In times like these, when everyone is staying home to safely practice social distancing and self-isolation, the world at large can seem just out of grasp. Feeling a little cooped up when you’re unable to travel or even leave the comforts of home can make anyone feel antsy and maybe a bit bored with their immediate surroundings.
But traveling isn’t completely out of the question. You may not be able to see the Mona Lisa for yourself right now, but perusing the world’s best museums, zoos, and more can be done with just a few clicks on a virtual tour. The best part? Taking note of your favorites to visit sometime in the future!
The Best Virtual Museum Tours: Exploring Art from Around the World
The Louvre: This Parisian institution is the most-visited museum in the world, and houses over 38,000 objects to explore On this virtual art museum tour, you can say “bonjour” to three (free!) exhibits and take an in-depth peek into the world’s largest museum.
Tip: Don’t miss a stunning look at ancient Pharaonic collections in the Egyptian Antiquities exhibit.
Google Art & Culture: From Rembrandt to Norman Rockwell, you’ll find the works of all of your favorite masters of the brush on this expansive virtual tour, which includes thousands of pieces of art from hundreds of institutions. You won’t leave one artistic stone unturned with this comprehensive guide to all of the great historical artists of the world.
Tip: Explore some of the earliest human artistry with this recent Google Art & Culture virtual tour of Chauvet Cave, only ever seen before by archeologists and in textbooks.
The Vatican Museums: Containing nearly 7,000 pieces, the Vatican Museums possess some of the most well-known Roman sculptures and masterpieces of Renaissance art on Earth. Their 360-degree virtual tours will give you a look at incredible paintings from seven of these iconic art-filled structures.
Tip: Check out (and zoom in on) the legendary Michelangelo painting “The Last Judgment,” on a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.
Van Gogh Museum: Located in Amsterdam, this museum is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. This virtual museum tour allows you to view over 100 of the artist’s works, including some of his most famous pieces like Sunflowers.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: With The Met 360° Project, you can travel on a virtual museum tour through several of the structure’s iconic spaces, including the Great Hall and the Temple of Dendur, which was originally constructed in 15 BC.
Tip: Enjoy a high-flying bird’s eye view of New York City and the Hudson River on an outdoor virtual tour of The Met Cloisters.
British Museum in London: Take a step back in time with a virtual museum tour of historical pieces from around the world. Using an interactive timeline, you can click through relics from past eras—including the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies—and learn more about each item. This tour is perfect for history buffs!
Tip: Want to learn even more? Visit the museum’s “Curators Corner” series on their YouTube page, which features interviews with experts to fill you in on the world’s most ancient and significant objects.
Zoos and Aquariums: Virtual Tours with a Wild Side
San Diego Zoo: Animal lovers can get up-close-and-personal with their favorite furry (or feathered!) friends, thanks to the zoo’s live feeds of 11 different varieties of wildlife. From rarely seen Condors to sleepy koalas, there’s a wide spectrum of zoo-dwellers to take in on this virtual tour.
Tip: Watch pandas chow down on bamboo—they eat between 20 and 40 lbs. per day—on this adorable “Panda Cam” Livestream.
Monterey Bay Aquarium: Live cam footage allows viewers to scope out sea life on a virtual underwater tour without ever leaving the comforts of home. You can choose from ten experiences, depending on what kind of oceanic mood you’re in.
Houston Zoo: Tune into a variety of adorable creatures on this Texas zoo’s collection of webcams. Featuring the tallest giraffes to the tiniest leafcutter ants, you’ll feel like you’re right there in the exhibits thanks to these wild virtual tours.
Tip: Pass the time with your favorite pachyderms. Check out up-close views of elephants eating, drinking, and playing on the Elephant Yard Cam.
New England Aquarium: Take a peek at Boston’s finest fish (and more!) with a virtual visit to the New England Aquarium. With daily live presentations, there’s plenty to see and learn every day about various sea creatures.
Tip: If you can’t make the live updates, there are plenty of videos to enjoy, like brunch with penguins, on the aquarium’s YouTube page.
The Shedd Aquarium: Get behind-the-scenes info and virtual tours of some of this Chicago aquarium’s biggest saltwater stars on their Facebook page. You’ll learn things like how otters crack clams, sea stars can regenerate nearly their entire bodies and much more thanks to daily updates from the aquarium.
Let These Virtual Tours Entertain You
The Metropolitan Opera: A night at the opera may seem like nothing but a dream right now, but this New York City staple is offering complimentary nightly streaming of its gorgeous performances. Uplifting to thrilling, the weekly schedule of provided theatrical presentations are sure to delight all.
Tip: Know a young lover of the arts? The Met Opera is offering weekly Student Streams, selected specifically for a younger audience and supplemented with extra behind-the-scenes information about the performances.
Broadway shows: Catch a show right from your couch! This ad-free service allows viewers to select a performance from a catalog of hundreds of theater staples, including the likes of “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Oklahoma!,” minus the bright lights and big city.
Tip: This service offers a 7-day free trial, then streams for $8.99 per month. You can also find several popular Broadway musicals that are free for subscribing members on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The Philharmonie Berlin: For orchestral music lovers, you can’t beat an evening at the symphony while at home in your finest pajamas. Especially when this international musical powerhouse is offering its library of performances for virtual viewing while it’s closed.
Tip: You can choose from over 600 performances, covering 6 decades of musical talent. Keep an eye out for performances conducted by the orchestra’s principal for 16 years, Simon Rattle.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: As the oldest professional orchestra in Australia, this symphonic staple is making an effort to “keep the music going” by safely performing for audiences around the world on YouTube.
Tip: While the symphony livestreams its performances, due to time differences, it’s best to rewatch the musical masterpieces on their YouTube channel at your convenience.
Getting Back to Nature
Google’s Tour of National Parks: Take a guided journey through 31 of the most breathtaking sights in the US with these incredible national parks virtual tours. You might not be able to hike these gorgeous terrains at the moment, but exploring the rugged views almost feels like you’re there with your own personal park ranger.
Tip: Make sure to take a virtual tour of some of the lesser-seen American spots like active Hawaiian volcanoes and remote Alaskan fjords.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: With the largest collection of natural history in the world, you’ll love taking a self-guided virtual look at each exhibit of this world-renowned museum. This institution is larger than 18 football fields, so there’s plenty to explore.
Tip: Check out the bones of prehistoric wonders on the first floor, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Japanese Cherry Blossom Gardens: Looking for a new and relaxing view? Take a virtual stroll through the four-hundred-year-old Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima. Surrounded by delicate cherry blossoms, vibrant green trees, and charming bridges, you’ll feel transported to the other side of the world on this lovely virtual tour.
Tip: Take a breather and immerse yourself in tranquility with a meditation next to virtual bonsais and koi ponds.
In times when you aren’t able to travel to see some of your favorite places, create memories at new destinations, or even see your most well-loved faces, it becomes even more important to explore what you can, even if it’s from home. This is when you can create memories together across technology, share places you can’t wait to explore together in the future, and plan for times when you can be together and travel.
Even though you can’t go now, looking ahead to a time when you can get out and see it all again, and planning for those days, will make it even more special when that time comes. To discover these sights for yourself, or to share with a loved one. These are the days to fill with “traveling” from home and falling in love with places you haven’t been yet—but you will someday.
Header image via Capricorn Studio/Shutterstock