Museums are among the most popular attractions in many cities around the world. While it’s hard to beat seeing renowned works like Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring or the Sistine Chapel’s Michelangelo frescoes in person since travel is on hold temporarily, why not take advantage of virtual tours around the world? Fortunately, in our digital age we can view many of the collections of our world’s museums from the comfort of home, including these.
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The Louvre, Paris, France
The world’s largest and what many consider the greatest art museum, The Louvre features works from nearly every civilization on the planet. It offers free online tours of several of its famous exhibits, including Egyptian Antiquities featuring collections from the civilizations that developed in the Nile Valley from the late prehistoric era circa 4000 BC to the 4th century AD Christian period. Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, originally a fortress built by King Philippe intended to reinforce the 12th-century defenses helping protect Paris from attack via the Seine, can also be explored.
The British Museum, London
When the British Museum opened in 1759 it was the first of its kind to open to the public in the world. Today, the history and culture museum boasts some of the most notable antiquities on Earth, with everything from the Rosetta Stone to artifacts from the Roman Empire, spanning from prehistoric to modern times. On its virtual tour, you’ll be able to see Egyptian mummies from the impressive Egyptian collection, the Rosetta Stone and much more. The graphics are incredible, allowing viewers to tap through a musical guide while visiting Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Oceania.
The Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy
The Vatican Museums hold some of the world’s most important art collections, including an extensive array of ancient sculptures, Renaissance works, the Sistine Chapel and its Michelangelo frescoes. Just some of what can see on the Vatican’s virtual tour include the 15th-century Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, built between 1506 and 1615, and the four Raphael Rooms famous for their frescoes painted by Raphael and his workshop. Together with the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, they make up the grand fresco sequences marking the High Renaissance in Rome.
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The premier gallery in Los Angeles, the Getty Museum houses an extensive collection of Western art from medieval times to the present and it offers two virtual tours. You’ll be able to view the 18th-century Pastel Portraits, the medium of choice for European portraiture during the period, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, focused on foods in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and Heaven Hell, and Dying Well, images of death in the Middle Ages. During this period hope mingled with fear when it came to death and the afterlife, with many artists depicting what they believed awaited beyond our earthly existence, as the museum notes.
Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb is home to the Museum of Broken Relationships, an unusual museum that offers the chance to “overcome your failed relationship” by donating personal belongings to its exhibits. While the virtual tour might not be the best one to take for squabbling couples who are quarantining right now, it’s surprisingly interesting with its nostalgic look at past relationships. As it notes, it’s about “you, about us, about the ways we love and lose,” with items on display representing the donor’s ex.” One is an old toaster with a note, “When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?”
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Van Gogh Museum pays homage to Dutch impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, showcasing over a thousand of the artist’s paintings, drawings and letters. Some of the masterpieces from this tragic genius can be enjoyed via a virtual tour that will bring you through the permanent collection. It includes an exhibit based on the artist’s love life, which as the museum describes, is one of setbacks and rejections as he was never lucky in love. Another is all about the books that he read, as he loved literature that ranged from “simple action stories and rebellious characters to books about everyday life and humanity.”
Picasso Museum, Barcelona, Spain
The Museu Picasso, or Picasso Museum, in Barcelona, showcases one of the world’s most extensive collections of artworks by Pablo Picasso, with over 4,250 works exhibited by the painter. A 360-degree virtual tour will bring you through the highlights of the vast online catalog and some of the most well-preserved medieval architecture in the city. There’s also a tour through Barcelona of the houses the artist lived and worked in, and around the places he frequently visited.
Metropolitan Museum of Art:
The largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, The Met hosts a collection of over two million works spanning the entire globe from antiquity to present. Its 360° Project will take you through one of its most popular exhibits, the Temple of Dendur, built around 15 BC during the time of Roman Emperor Augustus ruled Egypt. You can also check out the Arms and Armor Galleries which feature arms and armor from America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe as well as The Charles Engelhard Court, which some of the museum’s most iconic sculptures, mosaics and architectural elements.
National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.
This popular Smithsonian Museum features exhibits focused on the natural world like dinosaur fossils, live insects and glittering mineral gems. A virtual tour will bring you through the entire museum with a room by room tour of every exhibit. Check out the beautiful and rare Hope Diamond, a deep sapphire-hued 45-carat diamond, the Northern White Rhino that was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s trip to Africa as part of a Smithsonian expedition during the early 1900s and Martha, the world’s last passenger pigeon who passed away in 1914. Just decades before becoming extinct, she was the most abundant type of bird in all of North America. Today, she’s known for inspiring the modern conservation epic and is one of the institution’s most treasured possessions.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago holds one of the world’s finest collection of Impressionist paintings, including impressive works from icons like Picasso, Degas and Renoir which can be viewed in the Impressionism Highlights exhibit. On a virtual tour, you can check out over 570 works from Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Van Gogh’s The Bedroom to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat’s Post-Impressionist masterpiece.
The most prestigious and largest museum for art and history in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum showcases famous works of Dutch Art, including pieces by Vermeer, like his highly-focused study, The Milkmaid, and Rembrandt’s epic portrait, The Night Watch among its more than 8,000 paintings and objets d’art in over 100 rooms and galleries. Thanks to Google Street View you can take a tour that will make you feel as if you’re exploring its halls.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
The Galleria degli Uffizi, built in 1541, is one of the oldest art museums in the world. It features one-of-a-kind works from renowned artists like da Vinci, Botticelli, Raffaello and Michelangelo, including the greatest gallery of Renaissance art on Earth. The extensive collection includes work from all centuries, although the largest portion dates between the 12th and 17th centuries. It also features the collection from one of Florence’s most famous families, the de’Medicis. Browse through it all on a virtual tour, including Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus on a Google Street View tour.
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico
The National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia) is a modern temple to the remarkable Mesoamerican cultures of the past, holding the largest collection of pre-Columbian artifacts in the world. Among its significant exhibits includes the giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization and the Sacred Cenote from Chichen Itza. The Stone of the Sun which contains 20-day signs and the four eras of suns that preceded the current 5th sun is the most popular exhibit. A Google Street View tour will allow you to dive into the country’s pre-Hispanic history, exploring nearly two dozen rooms.
Benaki Museum, Athens
Take a virtual tour of ancient Greece via the Benaki Museum which spans Greek culture from the prehistoric era to the end of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922, boasting an unrivaled collection of artifacts. Some of the highlights include complete sitting rooms from Macedonian mansions, Byzantine icons and an extensive collection of Greek regional costumes. There are ancient fertility statues and gilded Byzantine paintings, some pieces dating as far back as 6500 BC.
Natural History Museum, London
London’s Natural History Museum boasts a vast collection with over 70 million specimens and at least a half-million items added every year, making it one of the largest collections of natural history in the world. There are hundreds of fascinating exhibits, with everything from the giant crystals to butterflies, the dodo and the diplodocus, many of which can be viewed on a virtual tour. Dippy the dino is a favorite and can be seen in the entrance hall – just a few of the other highlights include the world’s largest gold nugget, the first T. Rex fossil ever discovered, the 4.6 billion-year-old Wold Cottage meteorite and the Pompeii casts of a man and dog.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
The renowned musée is home to works by French masters like Monet, Renoir and Cézanne as part of the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist along with photographs, sculptures and furniture. Its virtual tour also includes an online exhibition charting the history of the Beaux Arts-style building it sits within which was once a railroad station known as Gare d’Orsay, and later, a hotel.