Sun, 27 Feb 2000

French museums 'free Sunday'

PARIS (AFP): Tens of thousands of people flocked to museums across France on January's first Sunday as the state broadened its policy of opening for free the first Sunday of every month.

Thirty-four national museums were open free of charge, including the Chateau at Versailles which welcomed 16,000 people even while it struggled to repair extensive damage caused by violent storms which swept France the previous weekend.

Another 35,000 people crowded into the jewel of France's museums, Paris' Louvre, home of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, The Mona Lisa.

Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann said of the new policy, "The free entry into national museums on the first Sunday of the month reflects our determination to open the museums to a wider public."

The government already decided last October to open its historical monuments to the public for free on Sundays, sparking a nearly 80 percent increase in the number of visitors.