Ever been wandering round a city and seen a few random padlocks attached to street-lights, railings or bridges? Well, wonder no longer – you’ve stumbled across padlocks of love!
These cult symbols of devotion have been cropping up in Europe gradually over the last decade or so, but the tradition is thought to have begun in the East. The idea is that you and your significant other write your names on a padlock, attach it to something – thus locking up your love – and then symbolically throw away the key, usually into a river or off a mountain.
Whether you think it’s a romantic gesture or mass vandalism, you can’t help but admire the sentiment. Here are 8 of the best spots to check them out:
1. Pécs, Hungary
Love-locking in Europe is generally agreed to have started in Pécs some time in the 1980s by smitten students. Head to Hungary’s fifth largest city to see where it all began in Janos Pannonius street between the cathedral and northern part of Széchenyi tér. Pécs was one of three European Capitals of Culture in 2010, so once you’ve affixed your padlock, there’s plenty to see and do. Check out the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cella Septichora, or one of the city’s museums before heading to a cukrászda (patisserie) for some local cream cakes.
2. Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany
Since 2008, lovers have attached their padlocks to Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne and thrown the keys into the Rhine. Although Deutsch-Bahn (the owners of the bridge) initially objected, the ‘Liebesschlösser’ are now an established attraction. The pedestrian and rail bridge connects the train station with the cathedral, Kölner Dom, which took 632 years to complete and is one of the most well known architectural monuments in Germany.
3. Huangshan, China
Although Pécs takes credit for love-locking in Europe, some believe the tradition originated in China. You’ll find these eternal mementos all around the country but one of the best places to see love-locks is Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province, known as ‘China’s loveliest mountain’. The mountain’s beautiful scenery and surroundings inspired classic Chinese poets and painters; think dramatic peaks, rugged trees and seas of clouds. The area’s romantic atmosphere spans from local legend that a beautiful girl fell in love with a poor man. Her father insisted she marry a rich man instead, but on their wedding day, the girl escaped with her poor lover up Huangshan, and they threw themselves off the mountain to be together forever. Nowadays, less drastic lovers attach padlocks to chains and railings on Lotus Peak, and throw the keys off the mountainside in memory of this legend.
4. Ponte Milvio, Rome
Following the success of Federico Moccia’s book and 2006 film ‘Ho voglia di te di’ (‘I Want You’), the lampposts of Rome’s oldest bridge, Ponte Milvio, became a popular destination for attaching Lucchetti d’Amore. So much so, that the additional weight of iron was threatening the structure of the bridge. Well, the course of love never did run smooth… To allow sweet-hearts to continue, authorities set up chains on the bridge where locks can be attached and a website where you can latch on in ‘virtual reality’.
5. Luzhkov Bridge, Moscow
Locks started appearing on the trees of Moscow’s Luzhkov Bridge (which spans the Vodootvodny Canal near the Kremlin and Red Square) and the nearby embankment in 2007. Over the last five years, it has become so popular the real trees have been replaced with iron versions so they don’t collapse under the weight of Russian love.
One of the world’s most romantic cities has turned its nose up at the padlocking phenomenon; when love-locking sprung up in the early 2000s, authorities unceremoniously cut padlocks off bridges and monuments around the city. Despite official disapproval, displays of fidelity are popping up around the city again, especially on the Pont de l’Archevêché, which crosses from the left bank of the Seine to Notre-Dame Cathedral.
‘Padlock of love’ is ‘cadenas de l’amour’, in case you were wondering…
7. Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic
Explore Prague’s baroque quarter, Mala Strana (the area just below Prague Castle on the left bank of the river Vltava), to find Prague’s love locks. Bypassing the city’s famous Charles Bridge, lovers in the Czech capital have colonised gates along the canal instead. The John Lennon Wall, dedicated to peace and love after his murder in 1980, is nearby.
8. Montevideo, Uruguay
The padlock trend is spreading far and wide and has even reached Latin America. It might not have the widespread fame of Rome’s Trevi Fountain, but a fountain in Montevideo, Uruguay is doing its best. A plaque invoking a local legend attached to a fountain on the city’s Avenida 18 de Julio, is encouraging lovers to secure their tokens of fidelity and to return so that their love will be sealed forever. The plaque, in English and Spanish reads: “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.”