The Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses the Seine River. It links the Institut de France and the central square (cour carrée) of the palais du Louvre, (which had been termed the "Palais des Arts" under the First Empire). Between 1802 and 1804, a nine-arch metallic bridge for pedestrians was constructed at the location of the present day Pont des Arts: this was the first metal bridge in Paris. This innovation was due to Napoléon I, following a design of English manufacture.
The engineers Louis-Alexandre de Cessart and Jacques Dillon initially conceived of a bridge which would resemble a suspended garden, with trees, banks of flowers, and benches. In 1976, the Inspector of Bridges and Causeways ( Ponts et Chaussées ) reported several deficiencies on the bridge. More specifically, he noted the damage that had been caused by two aerial bombardments sustained during World War I and World War II and the harm done from the multiple collisions caused by boats. The bridge would be closed to circulation in 1977 and, in 1979, suffered a 60 meter collapse after a barge rammed into it. The present bridge was built between 1981 and 1984 "identically" according to the plans of Louis Arretche, who had decided to reduce the number of arches from nine to seven, allowing the look of the old bridge to be preserved while realigning the new structure with the Pont Neuf.
On 27 June 1984, the newly reconstructed bridge was inaugurated by Jacques Chirac – then the mayor of Paris. The bridge has sometimes served as a place for art exhibitions, and is today a studio en plein air for painters, artists and photographers who are drawn to its unique point of view. The Pont des Arts is also frequently a spot for picnics during the summer. The Argentinian writer, Julio Cortázar, talks about this bridge in his book "Rayuela". When Horacio Oliveira goes with the pythia and this tells him that the bridge for La Maga is the "Ponts des Arts". In recent years, many tourist couples have taken to attaching padlocks to the railing or the grate on the side of the bridge, then throwing the key into the river below, as a romantic gesture. The City of Paris has not yet adopted a definitive policy on how to deal with this new fad. Due to its recognizable nature, the bridge has been featured in numerous films and television shows.