No Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum or Versailles

Hold that smile, Mona Lisa. The Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles will remain off-limits for the immediate future, too.

None of France's three most iconic tourist sites will reopen when the country lifts most of its remaining coronavirus lockdown restrictions next week. Some of Europe's other major cultural sites are also taking their time to reopen.

The Eiffel Tower, for instance, likely won’t be able to reopen before the second half of June, according to Stephane Dieu, a labour representative for the monument’s staff. He said they still need to fine tune with the site’s management how to protect employees and visitors and to maintain social distancing.

"For the moment, it’s not possible with all of the best will in the world," Dieu said.

When the tower does reopen, sightseers seeking breathtaking views of Paris may be in for a stair workout: the elevators that usually whisk visitors to the three different levels will likely remain closed, Dieu said.

At the Louvre Museum, managers have told workers they are aiming to reopen on 6 July following new steps announced Thursday by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to ease the country’s coronavirus lockdown. In a statement, France’s most visited museum said a booking system and new signposting would offer visitors the maximum possible safety while they are in the building. They will be asked to wear a mask and keep social distancing. 

“Even if it was possible to discover the Louvre’s treasures virtually during lockdown, nothing can replace the emotion of standing in front of a work of art; that is the raison d’etre of museums,” Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez said.

The Versailles Palace, the former home of France’s kings, also won’t reopen Tuesday, when most of the remaining lockdown restrictions are lifted in France. The palace said a date for reopening hasn’t yet even been decided.

Adapting major tourists draws to coronavirus imperatives is taking time elsewhere, too.

In Madrid, the Prado, Reina Sofa and Thyssen museums – the so-called "triangle of the arts"- are scheduled to jointly reopen on 6 June, two weeks after they were officially allowed to welcome visitors again. Initially, some of their exhibition space will remain closed and visitor numbers will be limited to 30% of their size before the pandemic.

While smaller Spanish museums were quick to reopen this month, major ones said they needed more time to prepare protective gear for staff, temperature checks for visitors and crowd-control measures.

The Prado, the crown jewel of Spanish museums, housing works by Francisco de Goya, Diego de Velazquez and other masters, has been shut since 11 March, its longest closure in eight decades, since the 1936-1939 Civil War. The slogan chosen by the museum for its re-opening is "Re-encounter".

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