Berlin Love Padlocks…. not as viral as I’d imagined

That’s a title that could conjure up something interesting particularly if you frequent the more exotic Berlin attractions (I’d imagine).

Well actually it’s quite sweet and innocent.

Love padlocks are a tradition that involves placing a padlock on a piece of municipal iron work, usually a bridge railing, and throwing the key into the river below. It’s a symbol of your never-ending love for your partner and should be inscribed with your names and an important date to add significance to the event. I wrote about the practice in Florence, Italy in 2011.

Apparently it started in Florence when soldiers who were being transferred from the local army barracks would put the padlocks from their kit lockers onto the Florence bridges and throws the keys into the River Arno below. A romantic gesture, symbolising love and commitment.

The practice has gone viral, spreading to 30 countries across the world. There is plenty of material about love padlocks on the Internet including details of the battles between sweethearts placing the padlocks and officials who want to remove them. If you are interested there are even businesses that will provide an inscribed padlock of your choice.

Here is the example I saw recently in Berlin. That’s Berlin Cathedral in the background and the River Spree below.  This surprised me a bit. The extent of the love padlocks was a bit restrained in comparison with those I’d seen in Florence. Given the scale of other forms of self expression I’d seen in Berlin, particularly graffiti (which is everywhere) and things like the Love Parade, I’d have thought love padlocks would have taken off and gone viral. Perhaps love padlocks are a bit too tame and mainstream for the Berliners?

I suppose it goes to show, you can’t predict human behavior and what will go viral.

By the way, as far as I’m aware there is no evidence yet of love padlocks taking off in Cardiff, or anywhere else in Wales (excellent locations in Cardiff Bay, probably). You could however argue that the Welsh love spoon is a sophisticated demonstration of love. Love spoons are unfortunately quite expensive and not that practical for attaching to bridges as public expressions of love.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Public expressions of emotion do seem to vary hugely between countries and cultures.
  2. Human emotions are complex and it’s incredibly difficult to predict what people might do, and what might go viral.
  3. Perhaps the Italians really are the most romantic people in Europe. I’ve just come back from Italy. There are plenty of love padlocks dotted around Florence, Venice and even popping up in places like Volterra.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

9 Responses

  1. I enjoyed this lively and informative post! And would like to share the fact that I have encountered ‘love locks’ many times during my travels in China, in particular at Huangshan, Anhui province, where I stumbled across several sites. It seems the practice is alive and well among the youth of China!

  2. Jenn

    I hear that padlocks in Berlin are routinely removed by city officials. So that may be the reason for the city’s lack of padlocks?

  3. When I witnessed and wrote about the love locks on the Hohenzollernbrücke bridge in Köln (Cologne), someone had thoughtfully spray painted the following message on the adjacent pedestrian walkway:

    “Was ist das für eine Gesellschaft in der das Symbol für Liebe ein Vorhängeschloss ist?” (What does it say about society when a padlock is a symbol for love?)

    Does this, can this ritual or newfound tradition go too far? If so, what then?

  4. lovelockapp

    For anybody who likes the love lock idea but does not like the environmental impact, and risk to the structural safety of bridges. An app might be a solution: attach and discover virtual locks in any place, wherever you go with your smartphone. If you like the idea, help us support this project by sending an email to

  5. Katie

    Update: This year for Valentine’s Day I had a friend go to Berlin to try and find our lock and take a picture. After five years though the lock is gone and there are no locks anymore on the bridge at all. I just thought I would update you. Lock or not we are still going strong and have since gotten married and had a baby 🙂

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