In a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, many of London's cultural institutions are closing their doors to the public for the time being. But that doesn't mean you have to become a total philistine — thanks to an incredible range of virtual tours, you can visit some of the capital's best-loved museums, galleries and historic buildings without getting up from your sofa... and it won't cost you a penny. Here are some of our favourites:
When it comes to virtual tours, you're spoilt for choice at British Museum. As well as an admittedly somewhat glitch-prone Google Street View tour of the museum's exterior, there's one which features several of its exhibition rooms. Each room spotlights a particular exhibit of interest, with links to further information about the artefact.
Alternatively, there's this rather slick tool. Rather than guiding you through the physical museum, the multi-sensory Museum of the World tour lets you browse exhibits by century, continent and themes — such as art and design, trade and conflict, or religion and belief. Each exhibit featured comes with a detailed biography, an audio description, and links to related objects.
The Courtauld Gallery
The Courtauld Gallery is well ahead of the shuttering curve. It closed all the way back in 2018 for major redevelopment, but you can see what it used to look like in incredible detail thanks to this virtual tour. Zoom in on masterpieces like Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait With Bandaged Ear, or Amadeo Modgliani's Female Nude as you explore all seven rooms of the gallery.
Houses of Parliament
Fancy a trip to the Palace of Westminster? Created in partnership with Aardvark 360, this remains one of London's most impressive virtual tours. Explore fourteen spectacular rooms, including the House of Commons chamber, St Stephen's Hall and the Royal Gallery. The Central Lobby, with its magnificent vaulted ceilings, is especially well-rendered.
Take in panoramic views of the National Gallery on a Google Street View tour. Created back in 2016, this tour covers Rooms 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 in the gallery, as well as its Central Hall. This gives you access to over 300 Renaissance masterpieces, along with description on individual art works.
Natural History Museum
While not as slick as some of the other tours we've included, this Google Arts and Culture tour of the Natural History Museum is nevertheless a great way to keep kids entertained — and educated — during the lockdown, thanks it part to its large range of animal exhibits. Each room featured on the tour comes with links to trivia about select specimens, and you'll get even a glimpse of Dippy the Dinosaur, who left the museum for a national tour back in 2018.
Here's one for the aviation buffs. Explore the Royal Airforce Museum's Bomber Hall, Historic Hangers, and former airfield controller — AKA Grahame White Watch Office — from the comfort of your own home. Just remember to enable Flash.
Royal Academy of Arts
This beautifully-rendered virtual tour by Eye Revolution allows you to revisit the acclaimed 2014 architecture exhibition, Sensing Spaces at the RA. This highly ambitious architecture exhibition featured work by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Kengo Kuma, and many more. Step back in time and discover it for yourself, alongside detailed descriptions of each installation.
Once you've worked your way for all of that lot, there are plenty of museums further afield for you to visit virtually, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and MoMa in New York. Check out the full collection on Google Arts and Culture here.