Photos show how the coronavirus affected the world’s biggest tourist attractions throughout this unprecedented year

empty times square coronavirus

  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people stayed home in 2020.
  • This spring, tourist attractions, theme parks, and famous landmarks made history by shuttering their doors for the first time in decades. 
  • Come fall, many had reopened, but with strict new protocols in place, like capacity limits, temperature checks, and mask requirements. 
  • From the Louvre Museum in Paris to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, here's what tourist attractions looked like throughout this unprecedented year.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In March, the world came to a temporary standstill. Billions of people were under lockdown, borders across the world closed, nonessential businesses shuttered.

With that, the travel industry was nearly decimated. Tourist attractions and famous landmarks around the world closed their doors.

Although some attractions have since reopened, many of the once-bustling attractions are still eerily quiet today. 

Keep scrolling to see pictures of what some of the most-visited tourist attractions looked like throughout 2020. 

The "Happiest Place on Earth" attracted crowds right up until its closing on March 15.

March 16 became the first time all six Disney parks across the globe shut down, according to Vox.

Source: Vox

By July, the parks had reopened and were once again bustling. Daryl Austin, writing for Insider, said he regretted his trip to the crowded amusement park in November.

Source: Insider

St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, is a tourist hot spot that sees 26 million to 30 million visitors annually, per Business Insider.

Source: Business Insider

The lockdown rendered it a ghost town in March.

Seven days before Christmas, a handful of tourists explored the square, but visitor numbers were drastically lower than what the city usually sees over the holidays.

In a typical year, the Great Wall of China usually sees around 10 million visitors, according to China Daily.

Source: China Daily

The wall closed to visitors on January 25 and it wasn't until the end of March that it reopened with limited capacity and temperature checks, according to Insider.

Source: Insider

In November, the region experienced its first snow of the season and only a handful of people explored the landmark.

In 2018, over 6.5 million people flocked to the 17th-century Taj Mahal in Agra, India, per CNN.

Source: CNN

This year, that number is drastically lower since the monument sat empty for months.

September 21 marked the attraction's reopening, and crowds quickly flooded the marble mausoleum.

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland's No. 1 attraction. The geothermal spa sees about 1.3 million visitors a year, per the BBC, even though Iceland has a population of only about 330,000.

Source: BBC

The Blue Lagoon closed on March 23 and plans to stay that way through January 2021, according to the attraction's website.

Source: Blue Lagoon Iceland

The Eiffel Tower is normally bustling with both locals lounging around it and tourists climbing up to its top. According to Tour Eiffel, it sees about 7 million visitors annually.

Source: Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower was closed for months, and neither tourists nor locals visited the attraction.

Over the summer, it reopened with limited capacity, but closed indefinitely in October due to a second lockdown, according to Radio France Internationale.

Source: Radio France Internationale

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy attracts throngs of tourists pretending to hold it up.

The only people around the Leaning Tower during Italy's first lockdown were workers spraying disinfectant solutions.

By May, crowds were back at the landmark attempting to take their iconic, touristy pictures once more.

Red Square in Moscow attracts tourists and visitors alike with its colorful Saint Basil's Cathedral.

According to Reuters, Moscow put special safety measures in place at tourist attractions and hotels as early as January 28.

Source: Reuters

This winter, the Russian capital still decorated for the holidays, and locals flocked to the landmark, according to Agence France-Presse, an international news agency.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Rain or shine, hordes of tourists congregated to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London before the pandemic started.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a stay-at-home order on March 23. According to CNN, Britain hadn't seen restrictions like this since the end of World War II.

Source: CNN

In the fall, some tourists were back. But this winter, as a new strain of the virus emerged, the UK imposed stricter lockdowns, as The New York Times reported. The outside of the palace was once again empty.

Source: The New York Times

Las Vegas sees about 42 million visitors a year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

On March 17, the governor of Nevada ordered nonessential businesses to close for 30 days, leaving the Las Vegas Strip looking like a ghost town.

But the strip reopened in June, and by December, Molly O'Brien, writing for Insider, said she was 'shocked how much it still felt like the Sin City I remember.'

Source: Eater, Insider

A year ago, the Spanish Steps in Rome would be teeming with tourists.

In March, 60 million Italians went into lockdown in an effort to curb the coronavirus, leaving the UNESCO World Heritage Site unusually desolate.

Months later, the steps are still eerily quiet as Italy imposed stricter lockdowns this winter, as Business Insider reports.

Source: Business Insider

Locals may avoid it, but New York City's Times Square is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions. It sees nearly 380,000 pedestrians every day, according to Times Square Monthly Pedestrian Count Reports.

Source: Times Square Monthly Pedestrian Count Reports

New York City went into lockdown in March and the area was left barren.

By December, some lockdown restrictions lifted and the square saw a slight resurgence of locals and tourists.

The Forbidden City, a palace complex in Beijing, is one of China's most visited attractions.

Along with many other Chinese attractions, it closed to the public on January 25.

But The Forbidden City has reopened and now welcomes a limited capacity of guests.

Source: AP

With about 750,000 daily visitors, Grand Central Terminal is usually one of the busiest spots in New York City.

Source: Grand Central Terminal

As people self-isolated and worked from home, few used public transportation in the spring and summer. Ridership on commuter railways plummeted nearly 90%, according to The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

As New Yorkers take to the subways once again, the terminal is still drastically empty compared to a year ago.

The Piazza del Duomo in Milan is one of the city's top attractions.

When Italy went into lockdown, few ventured outside. The Duomo closed its doors to visitors on February 25.

For the holidays, the Piazza del Duomo put up a Christmas tree and visitors flocked to the city center.

The Louvre Museum in Paris, home to the "Mona Lisa," is the world's most visited museum, according to Museums EU.

Source: Museums EU

After months of being closed, The Louvre was set to reopen in December, but a new lockdown means the museum remains closed until further notice.

Source: The Louvre, Getty Images

San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf is one of the city's busiest tourist areas.

But a shelter-in-place order was imposed in March, and the wharf was the quietest it's been in years.

Throughout the winter, the wharf remained largely empty, minus a few runners and locals, as California went back into a lockdown.

Source: Business Insider

The Colosseum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sees about 7.4 million visitors a year, according to a local magazine.

Source: Italiani

Post-lockdown, it was practically barren and reopened for a short period until Italy went into a second lockdown.

When in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must-visit attraction.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, the streets were left deserted.

By December, California was back in lockdown and crowds stayed away from the star-filled sidewalks once more.

Source: Business Insider

Vatican City is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Source: CNN

With Italy on lockdown, the familiar crowds quickly disappeared, and this winter, Vatican City remained desolate.

For most visitors (and many locals) no trip to New York is complete without catching a Broadway show.

To curb the coronavirus, theaters closed their doors, suspending all plays and musicals in March.

The theater district still sits empty, and show-goers will have to wait an entire year before seeing a musical. The theaters aren't scheduled to reopen until May, according to NY Tix.

Source: NY Tix

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