It’s normal for Paris to empty out in the summer, but with no tourists to replace the fleeing juilletistes and aoûtiens, the city has come to an unusual stand still.
Today, however, marks one of the big steps into a post-quarantine France, with the reopening of the Musée du Louvre. The museum had been closed since France went into lockdown on March 13, at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. After sixteen weeks of closure, the museum is again opening its doors to the public, but with some strict guidelines.
Only 70% of the museum (or about 484,000 square feet) is now accessible to the public, but that still includes a whopping 30,000 works of art. Masks are now required, and the museum has put a cap on how many visitors can enter at a time.
Reservations are required for entry, though this was the case in the several months leading up to quarantine, after Louvre employees went on strike in 2019 for better working conditions due to overcrowding. Another premonition of the museum’s closure happened back in January, when proposed government pension reforms angered workers, and hordes of tourists were turned away at the door. And some demonstrations continue to this day, with groups of Paris tour guides gathering outside the museum during its reopening, holding pictures of the Mona Lisa up to draw attention to their current financial struggle.
The museum welcomes around 10 million tourists per year, 75% of them foreigners. So it will be interesting to see how quickly revenues bounce back (or don’t) after months of inactivity, especially given how tight travel restrictions still are. In almost four months, the museum has lost an estimated $45 million in revenue from ticket sales. And given the large percentage of American and Chinese tourists who normally come in droves during the summer months, who are currently still barred from entering France, it’s hard to say who will be visiting, and in what kind of numbers. Museum director Jean-Luc Martinez says that they expect about 7,000 guests on their first day back, compared to as many as 50,000 in previous years.
Visitors will no longer get to lose themselves in the endless hallways of the Louvre. A predetermined route will be assigned for all, and normally crowded rooms like the one where the Mona Lisa is kept will have markings on the floor to separate guests from one another, and prevent them from mobbing the masterpiece. But, if you’re willing to follow these rules, it could be the best time to explore the museum’s many treasures. With an estimated 80% reduction in visitors, there will never be another time to have the kind of “intimate experience” you might currently enjoy in the quiet, empty museum.