Art from home — 10 of the best virtual museum experiences in Europe

How the British Museum, the Louvre, the Uffizi and more are bringing their treasures into your home


The Sistine Chapel, the full glory of which can be appreciated online. Photo: © Mondadori Portfolio / Bridgeman Images

British Museum, LondonTake a virtual tour of the museum

Much of the British Museum’s collection of around eight million objects, spanning over two million years of human history and culture, is available to explore online. The Google Arts & Culture virtual tour is perhaps the most enjoyable and glitch-free way of discovering it.


The Reading Room in the Great Court of the British Museum. Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum

Highlights on ‘virtual’ display include the Lewis Chessmen, a remarkable group of 12th-century chess pieces carved from walrus ivory and whales’ teeth, and the decorated wooden coffin of an ancient Egyptian named Pasenhor. The Museum of the World timeline, curated by category, continent and century, is a brilliant alternative for those in search of a whistle-stop tour of star exhibits.


The 12th-century Lewis Chessmen. Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum

For teachers and parents on home-schooling duties, the museum’s comprehensive bank of free learning resources covers everything from Ancient Egypt and Japanese Printmaking to drawing and critical thinking activities for toddlers to teens.

Don’t miss… The British Museum’s series of downloadable podcasts. Browse the archive of 13 episodes to hear more about the museum’s activity, from exhibitions to accessibility programmes.

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Uffizi Gallery, Florence Enjoy a virtual stroll around the Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi houses one of the world’s outstanding collections of sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages to the Modern period, including ancient statues and busts once in the collection of the Medici family.


Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, circa 1485. Tempera on canvas. 172.5 x 278.5 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo: Bridgeman Images

Take a digital stroll through the galleries to marvel at such masterpieces as Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi  (1480-81) and The Birth of Venus  (1483-85) by Sandro Botticelli. In addition to the Google Arts & Culture virtual tour, you can explore four online exhibits, each of which is dedicated to an outstanding work in the museum’s collection.

Elsewhere on the museum’s homepage you can find links to the browsable digital archives and its online magazine.


Titian (Tiziano Vecellio),Venus of Urbino, before 1538. Oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo: © Raffaello Bencini / Bridgeman Images

Don’t miss… Titian’s Venus of Urbino  (1532-34), bought by the Duke of Urbino as a gift for his young wife in 1538. The painting — which depicts a nude young woman traditionally identified as the goddess Venus in a domestic interior — is widely considered one of the most sensual paintings of the 16th century.

Louvre, Paris  Look up close at Apollo’s Gallery

Although the world’s most visited museum is now temporarily closed, you can still explore a part of its remarkable collection of approximately 380,000 objects online. Each of the museum’s four virtual tours (Adobe Flash Player is required) features an interactive map and detailed explanations of key works.

The Louvre, Paris. Hall Napoleon under the pyramid of the Louvre, by Ieoh Ming Pei in association with Michel Macary and Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Photo: © Collection Artedia/ Artedia / Bridgeman Images

Pink granite Great Sphinx from Tanis, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Egyptian civilization, Old Kingdom. Photo: D. Dagli Orti / De Agostini Picture Library / Bridgeman Images

Discover the history of the Louvre as a palace and museum on the ‘Medieval Tour’, or take the ‘Egyptian Antiquities’ tour for a walkthrough of the eastern wing of the Louvre (Sully), home to the magnificent Tanis Sphinx (2600 BC).

Don’t miss… The virtual tour of the Apollo Gallery, the first Royal Gallery for Louis XIV. Rebuilt after a fire in 1661, it features 41 paintings, 118 sculptures and 28 tapestries, including The Triumph of Neptune, Evening or Morpheus and Night or Diana  by Charles Le Brun.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Discover the secrets of Rembrandt’s Night Watch

In response to the current health crisis, the Rijksmuseum has launched Rijksmuseum From Home, a brilliant multi-media initiative offering visitors 10 ways to engage with the collection online. Highlights of the new digital programme include the #Rijksmuseumfromhome short video series, which sees museum curators discuss their favourite works in the museum, and Masterpieces Up Close.


Rembrandt van Rijn, The Jewish Bride, c. 1665-c. 1669. Oil on canvas. 121.5 x 166.5 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest)

The latter slickly recreates the experience of browsing the works on display in the Rijksmuseum’s Gallery of Honour, home to Vermeer’s Woman Reading a Letter (circa 1663) and Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride  (circa 1665–1669), among others. As you ‘walk’ through the gallery, click on works to zoom in and see them up close. Of those on display, around 20 have accompanying audio descriptions.


