Travel Story: Love Locks – True Romance or Touristy Gimmick?

Locks of Love on the Pont des Arts, Paris by Wanderlust Designer
Locks of Love on the Pont des Arts, Paris by Wanderlust Designer

As the sun dips low on the horizon, the bridge railing begins to sparkle a brilliant gold. Thousands of padlocks fixed to the chain rail illuminate, radiating their “love.” The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine River in Paris and it is famous for these “love locks.” Given the sheer number of locks on the bridge, it would appear that all romantics who venture to Paris make the pilgrimage to this bridge to declare their undying love for each other. After scribbling their initials or names on the lock and fixing it in place, their love becomes a permanent fixture in one of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris. Or does it?

Locks of Love on the Pont des Arts, Paris by Wanderlust Designer
Locks of Love on the Pont des Arts, Paris by Wanderlust Designer

At first, I was very charmed by this tradition. What a wonderful way to leave your mark and perhaps, years later revisit and renew that feeling. But as we walked off the bridge and along the Seine, I started seeing an interesting entrepreneurial phenomenon unfold. At the foot of the bridge sat a man selling locks for you and your loved one for a mere 5 Euros. As we walked farther away from the bridge we heard another fellow hawking his locks, only 4 Euros. A block farther, there were a few locks propped up for sale next to a charming bouquiniste. These were only 3 Euros each. What a bargain. It seems that the farther away from the bridge you were, the better the deal you got on your declaration of love.

Soon, though, I saw the prices begin to rise. How on earth would this salesman make any money, I thought. But, just a hundred feet ahead, I realized why. There glimmering in that same afternoon light was another love locks bridge, the Pont de l’Archevêché. Huh? Two bridges of love less than a kilometer from each other. I started to get the feeling this romantic gesture was a bit of a gimmick.

Locks of Love on the Pont de L'Archevêch by Wanderlust Designer
Locks of Love on the Pont de L’Archevêch by Wanderlust Designer

With a little bit more investigation, I found that not only is it unclear which bridge to place your symbol of eternal faithfulness, it’s even confusing which city is best. Paris, by all means seems to be the best known, but a quick search on the internet reveals cities on every continent (excluding Africa and Antarctica) have bridges with locks of love.

If you do manage to pick the correct city and find the bridge, there is new concern. Your love lock could potentially be lethal. Just this past summer in Paris there was an article sighting not only the potential for an errant lock to possibly fall and hit someone passing by in a boat on the Seine, but that there was an even greater concern that the bridges with the love locks were becoming structurally unsound with the extra weight.

Holy moley. First you have the potential of getting ripped off depending on where you purchase your lock, and now your lock, and for that matter the entire bridge, may kill innocent bystanders. Not quite the romantic gesture you were going for, is it? Call me a cynic, but I’m just not going to fall for this one. Although I did manage to snap a few pics of the locks, and blast it to social media, I didn’t get a lock for my husband and I. I know he was not too upset. He was much happier that I saved the 5 euros to chip in for our nice bottle of French wine we shared at the café later that evening!

More Lock News
In my unromantic research, I also read of an incident in 2011 where all the love locks on the Pont des Arts bridge disappeared one night. This mysterious clean up was after a Paris Town Hall where citizens expressed concern about the ever increasing number of locks. It didn’t take long, though, for more lovers to reclaim their bridge. In the mere 2 years since the clean out, as I saw, there’s not a space to be found to add your lock!


Pont des Arts, Pedestrian bridge, Paris

Pont de l’Archevêch, Paris

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