The Louvre just reopened for the first time in 4 months, and 2 striking photos show just how different it is to visit the famous Paris museum today

  • The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the Louvre, if not the world — but before the pandemic, the Paris museum's crowds were so dense you weren't even guaranteed to see it.
  • The Louvre reopened on July 6 for the first time since it closed in March in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • New coronavirus restrictions include making reservations online, wearing a face-covering if you're over 11 years old, and following a one-way path through the museum with a social distance of at least three feet.
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Visiting the Mona Lisa before the coronavirus pandemic was a lot like seeing your favorite band in concert — unless you're really lucky and you plan it just right, you're mostly just watching the show through someone else's phone. 

Normally, the Louvre sees 10 million visitors every year, per The New York Times. Of those visitors, 80% are there to see the Mona Lisa, the Louvre reported in 2019. 

In the fall of 2019, the Mona Lisa's room was renovated to include lines for viewing the painting. Even then, visitors complained that there were too many people present to truly experience the painting, per a 2019 article from The Times.

"Until now, people would crowd around the Mona Lisa," Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre's president, recently told The Times.

A photo from 2005 offers a telling look at what a visit to the Mona Lisa would often yield:

But right now, that is not the case.

"We want to make the encounter with the Mona Lisa a special moment," Martinez added. 

Since the museum reopened on July 6, visitors are guaranteed a chance to see the famous painting from a distance.

Here is a photo from the first day the Louvre reopened:

The Louvre closed on March 13 after France banned public gatherings of more than 100 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. To prepare for reopening, the museum installed new signs to guide people through the museum with social distancing measures.

Museum-goers get to stand 10 feet away from the painting after waiting in line for about 15 minutes or less, Martinez said. Here's another photo taken this week that shows what the line looks like to get up to the Mona Lisa. The line was introduced in 2019, but now, people have to maintain a social distance of at least three feet in it: 

Due to travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Martinez is expecting much smaller crowds. He told Agence France-Presse that he expects to see between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day this summer, instead of the usual 50,000.

The museum is currently letting in 400-500 patrons every half-hour. 

Only 70% of the museum has reopened so far, leaving several exhibition rooms closed, like French sculptures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and the lower level of the Islamic Art department.

The museum will remain closed on Tuesdays from July to September.

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