Museums and galleries allow us to engage with different histories and cultures. Some specialise in specific fields of art, while others are home to extensive collections of human history. But with so many dotted across the world, enjoying an in-person visit to every museum and gallery worth seeing is rarely possible.
However, thanks to platforms like Google Arts & Culture and Joy of Museums, people can now visit various museums and galleries virtually. Many have free virtual tours, online collections, and exhibitions that viewers can explore and engage with from the comfort of their sofa.
So if you fancy skipping the crowds and the pricey travel ticket, then have a read of our list of 10 museums and galleries from across the world that you can visit virtually. From London and Amsterdam, to New York City and South Korea, this cultural tour will take you all over.
1. Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Set on the left bank of the River Seine in a magnificent former train station, is the Musée d’Orsay – one of the largest art museums in Europe.
The museum is home to various French art dating between 1848 and 1914 and has the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist work. This includes sculptures, paintings, furniture, and photography by many famous artists including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Seurat, Van Gogh, and Berthe Morisot.
So why not immerse yourself in some of the impressive work there via a virtual tour? From The Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van Gogh, through to The Balcony by Manet, each work is accompanied with information about its context and author.
Alternatively, if you’re not sure which pieces are especially worth looking into, then you might be interested in the museum’s Highlights Tour, which is centered on some of the must-see paintings in the collection.
2. São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), São Paulo
The Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) is a glass structured landmark museum designed by Linda Bo Bardi. MASP is most famous for its collection of European art, which is considered to be the finest in Latin America. However, it also houses over 8,000 pieces of Brazilian, Asian, and African art, and has one of the largest art libraries in Brazil.
There are over 1,000 drawings, paintings, and other works of art from the museum that can be browsed online. The virtual exhibitions cover a range of topics, from studies of art in specific regions, through to the role of art in fashion.
Viewers can also make their way around the museum virtually via the Google Arts & Culture platform, pausing at particular spots they want to explore deeper.
3. Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Located on ‘Museum Island’ in Berlin, Germany, The Pergamon Museum is famous for its large collection of monumental Greek, Roman, and Babylonian buildings. These include the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
The Pergamon is made up of three separate museums: the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the Museum of the Ancient Near East – and online you can get a taste for all of them. Not only are viewers able to look at different objects from the collection, but the virtual tour also provides detailed descriptions of each item’s history and meaning.
If you’re not sure where to start in your discovery, then you might be interested in the Highlights Tour which is a more condensed overview of the museum’s must-see sights.
4. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
The Uffizi Gallery is a prestigious art museum situated in the beautiful region of Tuscany, Florence. It was designed by famous painter, architect, and historian Girorgio Vasari in 1560 – who was the first person to write about the Renaissance – and took 20 years to complete.
After the House of Medici (the family who ruled Florence between 1494-1512 and 1527-1530) died out, the family’s art collections were handed over to the city of Florence. As a result, the museum is home to a collection of priceless work, most notably from the Italian Renaissance period.
Luckily, you can now explore the Uffizi via a virtual tour, which takes you on a journey of artwork from the Middle Ages, all the way through to the modern day. On your tour you’ll be able to spot works from celebrated artists like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael. Plus, ancient Roman statues and busts that are duplicates of Greek sculptures left behind by the Medici family are also on display.
There are also various online exhibitions to enjoy. These include a study of the creative process behind Federico Barocci’s drawings, and a celebration of works by Amico Aspertini and other Bolognese artists.
5. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has been home to the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh creations in the world since 1973. The collection includes over 750 letters, 400 drawings, and 200 paintings. From home, you can marvel at Van Gogh’s works via an online tour that allows you to explore all four floors of the museum.
As you make your way around, keep an eye out for some of Van Gogh’s most celebrated paintings like Sunflowers (1889), Almond Blossoms (1890), and Self-portrait (1888). There are also various online exhibitions to enjoy, many of which allow visitors to learn more about Van Gogh’s personal life. These include studies of Van Gogh’s love life and the books he enjoyed reading in his spare time.
The museum also presents exhibitions on a range of 19-century art history subjects.
6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), New York
The Met is the largest museum of art in the United States and with millions of visitors each year, it’s one of the most visited art galleries in the world. It’s home to works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt – as well as paintings and sculptures from European masters, and collections of modern art. African, Oceanian, Byzantine, Asian, and Islamic art can also be found here.
However, if you’re hoping to escape the crowds, The Met offers an award-winning series of virtual tours, known as The Met 360° Project.
