Café and restaurant terraces have reopened in Paris after a shutdown of more than six months, as the country lifted certain coronavirus restrictions.
Museums, theaters and cinemas are also reopening along with outside areas of eating and drinking establishments.
The French government is lifting restrictions incrementally to stave off a resurgence of COVID-19.
As part of the first stage of the plan, France’s 7 p.m. nightly curfew instead will start at 9 p.m.
France is not the first European country to start getting back a semblance of social and cultural life. Italy, Belgium, Hungary and other nations already have started allowing outdoor dining, while drinking and eating indoors was allowed in Britain’s pubs on Monday.
Eateries in France have been closed since the end of October, the longest time of any European country except Poland, where bars and restaurants reopened Saturday for outdoor service after being closed for seven months.
Some French café and restaurant owners have spent days preparing for Wednesday’s milestone. The excitement is at risk of a dampening down: rain is forecast for large swaths of France, including Paris.
The government also has put serious limits on capacity in venues, with restaurants only allowed to fill their outdoor seating areas to only 50% of capacity and to put no more than six people at a table.
Other rules to ensure social distancing apply elsewhere. Movie theaters must limit audiences to 35% of capacity. Museums must guarantee 8 square meters of space (86 square feet) per visitor.
The government plans to extend the curfew until 11 p.m. and to permit indoor dining at restaurants and bistros – and relax border rules for tourists – starting on June 9. The final phase of the three-stage reopening plan is scheduled for June 30, when the curfew will end and all other restrictions will be lifted, if health conditions allow.
France has recorded more than 108,000 deaths due to COVID-19 since the start of the epidemic, among the highest tolls in Europe. But deaths, admissions to critical care units and the coronavirus infection rate are on the decline.
About 40% of France’s adult population had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Tuesday.