Around the world, there’s a common tradition of love: the love padlock. Also known as love locks (not to be confused with the fuzzy handcuff, a decidedly different kind of ‘lock’), love padlocks are a public symbol or statement of the love between two people, usually in a very public place, like a park or a bridge.
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of the first love padlock; they have been documented as early as the days of World War II, but their popularity has soared in the last decade. I can’t tell you why, nor can I even officially condone this behavior, because in many cases it’s illegal. Still, they’re quite pretty to look at, and what a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with these charming photographs.
Brooklyn Bridge – New York, New York
What a more beautiful place to leave a lock of your love than on the Brooklyn Bridge? Walking the bridge is one of my favorite New York experiences. Unfortunately, the city isn’t a big fan, and regularly patrols the bridge and removes locks to keep things under control. A bit sad, but with the overwhelming popularity of this bridge, it’s understandable.
Vodootvodny Canal – Moscow, Russia
The Russians planned ahead, and instead of having to dash couples’ dreams, they’ve made purpose-built metal trees on bridges along the Vodootvodny Canal where you can place your love padlock without fear of retribution. I love how these look, like some sort of neuvo-modern art installation.
Ponte Milvio – Rome, Italy
Some say this whole trend was born when the film Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo featured Rome’s Ponte Milvio subjected to its first love padlock. The love locks were in fashion long before, but this film certainly has spared Ponte Milvio no respite from film fans who want to recreate the scene on their own. In fact, in the film, the locks are placed on a lamppost, and so many Romans put locks on the lamppost that it collapsed, hence why now the bridge is covered from end to end.
Mount Huang – China
The posts and railings all along the touristy areas of Mount Huang are covered with love locks, and this is probably a more likely suspect for where the tradition began. Mount Huang is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the ‘the loveliest mountain of China‘ – what a lovely place to symbolize a relationship.
N Seoul Tower – Seoul, South Korea
I just love this photo – it looks more like Christmas trees than lots of locks. The tradition of love padlocks is so popular here that the Koreans have had to install “key bins” for lovers to drop the key in, as keys being thrown over the edge of the tower were proving to be too much of a danger to pedestrians below. Whoops.
Pont Des Arts – Paris, France
Pont des Arts, one of many lovely bridges over the River Seine, is where I first encountered love padlocks (the second is just below). Many bridges feature love locks, but the prettiest in my opinion is Pont de l’Archevêché, featured in the photo. The whole experience of wandering into a fashionable department store or boutique, heading to the clefs (keys) department, and choosing the perfect lock is somewhat of a must-have cultural experience for many couples’ visits to Paris. And hey – it’s Paris – who am I to argue.
Via dell’Amore – Cinque Terre, Italy
Probably my favorite place for love lock spotting is the stretch of hiking trail in the Cinque Terre region of Italy known as Via dell’Amore. Although the trails between these five towns on the country’s western coast are of varying difficulties, this stretch is the easiest and is a flat, well-established path. The lover’s trail runs from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, and includes dreamy landscapes in addition to many opportunities to stop and ponder. The image engraved on this lock is actually an art installation you’ll find on your walk.
Fuente de los Candados – Montevideo, Uruguay
The South Americans always do what they do with flair, so of course their “designated” love lock stop is a gorgeous fountain, just off one of the main plazas in Montevideo. Even better is the lovely quote engraved in both English and Spanish here:
“The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked.”
Butchers’ Bridge – Ljubljana, Slovenia
Many say that Slovenia is one of the most romantic countries in Europe, even moreso than France or Italy, but romantic is in the eye of the beholder, they say. However, I can certainly agree that it’s a pleasure to stroll across the Butchers’ Bridge in the country’s capital city of Ljubljana (hard to spell, easy to enjoy). In addition to lots of love locks, the bridge has a number of art installations that feature famous characters from Slovenian folklore.
Hohenzollern Bridge – Cologne, Germany
I just love Cologne – it’s so pretty and enjoyable every season of the year. Just next to the city’s towering Dom cathedral is a massive bridge, the Hohenzollern – it’s primarily a train bridge, which has rail traffic pouring into the city’s rail hub day and night. The bridge does have a pedestrian/bike lane, which is covered with love padlocks – if you look through the fencing you’ll see a train rumbling by.
Malá Strana – Prague, Czech Republic
Last, but certainly not least, is another one of Europe’s romantic towns, Prague. The interesting thing is that love locks are not found on any of the city’s many bridges (perhaps for more practical reasons – many are made of heavy, large stone), but down the unassuming street of Malá Strana you come across this unexpected scene. There’s something very “Czech” about it – a gentle blend of modern and traditional. It’s well worth the walk.
Happy Valentines Day!
Photo Credits: Kyle McCluer, A.Savin, Heb, Acarron816, Michaela Den, Leo Gonzales, ExeterAnna, Vitor D’Agnoluzzo, Tit Bonač, Daniel Farrell