The Mona Lisa is back in business. Paris’ Louvre Museum, which houses the world’s most famous portrait, reopened on Monday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown and without its usual huge throngs.
Face masks were a must and visitor numbers were limited, with reservations required. Among the trickle of returning tourists was Zino Vandenbeaghen, who travelled from Belgium to enjoy the unusual space at both the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.
“It’s super,” he said. “The ideal moment to visit.”
About 70 per cent of the giant museum – 45,000 square meters of space housing 30,000 of the Louvre’s vast trove of works – is again accessible to visitors starved of art in lockdown.
“It’s very emotional for all the teams that have prepared this reopening,” museum director Jean-Luc Martinez said.
The bulk of visitors to what was the world’s most-visited museum before the pandemic used to come from overseas, led by travellers from the United States.
Americans are still barred from the European Union that is gradually reopening its borders. The Louvre is hoping the reopening will attract visitors from closer to home, including the Paris region but is bracing itself for a plunge in numbers.
Martinez said the museum was expecting just 7000 visitors on the reopening day.
Before the pandemic, as many as 50,000 people per day toured the Louvre in the busiest summer months.