I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of love locks.
I used to see them fairly regularly on my strolls across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lovers young and old would write or engrave their names onto a padlock and fasten them to the metal criss-cross fence lining the eastern pedestrian walkway. The key would then be thrown into the harbour below, symbolically rendering their love unbroken for all of eternity. On occasion I would count upwards of 100 love locks, and I took much inspiration from stopping to read the names & messages that appeared on their metallic surfaces. I’ll always remember one in particular that simply read “Ugné + Darren” – it was late in the evening as it attracted my attention, catching a reflection from the passing traffic. I smiled and silently wished this unknown travelling couple a lifetime of happiness, knowing they’d experienced their very own moment of romance standing at this exact same spot with the magnificent sails of the Opera House peaking perfectly in the background.
Eight months after leaving Sydney, I found myself in Seoul visiting the N Seoul Tower. Being the tallest structure in South Korea at 236 metres, its overall height is further boosted to nearly 480 metres above sea level due to the fact that it sits on top of Namsan Mountain; the observatory at the top offering spectacular 360° views across the sprawling metropolis. But it wasn’t the view nor the tower itself that I found most fascinating about my visit to said attraction – it was its famous collection of love locks that roused my senses the most.
It was a busy Monday morning in the centre of the city, and I’d spent around half an hour walking through Namdaemun Market before approaching Namsan Park on foot from the northeast corner. The uphill trek toward the tower was stunning – it was almost unbelievable just how peaceful and pristine the forests of the park were, considering its proximity to one of the largest cities in the world.
Eventually the forest cleared and the N Seoul Tower stood out majestically above the canopy. I always try to reach the highest point of each city I travel through, and I couldn’t wait to see the urban sprawl of Seoul from the observation deck above.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the base of the tower that I began to understand the true extent of the love locks. I mean, I’d read about them in my guidebook but it simply described the sight as being ‘trees’ covered with padlocks which symbolise eternal love. I knew to expect a few of these trees, but much to my surprise I was greeted with an entire kaleidoscopic fence full of padlocks, key rings, phone cases, tags, hearts and toys – there was such an array of dazzling paraphernalia attached to the railings!
Some of the messages appearing on the locks were concise & to the point; others had a lifetime of thought & emotion put into them.
Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong, sometimes it’s letting go:
I loved the rather blunt message left for Mike on this tag:
There are a lot of signs around the premises asking lovers to hold onto their key rather than throw it over the edge. Due to safety and environmental concerns, the authorities understandably don’t want the ground below littered with thousands of tiny metal instruments.
But where’s the romance in holding onto your key, huh?!
This is one of a number of Heart Chairs that featured around the grounds of the love locks. Designed by the official mascot of the locks (a bear named Nsarang Gom, who claims to be an expert at dating), they’re described as being magical chairs that help two people fall in love. The idea is of course that shy couples sit on either end of the chair, only to find themselves being drawn closer together. What a lovely idea 🙂
Some Starbucks love:
Honestly, the fence of locks was enormous. Unlike the Sydney Harbour Bridge where I was used to seeing padlocks numbering the hundreds, here there must have been hundreds of thousands, of all different shapes, sizes and colours! It was truly a sight to behold.
These were the ‘trees’ I was originally expecting to see, as described by my guidebook:
Not to be mistaken for a post box, those who obeyed the rules and held onto their key after fastening their lock were invited to dispose of it in this bin, to save from it being thrown over the edge.
Eventually I made my way to the observation deck at the top of the tower, where I admired the spectacular but smoggy view of Seoul. The monochrome picture from the heavens didn’t quite match the vividity of the scene below, though.
Inside the observation tower, couples who wished to put in a little extra effort could purchase a tile which they were free to decorate and attach to the wall as a further token of their love.
The view of the love locks from the window of The Place restaurant, back down at the base of the tower.
And finally, a simple, heartfelt message to leave with:
There were a number of souvenir shops lining the base of the tower where padlocks could be purchased and names could be engraved. I was thinking about leaving a lock myself… but I decided not to in the end. Not this time, anyway.
The N Seoul Tower love locks are an attraction well worth visiting – if not for your own romantic endeavours, then simply to observe the astonishing display of collective happiness in the form of symbolic expression. The tower can be reached by a number of transport options, including shuttle bus, cable car, city tour bus, car, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, simply by foot. The nearest subway station to the cable car is Myeongdong Station. For further details on public transport to the top Mt. Namsan, have a peek through the Getting Here section of the official N Seoul Tower website.
One day, I’d like to return to N Seoul Tower and fasten a padlock of my own onto the fence.
Only time will tell whose name will be engraved on the lock next to mine.
Have you ever left a love lock anywhere? Who was it dedicated to and what did it say?