See the World From Home With These Virtual Museums
While you may not be able to get to the great museums of the world right now, many of them offer great virtual tours. Take in art, architecture, and more from museums across the globe with these free online offerings.
Museums are a tribute to the amazing creative ability and imagination of the human race and an homage to the natural history of the planet, among other things. When you’re homebound between journeys, virtual museum tours offer a salve to your spirit, giving you the opportunity to explore and learn something new, and see the wonders of the world from the comfort of your home.
Museums around the globe have flung open their doors for online virtual tours—no hours to abide by and no admission price. These five museums are noteworthy places to explore now. While you may not be able to go there in person at the moment, maybe these destinations will spark future travel inspo, add something to your bucket list, or teach you about art or world history.
A visit to the Casa Azul is at the top of every Fridaphile’s list. The home where surrealist Mexican artist Kahlo was born and raised, lived, worked, and died is now a museum near Mexico City. Notable for its bright blue paint job, the museum includes the extension built by Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, connecting the two dwellings with a walkway.
Made possible by Google Arts & Culture Project, the online museum tour includes a lush Mexican garden tableau full of cacti, tropical plants, and pre-Colombian statues; the studio where some of her many famous works were painted; the unique kitchen that provided inspiration for her granddaughter's cookbook, and the bedroom where she lived out her last days.
The online tour offers a glimpse of several of Frida’s family photos, paintings by herself and other artists whose work she collected, and even her notorious collection of fanciful traditional Mexican costumes she packed up and brought home during her own travels.
The Vatican’s website offers 360-degree tours of seven art-filled spaces within the museum, including the Sistine Chapel and the Pio Clementino Museum. Tabs along the bottom of the page allow viewers a deep dive into the masterpieces of the 17 Vatican museums, ranging from ancient Egyptian works on, including descriptions of the archeological sites under excavation.
Learn about what each department in the museum—from antiquities to textiles—does to preserve and restore priceless works, and even take a narrated 360-degree You Visit walking tour of the Vatican, including the altar, courtyard, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The tour was filmed on an average day, and the people milling around on camera remind us that someday we’ll be able to visit in person, too—toting a daypack and taking in the best Italy offers.
A self-guided, room to room tour of this huge Washington, D.C. museum lets you access permanent exhibits like fossils, mammals, and oceania. You can take a peek at current exhibits (there are nearly 100) on topics like human evolution or ancient Egyptian life, or past exhibits (missed out on that display of best nature photography?), and even other offsite Smithsonian museums, like the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. You could probably spend days IRL at this museum, but while you’re planning your next visit to the country’s capital, figure out which exhibits are on your don’t miss list.
They say that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and the importance of learning lessons from the horrors of WWII can’t be stressed enough. Everyone who went through grade school knows the story of Anne Frank, the young diarist who hid in an attic for two years before being captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp where she later died. The Anne Frank House, which is where Anne and her family hid, sees over a million visitors a year interested in visiting the annex and other exhibits. The museum’s online offerings include a series of YouTube videos about Frank and her life, diary, and house. There is an online map/virtual tour of each room of the house with writings from Anne’s diary, a 360-degree look at the house in its original style, and even a Virtual Reality tour for those who can strap on a set of VR goggles. Her story is also translated online in more than 20 languages. Since the museum is right in the heart of Amsterdam, when you visit for real you should travel light for the day with a wristlet wallet, then stroll along the canal.
Though a number of museums (like most of the ones above) have created their own format to viewing exhibits virtually, Google Arts & Culture has a vast collection of tours of museums and cultural sites around the world. Tour the Taj Mahal, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There are feature articles by category (take close up looks at specific works of art), cultural connections through food (see how to make Parmigiano cheese), walk through Rome’s Colosseum, discover cultures through their works of art or lesser known museums, and much more. (My fave: looking at the political street art in cities around the world, from Banksy’s London to the walls of Paris.)
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By Rebecca Treon on March 27, 2020
Rebecca Treon is a Denver-based freelance food and travel writer. She has two children who are learning to be intrepid travelers like their mom. When she’s not busy adventuring with her family, Rebecca can be found experimenting in the kitchen or attempting to have a green thumb.