Viewers can watch time-lapses of bustling crowds in the gallery, take a birds-eye view of The Met Cloisters, and enjoy the bliss of standing alone in a peacefully empty gallery. You’ll be able explore everything from the Great Hall and the Temple of Dendur, through to the Arms and Armour Galleries, and the Charles Engelhard Court.
7. British Museum, London
The remarkable collection of human history and culture held at The British Museum spans over two million years. It’s home to various world-famous objects including the Parthenon sculptures, the Rosetta Stone, and Egyptian mummies. And luckily, the museum’s virtual offerings are just as impressive – with everything from podcasts, audio tours, virtual galleries, and interactive experiences.
The British Museum’s interactive experience – The Museum of the World – allows users to journey through different continents and cultures, stopping off to learn more about fascinating human history objects from the museum’s collection along the way. It also allows you to discover hidden links between objects and learn from British Museum curators sharing their insights.
A number of the British Museum’s galleries are also available to view virtually. These include the Oceania collection, and the Prints and Drawings collection. There are also online exhibitions available that cover a range of topics from ancient Egypt to the Battle of Waterloo. Plus, the museum has an active blog and audio tours presented by world-leading curators that are available on Apple Music and YouTube music.
And if you’re still eager for more, then why not head over to the museum’s Curator’s Corner series on YouTube? They post a range of weird and wonderful videos from crocodile mummies to ancient rock music.
8. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The J. Paul Getty Museum is located in The Getty Centre which, built in 1997, is famous for its impressive architecture, gardens, and picturesque views overlooking Los Angeles.
The museum is home to a variety of decorative art, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and illuminated manuscripts spanning 6,000 years. These vary from Neolithic and Late Antiquity art, all the way through to international modern day photography.
Striking Neolithic clay figures, postwar photographs, and renowned works like Van Gogh’s Irises and Renoir’s La Promenade are just some of the highlights of the virtual tour.
The museum also offers a wide range of online exhibitions which viewers can use to delve deeper into specific areas. From Renaissance art and Middle Age tyranny, though to iconic architecture and statue conservation, there’s something to spark everyone’s interest.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) was first established in 1969.
It contains a collection of around 7,000 artworks, including the works of contemporary Korean artists such as Park Su-geun, Kim Whan’ki, and Go Hui-don. The museum has also acquired an internationally recognised collection of artwork by figures such as Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, and Andy Warhol.
In person, MMCA is made up of four separate sites. The main gallery is in Gwacheon, but there are also three other branches in Deoksugung, Seoul, and Cheongju. By visiting the museum virtually however, you can enjoy an impressive mix of design, print, sculptures from all four sites.
There are also a number of online exhibitions to enjoy; from studies of early 20th century Korean through to modern day, to the rise of video art, as well as accounts of the MMCA’s construction itself.
Through its various locations, MMCA aims to provide a cultural platform encouraging a connection between contemporary art and other fields of art, sciences, and humanities. Its main priority however, is to offer a culturally rich and rewarding experience for all of its visitors.
10. The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery is a renowned art museum located in Trafalgar Square, London. It was founded in 1824 and houses an impressive collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century through to 1900.
The National Gallery’s virtual tours allow visitors to step inside and explore its collections in virtual reality via desktop, phone, or VR headset. The Director’s Choice virtual exhibition shows a selection of paintings chosen specifically by the Gallery’s Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi.
You can also use your desktop, tablet, or VR headset to explore the various Renaissance paintings housed at the Gallery. For a fully immersive experience, why not step into the world of Gossaert’s painting masterpiece The Adoration of Kings? Viewers can explore it virtually in intricate detail while the voice of Balthasar (one of the Three Kings) plays in the background. Lastly, the Google tour allows you to make your way around the museum and stop off at particular sites.
The demand for at-home experiences has naturally increased in recent times. From online tours, collections, and exhibitions; many more museums and galleries have taken the initiative to offer an impressive range of virtual content.
These new platforms allow viewers to engage with collections and exhibits in new ways – from interactive timelines, through to virtual galleries and educational podcasts. While virtual representations cannot always replace the experience of visiting museums and galleries in-person, they definitely open up experiences to people that may have otherwise been out of reach.
So if you fancy cutting the queues and cost of travel tickets, then why not explore a few worldwide museums and galleries from the comfort of your sofa today?
For more inspiration, why not have a read of our article 13 UK museums you won’t want to miss?
Have you visited any museums or art galleries virtually? What was your experience like? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.