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Love Padlocks: Locks Declaring Eternal Love in Cities Worldwide- Coming to a bridge, wall, or fence near you!

Updated on September 29, 2010
While traveling through Germany, I noticed an interesting embellishment on bridges- little padlocks with initials written on them.  They reminded me of the tradition I’ve seen of carving a couple’s initials into a tree trunk- but I didn’t know about their background, so I decided to do a little research.  As it happens, these locks on bridges are known as love padlocks, and they are internationally used as a public proclamation of a couple’s love!

Here are my findings- I hope you find them as interesting as I did! (Note: the hyperlinks in my text are to sources I consulted, so if you want to go to the original source, click through)

A love padlock on a bridge in Weimar, Germany
A love padlock on a bridge in Weimar, Germany

What are love padlocks?

love and commitment.  At times, the locks are affixed to fences or bridges at famous locations (many of which are famous amongst couples and have certain implications regarding love and romance), in other instances the locks are affixed in seemingly random locations.  

At a couple of locations in Asia, love padlocks are affixed to high bridges or towers, and the keys are thrown to the depths below to symbolize commitment.  

In some specific cases (as in Hungary, according to Wikipedia), the locks started out in one location, and once that location was overstuffed, the locks began to spread to additional fences, bridges, and statues.  In some cases, when locks are not available, bag tags have been used instead.  

Most commonly, the couples installing love padlocks on fences and bridges are young and simply dating, but in some areas newlyweds are the main culprits!  

Love padlocks can be found throughout Europe, as well as in the UK, China (including Taiwan), Japan, Uruguay, South Korea, and Guam.  Love padlocks have sprung up in the U.S. mainland (in Lovelock, Nevada to be specific), however the tradition seems to be a bit contrived in this place- more of a tourist promotion than anything else.

Some say the first love padlocks were on the Great Wall of China
Some say the first love padlocks were on the Great Wall of China

Where did the tradition come from?

Some say the tradition of couples inscribing their initials on a lock, affixing it to a permanent place, and throwing away the key emerged in China- especially along the Great Wall, where such locks are affixed to chains along the turrets.

According to several websites, love padlocks first emerged in Hungary in the 1980s.  This is the only date mentioned with regard to the practice, so we can only be certain (and somewhat dubiously at that) that love padlocks have been around for at least 30 years.  

Perhaps the practice emerged in several places over a long period of time.  There is no solid conclusion out there that I can find.  At any rate, the tradition has proved to be quite popular, and has spread throughout the world.  

That said, it seems as though many love padlock ‘outbreaks’ are somewhat recent.  For example, the locks found their way to Cologne, Germany only in 2008, and cropped up in Italy around 2006 (apparently as a result of the practice being publicized in two novels and a movie).  Perhaps the padlocks are turning into a trend!

Love Padlocks and Controversy

Love padlocks are frequently viewed as a form of vandalism by local authorities, and various efforts have been made to prevent the practice (usually by pressing fines)- as well as to remove existing locks.  Efforts appear to have been particularly strong in Rome and Paris.  

Because love padlocks have become so popular, however, it is difficult to stop couples from setting them up.  As a result, many cities and some towns have set up dedicated fences and other structures where it is legal to affix love padlocks.  These efforts may be moderately helpful with preventing illegal installations, but improvised locks are still to be found everywhere!

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    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh my gosh, that is exceedingly romantic, Tina!! Happy anniversary!

    • profile image

      Tina 

      6 years ago

      I have seen the "love locks" in Prague. Very romantic! Our anniversary is next weekend and we are going to leave our "love lock" in Koln, Germany!

    • profile image

      Lovelocks 

      6 years ago

      Great article...Lovelocks, Inc. is a US company that is designing and installing structures called "Lovescapes" across the country. They are the safe and legal places for couples, families and friends to attach their Lovelocks to. Lovelocks, Inc. also is offering a more elegant padlock that is a solid brass double heart shaped Lovelock. We are creating a piece of Lock Art for everyone to enjoy. It's much more than just a padlock, it's a Lovelock! Start your own tradition with someone special.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh my gosh d braun! That's awesome, and super romantic!

      I agree, Patty- there's lots to learn from abroad, though I'll certainly pass on the lip lock. We should just bring the locks-on-bridges tradition here, eh, Deerwhisperer?

    • profile image

      d braun 

      6 years ago

      we just added our love lock to a bridge in Napa at the Wine Train. Fun!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Interesting tradition unheard of by me! Other countries have so much to show us and we to them. Now, the liplock does not suprise me, after reading some biographies of woman in certain nations, but - OUCH.

    • Deerwhisperer profile image

      Brenda K Krupnow 

      8 years ago from Ravenden, AR

      Perhaps we should start a new tradition.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow Equealla!!!

      I sure am glad my sweetheart won't put a lock through my lips!! What an interesting practice though.

      I think I prefer the locks on fences :)

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 

      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      This is new to me! Never heard of it. I just know that certain tribes in rural Africa, some of the men will put a padlock through the lips of their wives, in order to prevent them from speaking to other men.

      Very intersting article. Thanx.

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