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

Anadolu Agency/GettyTimes Square in New York City.
  • 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.

Courtesy of BlogMickey.comWalt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

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

Gregg Newton/ReutersWalt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

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.

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty ImagesThe official re-opening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in July.

Source: Insider

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

Manuel Silvestri/ReutersTourists fill St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy.

Source: Business Insider

The lockdown rendered it a ghost town in March.

Andrea Pattaro/GettyItaly’s lockdown left spots, like St. Mark’s Square, deserted.

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.

Laurel Chor/Getty ImagesThe famous St. Mark’s Square is quiet on December 18, 2020, in Venice, Italy.

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.

Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesThe Great Wall of China nearly empty in March when it reopened.

Source: Insider

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

Bu Xiangdong/Xinhua/GettyA snowscape of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall in Beijing.

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

PAWAN SHARMA/AFP/Getty ImagesMillions of people explore the Taj Mahal each year.

Source: CNN

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

SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty ImagesA single tourist takes a picture at the empty Taj Mahal.

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

PAWAN SHARMA/AFP/Getty ImagesTourists visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on December 19, 2020.

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.

Roberto La Rosa/ShutterstockPeople swimming in the bustling Blue Lagoon.

Source: BBC

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

Chloe Pantazi/InsiderNot a swimmer was in sight by March.

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.

Charles Platiau/ReutersParisians and tourists relax on the grass near the Trocadero fountains across from the Paris Eiffel Tower as spring-like weather arrives on April 6, 2010.

Source: Tour Eiffel

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

Thomas Samson/GettyA sign explaining that the Eiffel Tower is closed.

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

Christian Hartmann/File Photo/ReutersThe Eiffel Tower as a national lockdown starts as part of the COVID-19 measures to fight a second wave of the coronavirus disease.

Source: Radio France Internationale

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

ShutterstockTourists pose in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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

Laura Lezza/GettyA worker disinfects the surrounding park.

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

Laura Lezza/Getty ImagesTourists are seen at the tower of Pisa on May 30, 2020.

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

NurPhoto/GettyRed Square in Moscow, Russia.

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

Gavriil Grigorov/GettyThe enormous square was nearly empty this spring.

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.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty ImagesThe square on December 27, 2020.

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.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/GettyBuckingham Palace.

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.

Dan Kitwood/GettyAn empty Buckingham Palace.

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.

Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images/Getty ImagesA photo of Buckingham Palace taken on October 15, 2020.

Source: The New York Times

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

ShutterstockCrowds line up to take a photo in front of the iconic Las Vegas sign.

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.

John Locher/APThe barren Las Vegas Strip.

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.’

Bryan Steffy/Getty ImagesFremont Street on November 28, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Source: Eater, Insider

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

Kamira/ShutterstockCrowds in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

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

Andrew Medichini/AP PhotoOn March 5, a woman wearing a mask poses for photos at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

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

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty ImagesA woman sits on empty Spanish Steps in downtown Rome on December 5, 2020.

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.

Getty/Alexander SpatariThousands of people walk through Times Square in New York City every day.

Source: Times Square Monthly Pedestrian Count Reports

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

Anadolu Agency/GettyA deserted Times Square.

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

Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesPeople await the lighting of the New Year’s Eve numerals on display in Times Square on December 21, 2020.

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

Miles Astray/iStockCrowds at the Forbidden City, Beijing.

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

testing/ ShutterstockThe Forbidden City sat empty at the beginning of this year.

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

VCG/VCG/Getty ImagesPeople holding umbrellas visit the Forbidden City during the first snow of the season on November 21, 2020.

Source: AP

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

Bebeto Matthews, File/APNew York’s Grand Central Terminal.

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.

NurPhoto/GettyAn empty Grand Central terminal.

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.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesPeople walk through Grand Central Terminal two days before the Christmas holiday on December 23, 2020.

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

Getty/Oscar GonzalezThe Piazza del Duomo in Milan.

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

Getty/Miguel MedinaA picture of the Duomo during Italy’s lockdown.

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

Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA general view of the Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo on December 7, 2020.

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

Christian Bertrand/ShutterstockCrowds waiting to get into The Louvre.

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.

Ludovic Marin/GettyA deserted Louvre.

Source: The Louvre,Getty Images

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

AsianDream/GettyTourists at the wharf.

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

Ben Margot/APAn empty wharf.

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

Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty ImagesThe Fishermen’s Wharf on September 16, 2020.

Source: Business Insider

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

Alessandro Bianchi/ REUTERSThe UNESCO World Heritage Site welcomes millions of visitors each year.

Source: Italiani

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

Andrew Medichini/AP PhotoThe Colosseum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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

Tupungato/ShutterstockStars fill the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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

Rich Fury/GettyAn empty bus travels along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

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

Rich Fury/Getty ImagesA man wearing a mask takes a picture of President Donald Trump’s star.

Source: Business Insider

Vatican City is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Franco Origlia / StringerCrowds at Vatican City.

Source: CNN

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

ReutersVatican City placed barriers around its building to prevent tourists from entering.

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

Atlantide Phototravel/GettyThe Broadway show, ‘Matilda.’

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

Cindy Ord/GettyBroadway will have closed its doors for over a year.

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

Noam Galai/Getty ImagesA person walks outside Hamilton at Richard Rodgers Theatre in Times Square in December.

Source: NY Tix

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.