Starry-eyed tourists from all over the world flock to the Pont des Arts bridge spanning the Seine River to attach a lock representing their eternal love, and throw the key into the river. But the now-iconic bridge is buckling under the weight of such devotion, and authorities are desperate to stop the craze.
Last year police hurriedly ushered tourists off the Pont des Arts when a section of the footbridge collapsed under the weight of the locks covering the 155m (509-ft) long bridge. Plastic panels were put up in places to deter lovebirds, and authorities launched a drive to get tourists to upload selfies instead of attaching a lock.
A newly-wed couple locks a padlock on the Pont des Arts on Friday. Around one million of such locks throng the fences of the bridge. (AFP Photo/ Charly Triballeau)
But nothing stands in the way of true love, and tourists have kept piling the locks on the bridge and elsewhere. The Pont de l'Archevêché bridge in front of the Notre Dame cathedral is now as inundated with locks, while stray locks can often be spotted around the city.
Deploring 'destruction of heritage' and a security risk for tourists on the overloaded Pont des Arts, Paris officials have decided, enough is enough and will remove all locks from Monday.
"We will remove nearly one million padlocks, or 45 tonnes," said city official Bruno Julliard, criticising the "ugliness" of the locks on some of Paris's most beautiful bridges.
Portuguese street artist Pantonio are seen working on May 27, 2015 in a workshop in Paris, as he makes graffiti on wood panels which will replace the railings of the Pont des Arts, that threatened to fall due to the weight of padlocks. (AFP Photo/ Joel Saget)
The metal grills of the bridge will be replaced with works of art over the summer, and will later be replaced with clear panels. "We want Paris to remain the capital of love and romance," Julliard said, adding a campaign encouraging lovers to express their love in different ways - such as the selfie initiative - would get underway soon.
The City of Love
Jean, 57, a tourist from the south of France who was walking arm in arm with Marion, 42, his "mistress", said the city's plans were stupid and a pity. "It is symbolic to seal your love by attaching a lock to this bridge, here in Paris, the city of love," he said.
Unlocking the love. From Monday Paris will tear apart the 1m padlocks on the Pont des Arts. Breaking Bad? pic.twitter.com/sGjkktrEuG— paulkirby (@paul1kirby) May 29, 2015
Guillermo, 33, from Argentina, who was about to clamp his lock on the bridge to show his feelings for his new girlfriend he hopes to marry one day, suggests collecting all the locks "to make a sort of statue or monument".
The city's move has also annoyed tour guide Vincent Jouaneau, who had accompanied two Philippine couples to the bridge.
"It is out of question to stop groups" from coming to attach locks to the bridge, he said, adding he would just take future tourists one bridge up to the Pont Neuf.
A woman takes photos of a padlock on the "Pont des Arts" on Friday before they are removed. Social awareness drives like clicking Selfies with the bridge instead of locks, are undertaken to preserve the heritage of the bridge. (AFP Photo/ Charly Triballeau)
But the municipality is one step ahead, and is also planning to remove the metal grills from the other targeted bridges.
While the trend of attaching locks to the Pont des Arts began in 2008, the problem is not unique to Paris. It is unclear where the idea of using the lock ritual to symbolise love originated, but the padlocks bearing lovers' initials have spread from European capitals, to as far as Marrakech or China.