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How COVID-19 pandemic affects Europe’s tourism

Europe might be reopening its most famous tourist attractions after historic closures, but things are far from normal in the continent's museums and city landmarks.

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Europe might be reopening its most famous tourist attractions after historic closures, but things are far from normal in the continent’s museums and city landmarks.

From eerily quiet galleries to disabled lifts, here’s how the pandemic can still be felt as Europe’s lockdown on tourism ends.

Paris’ Eiffel Tower – steps only

The Eiffel Tower in Paris reopened in mid-June for those willing to climb hundreds of steps on a hot summer’s day and, if they’re more than 11 years old, to do so while wearing an obligatory face mask.

Lifts in the tower, which received more than 6 million visitors last year but shut down in mid-March due to coronavirus restrictions, were not being reopened until July.

In the meantime, visitors have been able to climb the 674 steps that lead to the second floor, 115 metres above the ground.

The Louvre, meanwhile, is preparing to reopen on July 6, with the room holding the world-famous Mona Lisa looking rather like an airport check-in area at the height of the holiday season.

Orange dots on the floor mark where visitors are expected to stand and queue in order to keep a safe distance from one another.

France has been gradually easing its strict coronavirus lockdown measures since May 11, and has already reopened cafes, restaurants and cinemas across the country.

Ireland’s pubs – open for ‘substantial meals’ only

For the first time in more than three months, some of Ireland’s pubs began pulling pints once again at the end of June as the country lifted most of its remaining coronavirus-related restrictions.

Pubs that serve food are now be permitted to seat customers, who can drink for one hour and 45 minutes – as long as they purchase a “substantial meal” worth 9 euros or more and adhere to social distancing rules.

The reopening regime prohibits standing at or crowding around a bar, while pubs that serve only drinks cannot reopen until July 20.

Cinemas, gyms, hair salons, places of worship and restaurants have also reopened as the pandemic recedes in Ireland.

Rome’s Vatican Museums – no more crowds

After nearly three months of one of Europe’s strictest pandemic lockdowns, cultural institutions in Rome reopened their doors at the start of June.

Two of the world’s most famous tourist attractions – the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum – have since welcomed relatively few visitors. “It’s probably the best time to come here,” Vatican Museums director, Barbara Jatta, said.

Due to coronavirus rules, access to the Vatican Museums has been limited to about 4,000 people per day; in the past, 20,000 visitors would have crowded past the attractions on a normal day.

Some 90 per cent of the Vatican Museums’ visitors are from abroad. But now that things are quiet, there is a chance for Romans, for Italians, to rediscover the beauty of their country, Jatta said.

London’s National Gallery – ‘no tourists’

After more than three months of forced closure, Britain’s best-known museums and art galleries have announced plans to reopen as the country emerges from lockdown.

The experience is now set to be quite different, however. All visitors will have to book their tickets online in advance and follow a prescribed one-way system with three routes inside the building.

You’ll need to do this while maintaining a social distance of at least 2 metres. Face masks are recommended and the opening hours have been shortened.

The National Gallery on London’s Trafalgar Square is set to be the first to reopen its doors to visitors on July 8, followed by the Barbican Centre on July 13 and the Royal Academy on July 16. The Tate galleries in London, Liverpool and Cornwall will wait until July 27 before reopening.

The National Gallery is in a difficult situation as it gets more than 60 per cent of its income from tourism. Director Gabriele Finaldi said that since there are “no tourists” in London at the moment, he expects low visitor numbers in the coming months.

Spain’s Alhambra – one-way corridors

The world-famous Alhambra palace and fortress in southern Spain reopened to visitors on June 17 after months of forced closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Initially, only 4,250 visitors were being admitted into the huge Moorish-era complex in the city of Granada at the same time, which is roughly half as many as in normal times.

There have also been slight changes for visitors, such as one-way corridors. In addition, visitors will be required to wear a face mask everywhere on the site.

The Alhambra is a World Heritage Site and, with more than 2 million visitors a year, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain alongside the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona.

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