Europe's magical museums you can explore from home

Take your mind off the state of the world with a virtual tour around some of Europe’s best museums and galleries.

a store inside of a building: State Hermitage Museum, Dreamer Company/Shutterstock

Holidu, the holiday search engine, has pulled together some of the best virtual tours of culture houses that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home, so we decided to check them out for you.

One day we’ll be able to visit these places in person again, but until then, enjoy the fact that at least this way you can see them without having to change out of your leisure wear.

The Louvre, Paris, France

We know it’s not quite the same as seeing the striking glass and metal pyramids of the Louvre in person, but with four tours on offer it is possible to glimpse behind the famous façade of the world’s largest art museum.

Louvre over water in front of a building: Louvre exterior (Image: Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock) 

The tours are not the most hi-tech, but they are reasonably revelatory. On the Egyptian Antiquities tour, for instance, you can see the Great Sphinx of Tanis, which dates from around 2600 BC. Alternatively, explore the remains of the Louvre’s moat – a remnant of the old 12th-century fortress that once stood on the site – or zoom in on details of the magnificent ceiling of the Apollo Gallery.

The magnificent ceiling of the Apollo Gallery (Image: Isogood_patrick/Shutterstock)

The Advent of the Artist exhibition virtual tour showcases artworks from Delacroix, Rembrandt and Tintoretto.

State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

With over three million works of art and artifacts, this museum, founded by Catherine the Great, is nothing short of mammoth and most of it can be seen on the virtual tour.

a large building: State Hermitage Museum exterior (Image: Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock)

Highlights include the ostentatious main staircase of the Winter Palace and singular artworks such as Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy, while the Leonardo da Vinci Room houses two of the painter’s original works – the Madonna Litta and the Benois Madonna.

a church with a fireplace and a large window: Main staircase in State Hermitage Museum (Image: LEOCHEN66/Shutterstock)

And, with most of the museum mapped, it’s a case of take your pick with these tours ­– simply click on an area and all will be revealed.

British Museum, London, England

Though its collection is not without its controversies (the Elgin Marbles and Rosetta Stone to name just two), having largely been sourced during the era of the British Empire, with over eight million works, there’s no doubt this is an invaluable learning resource.

a close up of a stone building: The Elgin Marbles (Image: CJYOUNG/Shutterstock)

Virtual tours can’t take you to Norman Foster’s eye-catching Great Court unfortunately, nor into the famous Reading Room, but you can visit a number of exhibition spaces using the Google Arts & Culture app on your tablet or phone.

a piece of luggage sitting on top of British Museum: The Great Court at the British Museum (Image: Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock)

Alternatively, use the Museum of the World tool to browse by period of history and listen to insightful audio from curators, and read detailed descriptions. We’re fairly sure you’ll learn more this way than you ever would on a visit in person.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

See Old Masters from the Dutch Golden Age in what is arguably the most important museum in the Netherlands. You can view works by the likes of Vermeer and Rembrandt on a virtual visit of this museum, which charts Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day.

a room that has a clock on a table: Inside the Rijksmuseum (Image: ben bryant/Shutterstock)

You’ll need to download the app to access the multimedia tours but with 14 tours to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Alternatively, you can ‘collect’ your favorite works of art and the website will plot a route for you.

Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

The second Paris museum on our list, at the Musée d’Orsay you can see the finest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world.

Leonardo da Vinci fans will no doubt want to see his Self-Portrait of 1889, while there are also works by the likes of Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin.

Again, you’ll need the Google Arts & Culture app.

Musei Vaticani, Vatican City

This collection of museums that lie within Vatican City itself offer fantastic virtual tours where you can see some of the most exquisite Renaissance art in the world.

If you’ve always promised yourself you’d visit the Sistine Chapel then now is your chance. The level of detail you can see when you zoom in is really quite extraordinary.

a large building with many windows with Sistine Chapel in the background: Sistine Chapel (Image: RPBaiao/Shutterstock)

Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

This museum, Paris’ third entry in our list, is where you will find the city’s best modern and contemporary art, including works by the likes of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Though there are no walk-throughs at present, we could easily spend an afternoon browsing its online collection.

Tate Britain, London, England

Another London favorite, for many, this is the home of British art. If art history is your bag, or a new subject you want to sink your teeth into, then you’ll love the Walk Through British Art feature, which takes you around the exhibits in chronological order from 1545 to the present day.

a person sitting at a table in a room: Inside Tate Britain (Image: 3DF mediaStudio/Shutterstock)

There are also lots of video and audio on the website, providing expert views on individual works. It certainly beats burning through another box set.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This museum is dedicated to one of the most influential artists of all time. As well as offering useful all-round resources on the life and works of Van Gogh, including personal letters you can actually read, there are also some really good kid-friendly resources.

a close up of a sign: The Elgin Marbles (Image: CJYOUNG/Shutterstock)

Use the Unravel Van Gogh app to see hidden stories beneath his paintings, make lesson plans, test your Van Gogh knowledge, or wander the museum’s halls through the Google Arts & Culture app. This museum really knows what it’s doing.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain

And so, to Madrid, Spain’s cultured capital. Focusing on 20th-century art, with collections by two of Spain’s most famous artists of the era, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, this museum has an excellent online resource.

The museum takes its name from Queen Sofía, Queen consort of Spain during the reign of her husband, King Juan Carlos I, but it is far from stuck in the past.

Inside the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Image: Museo Reina Sofia/Facebook)

Listen to audio, watch videos of ground-breaking exhibitions and browse the permanent collection so you can make a mental list of all the things to see when you can finally get there in person.

WATCH: Walters Art Museum launches new online features (provided by CBS Baltimore)

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