Lonely Planet Writer

What is happening to Paris' famous love locks? They're going to raise money for a good cause

The remnants of Paris’ famous and controversial love locks will get another lease of life by going on sale on 13 May. The proceeds will go to three organisations helping the city’s refugees; Salvation Army, Solipam and Emmaus Solidarite.

Love locks at Hohenzollernnbruecke, Cologne.
Love locks at Hohenzollernnbruecke, Cologne. Image by Jan Tepass

Since 2008, the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge became inundated with padlocks where couples would engrave their names on the side of the padlock, lock it to the bridge and throw the key into the River Seine. The sheer weight of the locks made the bridge unsafe for visitors and by the time the city removed them in 2015, there were more than a million locks weighing an estimated 65 tonnes.

The Paris love locks have been stored in a facility since then but  150 of the most colourful and beautiful locks have been mounted and transformed into works of art and will soon go to auction. They’re expected to be sold for between €150 and €200 and fifteen sections of the original Pont des Arts bridge will also go under the hammer at the auction at the Credit Municipal de Paris. 

For some it may be an opportunity for lovers who had their locks removed get the opportunity to buy them back and they can peruse the artworks online beforehand. The padlocks are meant to symbolise everlasting love – with the tradition dating back to early 20th century Serbia –  so they could have the potential for a very romantic gift.

The city’s environmental chief, Bruno Juilliard, previously said the sale could raise up to €100,000 and that any padlocks remaining unsold would be sold for scrap and melted down.

Despite a huge backlash from locals and preservation groups, the love lock tradition continues to crop up in other major cities. There have been removal operations on sites like the Brooklyn Bridge, Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge and the Southgate footbridge in Melbourne. However, some other cities like Cologne welcome the tradition as a tourist draw and there are even some purpose built structures in places like Moscow’s Vodootvodny Canal where visitors can place their love locks without damaging the integrity of the structures.

This article was originally published on 7 December 2016 and was updated on 5 May 2017.