Paris is well-known as the “city of love” – a cliché perhaps but one that still draws millions of visitors each year. Indeed, Paris is still the most-visited city in the world by tourists, many of them couples walking hand-in-hand down the river.
Over the last few years an important monument to love has evolved; the Pont des Arts bridge. The principle is simple enough; a loved-up couple attaches a padlock to the railings of the bridge to symbolize the permanence of their love for one another. Even the most stone-hearted visitors have wondered at the so-called “love locks”, lined up one after another along the bridge.
Indeed, while Pont des Arts has always been the epicentre of this curious habit, so full have the railings become on recent years that love locks have started to spring up on bridges up and down Paris.
However all is not well in the city of love, and as they say all good things must come to an end. What started off as a bit of harmless romantic fun has now taken on a life of its own and there are estimated to be over 1 million padlocks now adorning the side of the bridge. Unsurprisingly, such an abundance of padlocks has started to have a negative effect on the structure of the bridge.
It has been estimated that all the love locks added together weigh approximately 45 tons in total, a not-insubstantial figure which is slowly causing the destruction of the bridge.
Dating from 1804, the bridge is considered of architectural and historical merit in its own right.
In addition, it is worth noting that the love locks were never really officially-sanctioned. They may have represented a romantic sentiment, but to many people they were tantamount to graffiti. Many officials and visitors have commented on how the vast swathes of padlocks ruin the overall aesthetic of the area.
And so, on June 1st 2015 the French government finally took action. That day represents the end of an era, when the padlock-laden panels were removed, to be replaced with see-through panels onto which it is impossible to fit padlocks. Instead, the view of the river will return once more.
Attaching padlocks to bridges in Paris has now been officially deemed “illegal” though whether this is enough to prevent the use of love locks remains to be seen.
Quite what all the lovers visiting Paris will do instead is unclear. Perhaps, as has happened recently, they will simply move on to other nearby bridges. Or perhaps, this will be the end of such an unusual – though undeniably romantic – activity.