The world is emerging from lockdown in stages, and these celebrated tourist sites are among the first wave. You might not be able to fly to visit them just yet, but they’re ready when you are…
1. The Acropolis, Greece
One of the world’s great bucket list destinations, the Acropolis in Athens was one of 200-odd historic sites in Greece to reopen to the public on May 18. The peak of ancient Greek architecture – geographically and figuratively – the Acropolis looms above Athens like an unofficial flagpole, and fields more than a million people every year.
Greece has been remarkably successful in combating the virus, reporting fewer than 3,000 cases nationally, and 166 deaths, and is now hoping to restart an economy that has long relied heavily on tourism. Visitors to the Acropolis are advised to observe social distancing, and the site will not admit large groups.
2. The Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
The modern home of Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, the Rijksmuseum has done a roaring trade in virtual visitation since shutting up shop in mid-March, but it’s just not the same as witnessing artwork up close.
For the Amsterdam institution only a week of lockdown remains, and from June 1 guests can experience its treasures via three one-way routes, marked by arrows on the floor, and punctuated with regular helpings of hand gel.
3. Yellowstone National Park, USA
It’s a lot easier to reopen a sprawling wilderness the size of a small country than it is, say, a gym, but authorities at Yellowstone are taking no chances. The park is in phase one of a three-phase reopening plan by unbolting the entrances in Wyoming, but not those in Montana or Idaho.
Putting the pandemic aside, Yellowstone is one of those places where you always need to stay alert- a woman was attacked by a bison just two days into reopening, suffering minor injuries.
4. The Forbidden City, China
As the birthplace of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that China was the first to enter lockdown and has since been first to leave it. The Forbidden City began accepting visitors again on May 1 under a 5,000-visitor-a-day limit – all of whom must book ahead online.
Right in the heart of Beijing, overlooking Tiananmen Square, the ancient palace once housed a succession of Chinese emperors, and in normal times hosts upwards of 14 million visitors a year. With 980 buildings spanning 180 acres, there should be plenty of room for social distancing.
5. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain
One of the most influential fine art galleries of recent times, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is as much a work of art itself as anything it contains. Designed by Frank Gehry, the building’s sinuous curves and layers of glittering titanium won plaudits the world over, detracting somewhat from the contemporary exhibitions inside.
The grand reopening is planned for June 1, initially with reduced hours.
6. Victoria Falls, Zambia
It’s difficult to ‘close’ a waterfall in the conventional sense, but for two months the boardwalks, visitors’ centre and guided tours have hung in coronavirus-induced stasis. With the surrounding area seemingly Covid-free, the falls opened to visitors again last week by order of Zambian president Edgar Lungu.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the ‘smoke that thunders’ is currently at its most majestic, after slowing to a trickle during dry season. Visitors should wear face masks, in addition to the usual raincoat.
7. The Pergamon Museum, Germany (iStock/PA)
The most visited museum in Berlin by some margin, and the crowning jewel of the city’s ‘museum island’, the Pergamon re-opened to visitors on May 12 with mandatory masks and 1.5 metre distancing. Crammed to bursting with Roman relics, Iranian artifacts, and Babylonian masonry, to enter the Pergamon is to travel countless miles eastwards and several millennia back in time.
The North wing, including the magnificent Pergamon Altar from which the museum gets its name, is off-limits to visitors anyway. It’s closed for construction work until 2023.