Archives For Pont Des Arts


John Pearce  —  September 24, 2014

Followup to my post of Aug. 30

For five years, lovers in Paris have demonstrated their eternal fealty by attaching padlocks to the Pont des Arts, an elegant old footbridge that connects the Louvre Museum to the Institut de France across the Seine, then throwing the key in the river — 700,000 of them so far.

Over time, they’ve multiplied like rats and spread to other bridges and sites. And they pose a structural threat to the bridge. Here’s what a full section of the fence looks like (it weighs a thousand pounds, and 15 sections have failed completely or had to be removed because of damage):


Photo by John Pearce

Don’t lean on it the next time you visit.

There’s been a publicity campaign against them, and in recent months the City of Paris has had to cover some of the panels with plywood to keep more from being added. The plywood, of course, has become the substitute for the locks — visiting lovers now autograph it and, Paris being Paris, the more assertive graffiti artists also visit. As a result, the bridge is much less welcoming to lovers or padlock vendors.

Here’s the view this afternoon. The crowd in the background is around the remaining locks.


Photo by John Pearce

The City of Paris announced on its web site a couple of days ago that it’s testing glass panels to replace the fencing that’s been there for years (and which provided somewhere to attach the locks). French architects do great things with glass, but this will be a challenge.

Here’s a view of the test panels, from the city’s web site:

Glass panel testing on Pont des Arts  Paris fr

Photo courtesy of the City of Paris



It started as a charming tourist phenomenon – Lovers, mostly tourists, engrave their name on a padlock and attach it to the fence along each side of the Pont des Arts, the old footbridge connecting the Institut de France and the Louvre, then throw the key into the Seine below. What could be more romantic?

Couple looking

Will they or won’t they? A couple surveys the locks, with the Louvre in the background

There is not yet a law against it. But the law that governs anything and everything — the Law of Unintended Consequences — is enforcing itself with a vengeance. There are so many locks on the bridge railings that some have collapsed. The market has attracted lock vendors, themselves a form of pollution, and the crowds are dense. And engraved names are a thing of the past. Now, think Sharpie. And there are so many locks you can no longer see through the fencing, or find places for new ones. So creative lovers have started expanding the lock frontier. The other day I found several of them on a trash can.

Trash can

No room on the railing? Lock up the poubelle

The city is doing its best to discourage new locks. Most recently, it has covered several parts of the railing with plywood and encouraged lovers to sign and take a selfie, or maybe just take a selfie.

Sign plywood

This couple got the word

Where to put the next lock?

Dense locks

Locks, locks, locks

Some interesting links

Rude Baguette

Love locks collapse bridge rail, from BBC, with a nice video that sets the scene.

Are love locks on the bridge romantic or a menace?  BBC

Weight of love too much for the bridge, from Deutsche Welle

The anti-lock movement on Twitter: #LoveWithoutLocks

The anti-lock movement in Paris:

(Photos by John Pearce)