Paris’ Arts Bridge, or Pont des Arts (sometimes known as the Passerelle des Arts), runs across the Seine River, linking the Cour Carrée (central square) of the Palais du Louvre on the North Bank with the landmark Institut de France on the South Bank.
The famous pedestrian bridge was first erected in 1802 under Napolean I, but today’s design dates back to 1984 when it was rebuilt following a series of boat collisions and collapses.
Designed by Louis Arretche, the metal arched bridge has not only become an important landmark of old age Paris, but a popular vantage point, affording spectacular views along the Seine. With its wide walkway and picnic benches, the bridge has long been used as more than just a crossing point – artists, photographers and painters flock to the area, and the bridge is regularly used for small-scale open-air art exhibitions. In summertime, the bridge is a popular picnic spot and whatever the weather, a nighttime stroll along the Pont des Arts offers up a dazzling panorama of Paris, framed by the magnificent façade of the neighboring Louvre.
A more recent tradition is the hanging of padlocks from the bridge’s metal fencing – a symbolic gesture carried out by couples who seal the padlock then throw the keys in the river. While the custom is hardly endorsed by the Parisian government, the bridge is nevertheless adorned with hundreds of lovingly clasped padlocks, many inscribed with the names of their one time owners, and many see it as a fitting tribute to the famous city of romance.