Museum virtual tours are a priceless resource for culture lovers.
When you can’t travel, you can still explore plenty of online exhibits from the world’s top museums and art galleries.
Technology today lets you see the artworks in high resolution from all angles and all you need is a phone or a computer.
Virtual tours include 360 degree views, videos, pictures, texts, audio clips and virtual reality tours.
Thanks to online exhibitions, I have found myself wandering through museums that I’ve been wanting to visit for years, and ones that I’ve been to before but always love coming back to.
Those who love going to museums and galleries might be skeptical about the whole idea of online museum exhibits, but do read on.
I admit seeing museums online is no substitute for the real life experience.
However, I suggest you look at it as a different way to explore art, rather than as something that’s meant to replace the real thing.
For example, have a closer look at Van Gogh’s ‘Terrace of a café at night’ by zooming in on your screen. See what I mean?
Where to look for virtual museum tours
Before we look at which exhibitions you can see online, here’s a quick word about how it’s done.
1. Google Arts & Culture
This wonderful project is the number one resource for anyone who wants to see exhibitions online.
These Google virtual tours gives you access to an endless pool of artworks and to virtual tours and in museums, galleries and other cultural institutions from all over the world.
You can view and search Google Arts & Culture on your computer or download the phone app.
It’s an amazing resource. It’s really fun to dive into, has lovely curated collections, some virtual reality tours and a super engaging user interface.
2. YouTube and Facebook videos
Some museums make use of 360° technology to take viewers on virtual tours and post videos on YouTube and Facebook.
3. Museums’ official websites
Quite a few museums have online displays of their art collections with photos, texts, videos, 3d scans, audio clips and 360 ° virtual tours.
4. Context Travel
Context provide quoality online seminars led by experts in their field. Their online museum tours are led by art historians and provide a lot of in-depth analysis, while being interactive and engaging.
Which top museums offer virtual tours online?
You can visit the best museums in London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York and many other places online.
This is a selection of the most famous museums that offer online access to their collections and virtual tours of their rooms.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The largest art museum in the US, located in New York, has made a huge effort to make its collections available online.
The MET offers a lovely 360° virtual tour on its website and on YouTube.
It also has an impressive Online Features section on its website with a lot of essays and photos to explore.
More works are featured on Google Arts & Culture with over 200,000 items (!)
The British Museum
This massive museum in London has an interactive experience called The Museum of the World, that highlights hundreds of historical items with pictures, texts and audio clips.
You can also see its online exhibits on Google Arts & Culture with over 7,000 searchable items and a Google Street View option.
Van Gogh Museum
Vincent van Gogh’s museum in Amsterdam is the one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands.
The museum offers some brilliant videos on its Facebook page and on YouTube. Some of the videos have commentary.
It also has several online exhibits on Google Arts & Culture, with lots of extra features, like a timeline of the artworks and 360 degree views of the museum’s floors.
Another famous museum that you can visit without leaving the house and without waiting in line forever is the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
There are some beautiful online exhibits that let you explore Renaissance and Baroque art and see over 150 artworks on a historical timeline.
This is one of the museums where you can also enjoy a virtual reality tour. You’ll need the Google Arts & Culture phone app and a VR headset.
You can also wander the rooms and see the paintings and sculptures with a 360 degree view on the Uffizi Gallery website.
MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art
On both you can read the exhibition texts and see photos of the artworks, some with the option to zoom in for details.
One of the best museums in Paris, home to artworks by Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas and others.
You can view many of the works online with a zoom in option and a Google Street View as well.
Tip: Click on the “Explore connections” button when you see one.
If you’ve ever been to this museum, you’d know that part of the experience is the building itself, as it’s housed in a former railway station. There’s an online exhibit that tells the story of the station and how it was eventually converted into a museum.
The museum of the Netherlands has a truly huge selection of artwork available online on Google Arts & Culture (164,511 items to be exact!)
You can explore famous artworks by Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as less familiar artists from the rich Dutch artistic heritage.
Every floor of the museum has a 360 degree view, so you can also appreciate how beautiful the building is.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
One of the most fascinating museums in London that documents culture through art, design, photography, furniture and lots more.
In its online exhibits you can explore themes like jewellery or French fashion, and over 5,000 items.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
This popular LA museum has a large selection of artworks you can view online, from ancient to contemporary art.
Tip: Search items by colour by clicking on the palette icon. It’s a cool feature you can play with on all the Google Arts & Culture pages, but it’s obviously more fun when the museum has a lot of items on display.
The Getty Museum also has a 360 degree view that lets you zoom in on any item.
The Smithsonian Institution
This group of Washington, D.C. museums includes the National Museum of Natural History, The American Art Museum, The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the National Air and Space Museum and many more.
The National Museum of Natural History offers a virtual tour on its website with 360 degree views of the different rooms.
The Louvre in Paris offers online tours on the museum’s website.
They consist of a small selection of exhibits, including Egyptian antiquities and decorative arts.
I couldn’t find the Louvre on Google Arts & Culture. Hopefully, when it joins the project there will be much more to see online.
Another option is to use YouVisit for a cool 360 degree view of the Louvre.
More Museums with Online Exhibits
There are many more that you can find on Google Arts & Culture. The full list is here. The choice is pretty overwhelming, so here’s a nice selection:
General Art & Design Museums
Museums for History Buffs
Museums for Modern & Contemporary Art Lovers
- Whitney Museum of Modern Art
- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
- Dalí Theatre-Museum