While it’s hard to beat the experience of seeing a seminal piece of fine art or important historical artifact with your own two eyes, you could easily spend a lifetime traveling the world in search of all of them.
Top-tier institutions around the world have vast online archives, meaning you can take a digital stroll through art history wearing your PJs. From ogling Parisian Impressionist works in the Musée d’Orsay to a lesson in ancient Greece from Athens’ Benaki Museum to a voyeuristic archive of ex-lovers’ relics at the Museum of Broken Relationships, there are some fascinating exhibitions at your fingertips – all of which are free.
If you’re bored and holed up with your family, you’re sure to find some entertainment in these virtual museum tours:
1. The Louvre
The Louvre is not only one of the world’s largest art museums, but it’s also one of Paris’s most iconic historic monuments. The museum offers free online tours of some of its most important and popular exhibits, such as its Egyptian Antiquities and works from Michelangelo. You can take a 360-degree look at the museum, and click around the rare artifacts to get additional information on their histories.
2. The National Gallery London
While you might not be able to touch the neoclassical architecture here, the virtual tour is still a gem that allows access to some of the museum’s over 2,300 publicly owned works of art. You can learn more about the museum and explore both the Central Hall and seven galleries of Renaissance masterpieces from northern Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany via the institution’s 360-view virtual tour, which is enhanced even more if you own a VR headset.
3. Smithsonian National Museum Of Natural History
Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History, one of the most-visited museums in the world, offers a peek at its wonderful treasures with an online virtual tour of the entire grounds. Viewers are welcomed into its rotunda and are greeted with a comprehensive room-by-room, 360-degree walking tour of all its exceptional exhibits, including the Hall of Mammals, Insect Zoo, and Dinosaurs and Hall of Paleobiology.
4. NASA Research Centre
For those fascinated by space exploration, NASA offers online visitors the chance to take a behind-the-scenes look inside its facilities. Visitors can take virtual tours of the organization’s research centers, where aeronautic technology is developed and tested, and learn more about the functions of different facilities. The online tour of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, covers 16 locations, including the Flight Research Hangar and the Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility. The virtual tour of the Glenn Research Center in Ohio, meanwhile, takes visitors inside facilities such as the Supersonic Wind Tunnel, where high speed flight is researched, and the Zero Gravity Research Facility, where microgravity research is conducted.
5. The Vatican Museum
Home to some 70,000 artworks and artifacts spanning centuries, continents and mediums, the 5.5-hectare Vatican Museums are among Italy’s finest cultural institutions. Virtual visitors can tour seven different sections of the sprawling complex, enjoying 360-degree views of the Sistine Chapel, perhaps best known for Michelangelo’s ceiling and Last Judgment fresco; Raphael’s Rooms, where the Renaissance artist’s School of Athens resides; and lesser-known but equally sumptuous locations such as the Pio Clementino Museum, the Niccoline Chapel and the Room of the Chiaroscuri.