In March 2020 the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. And soon after that, billions of people around the world began social distancing in order to protect themselves and their families. Some of the most popular tourist locations around the world then saw a sharp decline in visitors. And to give you an idea of how eerie these places became, we’ve compiled a list that showcases a shocking comparison.
20. The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna in Rome
If you’ve ever visited the Italian capital of Rome, there’s a good chance that you caught a glimpse of the famous Spanish Steps. The stunning staircase leads all the way down to the Piazza di Spagna – with the top level housing the Trinità dei Monti church. Under normal circumstances, this spot would bring in thousands of holidaymakers over the course of a day.
However, the coronavirus outbreak had a major impact on those numbers in March 2020. Italy was locked down on March 9 by the country’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte. And due to the restrictions, the Spanish Steps became deserted – with just the occasional passer-by making their way across the Piazza di Spagna.
19. Miami’s South Beach
Regardless of the season, the city of Miami in Florida is a popular spot for visitors to soak up the sun and relax. The figures certainly back that up, as over 23 million people came to the city in 2018, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. One of its star attractions is South Beach – a beautiful stretch of land that welcomes both tourists and spring breakers.
But on March 19 everything changed; the South Beach area was shut down by city officials from that evening onwards as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The picturesque tourist spot was subsequently cordoned off with police tape and it left an eerily empty beach on the other side.
18. Piazza San Marco in Venice
While we’ve taken a look at the Spanish Steps, Italy is home to some other stunning tourist spots as well. The Piazza San Marco is definitely in that category – as the area houses structures like the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica. Even Napoleon Bonaparte was impressed, and he claimed that the square was “the world’s most beautiful drawing room.”
Prior to the outbreak, the Piazza San Marco attracted millions of holidaymakers to Venice. Yet due to the lockdown that was implemented in March 2020, this eye-catching location became deathly quiet.
17. Mecca’s Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque in the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is a breathtaking sight when crowds build up to visit it. Known as Islam’s holiest place of worship, this spot is capable of holding around 1.5 million people – with the Kaaba shrine taking center stage. But on March 5 the mosque underwent a dramatic transformation.
Saudi officials shut the Grand Mosque for a few days, and the area was scrubbed clean in an attempt to wipe out any traces of coronavirus. After that it opened up again on March 7, yet the Kaaba was still cordoned off by a temporary wall – preventing people from getting too close.
16. Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Much like many other historical cities across the world, Germany’s capital Berlin houses several tourist spots. However, it could be argued that the Brandenburg Gate is the biggest draw of them all. This stunning monument attracts an estimated one million visitors on New Year’s Eve alone – with the gate symbolizing a form of togetherness.
As a result of coronavirus, though, Germany implemented its own lockdown in March 2020. The gate – along with the streets surrounding it – soon became completely deserted. Incredibly, the picture above mirrors a chilling photograph from the 1980s – when residents of what was then East Berlin were blocked off from visiting the monument during the Cold War.
15. St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City
Going back to Italy, St. Peter’s Square is another tourist hot spot throughout the year. This vast area in Vatican City is overlooked by St Peter’s Basilica and can hold in excess of 300,000 people at a time. When crowded, the square looks breathtaking, but the measures to tackle coronavirus had a major effect.
Due to the lockdown in Italy, St. Peter’s Square became completely empty. Yet that didn’t stop Pope Francis from delivering a sermon to the deserted space on March 27. And given the situation, the speech was aptly titled, “An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic.”
14. London’s Piccadilly Circus
From Big Ben to Trafalgar Square, London is home to a number of different landmarks – with Piccadilly Circus being one of the most well-known spots. Plainly speaking, it’s just an intersection, but this area also features iconic electronic billboards and the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.
Normally, Piccadilly Circus is jam-packed with people throughout the day – mirroring the clusters of traffic on the surrounding roads. That soon changed, though, after the United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson placed the country into lockdown on March 23. Following that decision, this once bustling area soon became devoid of any activity barring the odd passer-by.
13. Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing
Crosswalks serve an important purpose when we’re trying to navigate a very busy street. But in Japan, Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing is more than just a simple road junction. Surrounded by neon-lit buildings, this huge space is famous for the sheer number of individuals who walk across it at one time.
It’s believed that around 2,500 people step on to the crosswalk whenever the street lights change, according to the website Culture Trip. However, the global pandemic caused a clear dip in those figures. While Japan wasn’t under lockdown at the time of writing, Shibuya Crossing is nowhere near as busy as usual.
12. New York City’s Grand Central Station
If you’ve visited New York City in the past, there’s a good chance that you dropped into Grand Central Station. As one of the Big Apple’s most famous landmarks, the rail terminal is always crowded with commuters moving around the city. In fact, The Village Voice reported in 2013 that some 750,000 individuals used the station each day.
When March 2020 came to a close, though, Grand Central Station was a very different place. And with New York City in lockdown, most commuters were staying at home. Indeed, there was just a smattering of people around the terminal on March 31 when this photo was taken.
11. Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
In the old city of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre holds a special meaning to Christians both young and old. It’s said that the building was constructed over the area where Jesus Christ not only died on the cross but also where he was resurrected. With that in mind, the church attracts tourists from far and wide.
