The world’s best and most famous architectural gems are open to anyone who wants to see them from anywhere, thanks to virtual tours.
When you can’t travel in real life, you can still spend hours (and hours…) travelling virtually.
If you’re into architecture and interior design like me, you’ll find that exploring beautiful buildings from home is a real joy.
It’s no substitute for the real thing, obviously, but it will quench your thirst for aesthetics for the time being.
While you’re at it, you’ll discover more places to add to your bucket list for future travels. I’ve added Villa Savoye to mine.
It’s also a way to see places I probably won’t ever visit in real life, like the splendid Golestan Palace in Iran…
Virtual architectural tours
Here’s a curated selection of modern, contemporary and classical masterpieces you can visit online.
Swiss-French modernist architect Le Corbusier has had 17 of his works declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
These include the Villa Jeanneret, Unité d’Habitation Marseille and The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.
You can learn about his life and career in a 90-minute online seminar led by an expert on contemporary art, using photos and videos, including inside views. Check availability here.
Filippo Brunelleschi, a Renaissance architect, designed and engineered churches and chapels in Florence.
Some buildings he worked on include the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Florence Cathedral dome.
You can learn about his impressive works in an online seminar led by an expert on Italian cultural history, including a Q&A session. Check availability here.
Next time you get to visit Florence, you’ll be able to spot those architectural works and have a better understanding of the elements and style.
Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain
Casa Batllo is one of those weird and wonderful houses that even people who are not into architecture at all would have to admit is something special.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a modernist building designed by Gaudí and one of Barcelona’s famous attractions.
It has an impressive virtual tour on its official website.
Follow the arrows to go inside and climb up the steps and stroll through the gorgeous rooms.
You can also pick which part of the building you want to visit using the floorplan on the screen.
When you visit Barcelona in real life, you can enter the building with an augmented reality guide.
Villa Tugendhat by Mies van der Rohe in Brno, Czech Republic
This villa is the most popular tourist attraction in Brno, the second city in the Czech republic.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of those places people have to book tickets for months in advance.
You can take a virtual tour of the villa on its official website. Click the plus signs to go in and move around to see all parts of the house.
I was lucky enough to visit the villa in real life. If you want to learn more about the house and its fascinating history, read my full review of Villa Tugendhat here.
Venaria Palace in Venaria, Italy
This gorgeous palace just outside Turin in the north of Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a true Baroque gem.
This was the elegant palace of the Savoy family and its most impressive highlight is The Great Gallery.
You can take a virtual tour of some parts of Venaria Palace on Google Arts & Culture.
If you’d like to dig deeper, read my full review of Venaria Palace here.
Golestan Palace in Tehran, Iran
This ridiculously spectacular palace in Iran’s capital city is a joy to visit online.
It is a glorious display of Persian art, crafts and architecture, mixed with European influences, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Opera House in Sydney, Australia
One of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, the building next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an architectural gem, which UNESCO has called “a great urban sculpture”.
Even if you haven’t been to Sydney, you must have seen its famous roof in photos. The architect, Jorn Utzon, has said that the roof’s unique design was influenced by peeling an orange.
You can visit the Sydney Opera House online. Take a 360° tour on YouTube with an operatic soundtrack and see what it looks like inside.
The Cube Houses in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The super creative and experimental Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen in Dutch) are in fact residential houses.
Their unique angled shape was designed so that they could be built on top of a bridge.
Architect Piet Blom has said that the houses are meant to resemble an abstract forest.
For a virtual tour, check out this 360cities panorama and click the arrows to see different parts of the buildings.
Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, Spain
The famous Guggenheim in Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Ghery, is a contemporary architecture masterpiece.
Its iconic, playful design is so imposing that some critics have commented it overshadows the art inside the museum.
There are three virtual tours you can take on Google Arts & Culture with 360˚ Street View: Two of the exterior and one of the interior.
Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier in Poissy, France
This modernist villa just outside of Paris is a 20th century architectural classic, designed by Le Corbusier.
The Savoye family commissioned it as a weekend holiday home
Its sleek design is a joy for lovers of minimalism.
It’s been declared a national monument in France and has made it to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (alongside quite a few other buildings by the same architect).
You can take a virtual tour of Villa Savoye via Google Street View.
Extra: Architectural Beauty
While researching this article, I found this wonderful gallery on Google Arts & Culture called Architectural Beauty. It’s full of old paintings of buildings and cities.