What’s the most romantic thing you could do abroad? Kiss atop the Eiffel Tower? Propose on the roof of the Empire State Building? How about locking your love and throwing away the key? Couples around the world seal the deal with ‘love locks’ and toss away the keys.
It’s a funny tradition but one that has caught on around the world. In cities like Paris, Rome and as far away as Moscow and Seoul. You can find bridges, fences and even purpose-built structures that are covered in metal padlocks that have initials scratched into them. It’s a small gesture, but certainly a romantic one and what better day of the year to do it than Valentine’s?
A history lesson
There are a number of stories lingering around on the internet concerning the origin of the tradition. Love padlocks started appearing around Europe in the early 2000s. Some think the tradition comes from the 1992 published book Three Metres Above the Sky by Italian author Federico Moccia where a couple affixed a padlock to Rome’s Ponte Milvio in the story.
Where to ‘lock your love’
The possibilities are endless but these are some of the most popular places to attach a love padlock in Europe and beyond.
- Mount Huang, China: nearly every chain-link fence and pole is adorned with locks. Couples hike up the mount, “lock their souls” together and toss the keys over the edge of the cliff.
- Malá Strana, Prague: in the Czech capital many are locking their padlocks to a small bridge near Grand Priory Square, next to John Lennon Wall. You’ll also find some on Charles Bridge.
- Paris: love locks adorn many bridges in Paris now, including Pont des Arts, Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor and the Pont de l’Archevêché.
- Around Italy: Ponte Milvio in Rome, Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Ventimiglia in Turin and along the path connecting Manarola and Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre.
- Vancouver, Canada: you’ll find love locks in two places in Canada’s capital of the west, along the Burrard Street Bridge and False Creek.
- NYC: there’s only one place to lock your love in the Big Apple, along the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
- Montevideo, Uruguay: a fountain in Montevideo has a plaque that reads, “The legend of this 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 locked forever.”
A couple tips
It may seem silly but bring your own lock. If you’re off on a romantic escapade then march yourself down to your nearest DIY shop or hardware store pre-departure and pick up a lock. And a permanent market to write a message onto it. As you can imagine, the stalls set up at either end of the Pont des Arts in Paris are just there to rip tourists off and you’ll pay a small fortune to buy one on location.
Take a photo of it before you lock it. As it happens if you look away just a moment you can easily lose your own lock in the crowd and a snap of it is a nice keepsake since you’ll be throwing away the keys.
Careful when tossing those keys. A lot of the locations for love padlocks are over water but not all. In Soeul there are love locks on an observation tower but the falling keys posed a risk to pedestrians passing underneath so a “key bin” had to be installed for their disposal with warning signs posted. So kiss your sweetie but remember to look below before tossing those keys into oblivion.
Happy Valentine’s Day!