But due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre went into lockdown on March 25. Prior to that decision, there had already been a notable drop in attendance in the weeks before. But regardless of the closure, a group of monks continued to assemble outside the church to pray.
10. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC
The United States is home to some iconic attractions – including the stunning Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Located at the top of a stone staircase, the white building houses a large statue of America’s 16th president. And in 2019 almost eight million people came to gaze at the memorial, according to Statista.
However, those crowds dissipated quite quickly when coronavirus struck Washington. On March 30 the locals were told to stay in their houses for the foreseeable future in a bid to combat the spread. Off the back of that warning, the Lincoln Memorial was virtually empty – with just the odd passer-by walking through the area.
9) Paris’ Trocadéro Square
While Paris, France, has some incredible tourist spots, the Eiffel Tower is the city’s centerpiece. And if visitors are looking to get the perfect view of the landmark, Trocadéro Square is the ideal location. More often than not, this beautiful space is crowded with people who are trying to do the same thing.
Everything changed on March 17, though. That day marked the start of France’s lockdown – as the authorities aimed to keep the public safe from coronavirus. Given the restrictions, Trocadéro Square ended up being totally deserted. And in this picture, the Eiffel Tower can be seen overlooking an eerily empty space.
8. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
In the distant past, the Hagia Sophia was a Christian place of worship until it was transformed into a mosque. At present, it functions as a museum and attracts visitors from far and wide. To give you an idea of how popular the site is, Turkey’s tourism ministry named it as the top tourist location in both 2014 and 2015.
Hagia Sophia was consistently busy up until the coronavirus outbreak, but now it’s a very different story. While Turkey wasn’t enforcing a lockdown at the time of writing, the museum underwent a deep clean on March 13. That particular sight was more than a little chilling – as a smattering of health workers moved through the vast space.
7. Orlando’s Disney World
Walt Disney World is one of the most iconic theme parks on the planet. It’s also the busiest, as the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, brought in over 20 million tourists back in 2018, according to AECOM. Prior to the pandemic, the attraction had only closed its doors eight times due to various storms and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
However, while those shutdowns were fairly brief, the coronavirus outbreak presented a very different problem. And with no idea as to when the issue would be brought under control, Walt Disney World closed indefinitely on March 15.
6. Bangkok’s Grand Palace
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, is a truly magnificent sight. Indeed, beyond the white wall at its entrance, visitors can get a closer look at the attraction’s stunning buildings and statues. And a gate count has found that around eight million tourists travel to the palace on average every 12 months.
Since the outbreak, though, there’s been a clear drop in visitors. In fact, by March 2020 only a few people were spotted in and around the Grand Palace. As for Thailand, the Asian country mirrored the actions of other nations across the world by going into lockdown from March 26.
5. The Louvre in Paris
Alongside the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre is probably the most famous attraction in Paris. While the museum is best-known for housing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, its glass pyramid entrance is fairly iconic too. And the museum is the most popular in the world – with reportedly nearly ten million visitors in 2019.
There’s normally a throng of visitors outside the Louvre, but coronavirus brought that to an end in March 2020. Thanks to the measures put in place by the French authorities, the museum’s courtyard was completely emptied – much like Trocadéro Square.
4. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
If you’ve ever been to Agra, India, there’s a high chance that you visited the Taj Mahal. This iconic attraction is instantly recognizable thanks to its stunning circular roof and marble exterior. As for the courtyard, it’s normally jam-packed with tourists looking to get a good shot of the building.
Before coronavirus struck, Indian government figures found that nearly seven million people traveled to see the Taj Mahal between 2018 and 2019. Yet by the following March 2020 crowds had dropped off quite significantly. And though people were still visiting the famous site, the amount of space in the courtyard was telling.
3. Buckingham Palace
For fans of the British royal family, Buckingham Palace is a dream attraction in London. As the home of Queen Elizabeth II, the massive building is normally surrounded by tourists. So keeping that in mind, some 15 million visitors reportedly turn up at the palace every 12 months.
But following the lockdown in the U.K., Buckingham Palace was no longer a hive of activity. While there have always been crowds outside the famous gates, the area became pretty much deserted – barring the occasional passer-by. The Queen wasn’t there either, as she went into self-isolation in Windsor Castle.
2. The Colosseum in Rome
As we mentioned earlier, Italy houses a huge number of iconic landmarks. While we’ve already looked at a few of them here, we can’t forget about the Colosseum in the country’s capital. This incredible amphitheater could seat up to 80,000 people during the Roman times, and they were treated to various forms of entertainment.
The Colosseum welcomed around 7.6 million visitors in 2018, according to Statista. However, those numbers have dropped significantly since Italy was shut down in March. At present, the historical landmark is eerily quiet – standing out on the empty streets of Rome.
1. Times Square in New York City
Along with the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station, Times Square is a hugely popular location in New York City. This area is always bustling with activity – as people try to navigate the Big Apple’s streets. And nearly half a million people cross the square on a busy day, according to The New York Times.
Times Square is actually one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. However, the massive crowds dissipated when coronavirus struck New York City. And with the lockdown in place, the neon-lit streets were virtually deserted in early April when this picture was taken.