Visiting incredible art at museums around the world is one of the best parts of traveling. But sometimes travel is not possible for various reasons. Thankfully, we live in a modern world with virtual capabilities, and many art museums offer virtual tours, live streams, and other ways to access their collections without having to open your door, let alone hop on a plane. While some museums have their own online offerings, the Google Arts & Culture page has links to more than 2,500 museums that show parts or all of their collections and offer tours through Google’s street view. From the Louvre in Paris to the Met and Guggenheim in New York, all you have to do is go online to see incredible art and fulfill your wanderlust. Here are 10 museums you can virtually visit from the comfort of your couch.
The Louvre (Paris)
One of the most famous and largest museums in the world, the Louvre offers a selection of online tours of its exhibition rooms, galleries, and even its incredible glass pyramid and stone façade. For example, explore the Egyptian Antiquities Room and the recently restored Galerie d’Apollon, which has a painted ceiling that features an a homage to the Sun King, Louis XIV, with a central panel depicting Apollo Slaying the Serpent Python. Access the virtual Louvre by going directly to the museum’s website for online tours.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
New York’s largest museum, the Met has a collection that represents more than 5,000 years of art from around the world. From paintings and sculptures by masters like Paul Cezanne, Joan Miro, Auguste Rodin, and Alexander Calder to artifacts from Egypt, Ghana, and beyond, it’s impossible to see everything on one visit. Online, the museum has six videos that explore different parts of the museums through their Met 360° Project, slideshows of special collections under MetCollects. Find specially curated video tours with curator comments on Viewpoints (the current one focuses on the sculpted body) and video interviews with 120 artists at the Artist Project. The app and website 82nd and Fifth has its own collection of short curator-led videos each focused on specific pieces in the collection, while MetKids features online art-related activities for little ones like a virtual time machine, an interactive museum map, and multiple videos.
The Guggenheim (New York City and Bilbao, Spain)
While you may not be able to see the famous circular building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in person, you can view more than 1,700 pieces of art by 625 artists from the museum’s multiple locations via the Guggenheim’s online collection on your computer. The pieces are searchable by artist, medium, time period, movement, special collection, and venue. Additionally, the New York museum is on the Google Arts & Culture Page, with online exhibitions and a virtual tour available.
The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
The major works of great Dutch master painters, from Johannes Vermeer to Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, are on display in the Netherlands' largest museum, the Rijksmuseum. A must visit on any trip to Amsterdam, you can still see the museum’s highlights virtually. The museum’s website hosts Rijks Studio, a collection of 675,970 of its paintings that are put in different collections, or studios. You can even create your own studio by theme or artist. You can also walk through the museum virtually, thanks to Google’s street view.
Uffizi Gallery (Florence)
Florence’s beautiful Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, and Boboli Gardens are some of the city’s highlights, but there are digital versions of all the artwork (and in the case of the gardens, images of the landscape and flora in addition to sculptures and architecture) on the museum’s website, as well as curated and themed online exhibitions with commentary on their HyperVisions page. The website’s digital archives feature photography archives, an art catalogue, and a drawing database. The Uffizi is also on Google Arts & Culture with four online exhibits and a virtual tour of the museum.
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
The nation’s capital is home to the amazing National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian museum has its entire collection online, which is searchable, or you can just scroll through the highlights, which include Edward Hopper’s Haskell’s House and Vincent van Gogh’s "Self-Portrait." NGA Online Editions features the museum’s most current information with various videos, images, and detailed text from curators. NGA Kids has various interactive activities and there’s an iPad app as well. The NGA is also featured on Google Arts & Culture.
Frida Kahlo Museum (Mexico City)
Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s former home-turned-museum in Mexico City, is on many art lovers’ bucket lists. While an actual visit may not be possible, the museum has a virtual tour through the home and gardens, images and text from current and past exhibitions, a visual database of her artwork that’s in Casa Azul and other museums, and several videos and photos of her. Bonus: there are even two recipes of Mexican classics that you can make at home: Mole Poblano and Chiles en Nogada.
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul)
Established in Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1969, the MMCA immediately started collecting 20th-century art. It moved to its own building in Gwacheon just outside Seoul in 1986, and today it has three locations, including in Seoul. In October 2019, the museum launched MMCA TV, with curators hosting a tour of the museum on You Tube. In addition, the entire collection can be explored on their website and on Google Arts & Culture there are four exhibitions and six tours.
São Paolo Museum of Art (São Paolo)
Brazil’s first modern museum was founded in 1947 by Brazilian businessman Assis Chateaubriand and today it remains private and not-for-profit. It has more than 10,000 works housed in São Paolo and has the most important collection of European art in the Southern Hemisphere as well as artworks from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. At MASP there is a vast open space that is filled with a transparent, suspended exhibition design making for a unique experience. Explore it on Google Arts & Culture, as well as six exhibits and over 1,000 works, and you can search their collection on their own website as well.
Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (Tokyo)
With more than 30,000 Japanese, Eastern, and Western works in multiple mediums, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum was opened in 1983 in Tokyo. Its website hosts various slideshows of images from their collection and a searchable database of all works. Additionally, the museum can be found on Google Arts & Culture for virtual tours and three online exhibits.
Have little ones at home? They'll love this list of 10 children's museums with virtual offerings.