Some of Europe’s most cultural attractions are opening their doors to visitors once again as the continent creeps towards a return to normality following the coronavirus outbreak.
Dozens of nations have been forced into lockdown by the pandemic, and flight restrictions have had a huge impact on tourism across Europe.
The UK has seen significantly more positive cases and fatalities than its neighbours, but some of those countries are now also edging towards grim milestones.
France is rapidly approaching 30,000 deaths, having had more than 150,000 people test positive since the virus began to spread.
With 288,058 cases, Spain has recorded almost double that seen in France, but has experienced fewer deaths, with 27,134, while in Italy, there have been 33,774 fatalities from 234,531 cases.
Figures elsewhere in the west of the continent, in places such as Austria, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands remain comparatively low.
As the number of new cases and deaths begins to plateau, many are taking steps to reopen some of their popular cultural hotspots – albeit, in many cases, with social distancing restrictions.
France’s Palace of Versailles, built in the 17th century by the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, throws its doors open to the public again today, but with little certainty over when tourists will return in larger numbers.
Visitors wearing protective face masks visit the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) at the Chateau de Versailles today following its reopening
Visitors look at the Latona’s fountain at the Chateau de Versailles after it reopened to the public for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown
Visitors stand and take photographs in the Cour d’honneur courtyard at the Chateau de Versailles today after its reopening
Empty chairs and tables of cafes and restaurants are pictured around the Chateau de Versailles today, despite it reopening
Visitors, including a young child, stand in the Cour d’honneur courtyard at the cultural landmark in France earlier today
Visitors wearing protective face masks pose for a picture in the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) at the attraction today
Louis XIV craved the palace, pictured today, as a symbol of France’s prominence as a European superpower and his perceived divine right to wield absolute power
Visitors look at the Latona’s fountain at the Chateau de Versailles after the popular attracting swung open its doors today
Workers yesterday dusted the Hall of Mirrors and polished its gilded statues ahead of the reopening, which requires visitors to wear face masks and follow a one-way route through the opulent 2,300-room complex.
The coronavirus crisis has dealt a heavy financial blow to the palace and France’s other leading cultural attractions.
Ticket sales to the eight million people who passed through the palace gates in 2019 made up 75 per cent of revenues. Four in every five visitors is foreign.
‘This financial model has been devastated. We have to start again,’ Catherine Pegard, who runs the palace, said.
Louis XIV craved the palace as a symbol of France’s prominence as a European superpower and his perceived divine right to wield absolute power.
It remained the principle royal residence until the French Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy nearly eight decades after his death.
The palace is one of the most visited sites France, itself the world’s favourite tourist destination.
But as France emerges cautiously from lockdown – its borders remain closed to most outsiders – the palace anticipates only a fifth of the 20,000 visitors it used to host on peak days. Tickets must be bought in advance.
A roped walkway will guide visitors through the famed Hall of Mirrors, where Germany and the Allied Nations signed the treaty ending World War One, and the ornate King’s Grand Apartment.
‘We’ve cleaned the mirrors, dusted the chandeliers and the torches. Conditions are exceptional,’ Pegard said.
Elsewhere, Spanish visitors queued to enter the Prado museum in Madrid today, which reopened for 1,800 people for the first time since the outbreak.
The visitors were required to wear face masks and have their temperature taken before taking in what the museum called its ‘most iconic works’.
Meanwhile, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed in the Austrian capital’s Musikverein last night, although only 100 guests were allowed into the venue and were separated by empty seats to ensure social distancing.
In Switzerland, crowds queued up patiently to see the animals at Zoo Zurich which also reopened to the public today.
People in face masks applaud today as the Reina Sofia museum reopens its doors, after its closure in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Visitors check out the exhibitions at today’s reopening of the Prado Museum in the Spanish capital for the first time since the outbreak
Visitors to the Prado museum today were required to wear face masks and have their temperature taken before taking in what the museum called its ‘most iconic works’
A string quintet performs ‘The Hymn of Joy’ during the reopening to the public of the Prado Museum in Madrid this afternoon
A museum worker wearing a face mask and protection is seen during the reopening of the cultural hotspot in the Spanish capital today
Visitors wearing face masks keep their distance as they check out the museum’s ‘most iconic works’ after its reopening today
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs last night in front of just 100 guests in a show in the Austrian capital
Some members of the orchestra wore face masks, pictured, after performing at the golden hall of Vienna’s Musikverein last night
Guests who came to watch the performance in Vienna last night were spaced out between empty seats to ensure social distancing
Visitors flocked to a zoo in Zurich, Switzerland today, pictured, which opened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak
Two adults and a young child watch the elephants at Zoo Zurich in Switzerland today after it reopened its doors to the public
Grinning visitors patiently waited in line in Switzerland today to see the animals at the freshly reopened Zoo Zurich