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9 virtual tours of museums and iconic sites you can take right now

You can’t go out, but you can still explore. These virtual tours allow you to experience some of the world's most fascinating sites, and learn from its greatest museums...

The Palace of Versailles (Shutterstock)

1. The Palace of Versailles, France

The famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, France (Shutterstock)

The famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, France (Shutterstock)

With 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 sq m, the 17th century Palace of Versailles has rightly been a World Heritage Site for more than 30 years.

It's around half an hour away from Paris by car, but now, you can see the glittering royal home from the comfort of your living room.

A partnership with Google means there are now a selection of virtual tours that allow you to see the paintings, engravings and sculptures up close - and learn about their significance.

There are many virtual exhibitions to choose from. The Louis XIV/Nicolas Fouquet: A Certain History of Taste tour teaches you what these two powerful men had in common in their artistic choices, while the Louis XIV: The Construction of a Political Image tour focusses on the many portraits of the past King, explaining how he used art to maintain his influence.

Explore exhibitions covering science, fashion, royalty and the history of the palace itself, too.

Take the tour

2. The Northern Lights, Lapland

Northern Lights, viewed from Lapland (Shutterstock)

Northern Lights, viewed from Lapland (Shutterstock)

Nature's own and most breathtaking art gallery is one that people often wait a lifetime to see.

Specialist Aurora Photography company Lights Over Lapland have cleverly put together some of Europe’s best photographers and videographers to create a virtual experience of the magnificent Northern Lights Tour – all for free.

Whether you were planning a trip to see the Northern Lights that was cancelled due to coronavirus, or you've always dreamed of seeing them, you can now bring nature’s greatest light show to you.

While nothing will beat seeing the real thing, this online experience is as close as you can get to seeing the green lights in Lapland.

Take the tour

3. The British Museum, London

The British Museum, London (Shutterstock)

The British Museum, London (Shutterstock)

Watch ancient Africa, China and the Americas come to life by taking one of the 50 virtual tours on offer by the British Museum.

London's finest has a collection that spans over two million years, and is home to around eight million objects. You'll see some of these up close as you whizz around the museum virtually. 

The impressive virtual site allows you to scroll side to side to choose which continent you would like to focus on, or up and down to move backwards and forwards through time.

You can then click on specific options as you deep dive through the museum's collection. What's more, the option of audio description makes the virtual tour accessible.

Take the tour

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru (Shutterstock)

Machu Picchu, Peru (Shutterstock)

The Peruvian authorities recently chose to close this ancient Inca site to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, an incredible virtual tour allows you to see Machu Picchu from every angle.

With 360-degree viewing, this virtual tour shows you every detail of the nature-enveloped site, talking you through each stone building and explaining its importance as you go.

You also have the choice to explore at your own pace, with the option to look up, down, left and right with the click of a mouse.

With the option to jump to the front door, the very heart of the site, the courtyards and even take a peek at the alpacas, you have the ability to see as little or as much of Machu Picchu as you please. 

Take the tour

Like this? Here are 17 more immersive ways to explore Latin America virtually

5. The Vatican, Rome

The Vatican, Rome (Shutterstock)

The Vatican, Rome (Shutterstock)

There is nothing like seeing the Sistine Chapel in real life.

Hearing the echo of your footsteps in the otherwise empty hall, and tilting your head back to scour at every detail of Michelangelo's masterpieces, painted on the ceiling.

But nothing gets closer to the real thing than this 360-degree virtual tour. You'll be able to marvel the paintings for as long as you desire, without getting neck ache - the ability to zoom in and out means you can appreciate the full scale of art, narrowing in on particular details.  

This isn't the only part of the Vatican you're able to see virtually. The tour also includes online interactive visits to the Pio Clementino Museum, Chiaramonti Museum and the Niccoline Chapel, among others. 

Take the tour

6. Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens (Shutterstock)

Acropolis of Athens (Shutterstock)

Think of the capital of Greece and this large, crumbling, collonaded building standing stoically on the cliffs likely comes to mind. It may be over 2,400 years old, but this ancient site still denotes power and importance. 

Greece may be closed off to tourists for the time being, but one of its most iconic archaeological wonders can still be explored.

With a video showing Acropolis from above and the view from the ground, paired with detailed information about its history, this virtual tour is an interactive and informative way to experience Greece's symbol of democracy. 

Take the tour

7. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Shutterstock)

The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Shutterstock)

In the capital of the Netherlands, you'll find the magnificent Rijksmuseum, which houses an extensive and impressive collection of art.

Home to some of Rembrandt’s most famous pieces, and also with a few of Van Gogh's paintings on display, you could literally spend days wandering the many corridors of this museum.

Due to COVID-19, the Rijksmuseum is closed until at least 1 June 2020. Fortunately, some of its most noteworthy works can still be admired on the internet.

Not only can you see masterpieces up close, but numerous interactive tours also allow you to learn the techniques of the artists, and delve into the story of Rembrandt's classic painting The Night Watch. 

Take the tour

8. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (Shutterstock)

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (Shutterstock)

The collection of perfectly symmetrical sandy tombs are rightly considered one of the greatest archeological sites in the world. And now you can walk through the huge complex without having to get up from your sofa. 

This virtual tour, created with Google Maps, allows you to virtually get on ground level and explore the site step by step.

Walk yourself around and read more about each site as you pass it, stopping to take a closer look. You can access more in-depth information an each pyramid of your choosing, too.

Take the tour

9. The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

The Guggengheim Bilbao, Spain (Shutterstock)

The Guggengheim Bilbao, Spain (Shutterstock)

One of the draws of visiting this art museum in Spain is marvelling at the modern architecture of the building itself: impressive twists of metal sparkle in the sun, and ripple on the water at its feet.

The Guggenheim Bilbao may have closed its doors for now due to COVID-19, but it is still allowing would-be visitors a virtual behind-the-scenes peek.

Whether you want to learn more about the architecture itself, or gain a deeper knowledge of the work on display inside, the #GuggenheimBilbaoLive project allows you to do just that.

Many members of museum staff have worked to create virtual, visual and audio content to produce a high-quality and informative tour that you can take from your living room.

Take the tour

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