beginning! and the street art in your hometown sounds almost just as bad

Tacky, tacky, tacky. I think they are an eyesore. When I go to visit beautiful places, the last thing I want to see are views blocked by thousands of locks just looking trashy. If I really wanted to look at locks, there is always the hardware store! 😉

I also believe that it is wrong to have all those locks on the bridge, they are an eyesore. When I was in Paris last June I crossed the bridge but was not tempted to leave a lock of my own.

Hi Lynn,
If people feel the need to publically post a symbol of their love, I really would rather they did it in their own town. However, our street art Is on our balcony, in our home and Gregos’ work is so popular the masks are stolen in a matter of days, so they don’t leave of a foot print.
You’ve inspired a thought, though: I’d love to read every else’s ideas for creative alternatives!

I am totally in agreement with you with regard to the locks, so I was surprised you would suggest that the street art you install in your hometown is better.

Eva and Nina, so glad you agree. I am not sure the government is going to act anytime soon. I think education is the key, so please, help get the word out!

Merci, merci, merci….. The locks are vandalism pure and simple., as is the added pollution caused by the keys dropped into the Seine.

They are disgusting to look at as you pass or walk across a bridge. How would these romantic vandals feel if someone did that to their own fences back home, because they thought it was a such a loving gesture.

Of course standing nearby and selling locks only add to the problem way over 100%. They should be banned and a lot less locks will be used as an impulse gesture made easy.

I agree, this trend has gone too far, my personal opinion is, that it looks tacky and probably not good for the structure of the bridge. I feel sorry for those who will have the duty to remove the locks. 😀

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