Rembrandt van Rijn, Night Watch, Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, 1642. Oil on canvas. 379.5 x 453.5 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam

Don’t miss… Operation Night Watch, a comprehensive dive into Rembrandt’s most famous painting: The Night Watch (1642). The intuitive multi-media presentation unpacks the painting’s secrets, history and composition in entertaining style.

Guggenheim, BilbaoWatch Bending Gravity now

Designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry and built between 1993 and 1997, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a landmark of 20th-century architecture. Organised around a central atrium, the three levels of the museum can now be explored at the click of a button.


View of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Photo: Courtesy of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

To look at the outside and inside of the museum, take a leisurely digital stroll through the permanent collection, featuring works by modern and contemporary artists, such as Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer and Yves Klein. For something faster paced, watch Bending Gravity, a thrilling short video (in English) that explores the museum building as seen through the eyes of urban photographer Trashhand and free-runner Johan Tonnoir.

Spanish-speakers can also enjoy a series of curator-led video tours as part of the Guggenheim’s initiative to bring the museum and its collection to your home.

Don’t miss… The short introduction to Maman  (1997), a gigantic bronze spider by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. Originally conceived for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2000, the sculpture is now one of the artist’s most recognisable works.

Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, MadridTake a virtual tour of Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670

Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza has unveiled an enjoyable virtual tour of its blockbuster exhibition, Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670. Charting the Dutch artist’s activities as a portraitist, it features around 40 of Rembrandt’s paintings alongside works by his most talented peers.


Installation view of Rembrandt and Amsterdam Portraiture, 1590-1670. Photo: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

For more information about Rembrandt’s life and art, take a short guided video tour of the exhibition (in English with Spanish subtitles) with curator Norbert E. Middelkoo, or leaf through the exhibition’s accompanying interactive publication.

Beyond Rembrandt, there’s a virtual tour of the museum’s permanent collection, which spans more than eight centuries of art history and includes works by artists such as Paul Cézanne, Franz Marc and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, among others. Online, you can also find links to a wealth of thematic tours of collection highlights.

Paul Cézanne, Portrait de paysan,1905-1906. Oil on canvas. 64.8 x 54.6 cm. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fränzi vor geschnitztem Stuhl, 1910. Oil on canvas. 71 x 49.5 cm. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Don’t miss… The museum’s curated edit of Spotify playlists to soundtrack your days at home.

National Gallery, LondonTake a a virtual tour of the Sainsbury Wing

The National Gallery’s homepage offers plenty of links to at-home resources, including behind-the-scenes videos, story features, detailed guides to must-see works, as well as virtual tours.


Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543), The Ambassadors, 1533. Oil on panel. 207 x 209.5 cm. National Gallery, London. Photo: Bridgeman Images

In 2016 the museum teamed up with Google Street View to offer 360-degree tours of the Central Hall and Rooms 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15. Although the interactive arrows on these tours are frustratingly fiddly to navigate, persevere and you’ll come face to face with Renaissance masterpieces from northern Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, including works by Titian, Veronese and Holbein.


Titian (circa 1488-1576), Bacchus and Ariadne, 1520-23. Oil on canvas. National Gallery, London. Photo: Bridgeman Images

Also offered is a 3D-tour of the Sainsbury Wing, home to the Gallery’s collection of Early Renaissance paintings, and an additional 2011 Adobe Flash virtual tour of a further 18 galleries. The latter is integrated with the museum’s information pages, so that you can quickly and easily find out more about the paintings and the artists who painted them.

Don’t miss… The Gallery’s remarkable collection of 10 works by Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese, all of which are on virtual display in either Room 9 or 11d.

Vatican Museums, RomeMarvel at the  frescoes of the Sistine Chapel

On the ‘Discover the Museums’ webpage, you’ll find links to 360-degree virtual tours of the Vatican’s seven most popular sites, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and the Chiaramonti Museum. There’s also one of the Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis, an outstanding example of an ancient Roman burial ground.

In addition, there are short online videos of other popular Vatican sites, including the Christian Museum and the 17th-century Chapel of Pope Urban VIII Barberini.


The Sistine Chapel. On the vault the Stories of Creation are framed by membrature with Prophets and Sibyls painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1508 to 1512. On the altar wall the Last Judgement executed by Michelangelo himself between 1536 and 1541. Photo: © Mondadori Portfolio / Bridgeman Images

Don’t miss… The opportunity for a closer look at the magnificent painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which continues to host the most important services of the Papal Calendar. Completed in 1512, Michelangelo’s masterpiece spans over 5,000 square feet and features more than 300 figures.

The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg Admire the only Michelangelo work in Russia

In a bid to share its remarkable collection with audiences around the world, the State Hermitage has launched a new series of video broadcasts on YouTube about works in the collection (currently only available in Russian). Online, you can also find a selection of educational articles in English, charting everything from the museum’s history and architecture to key patrons.

The 19th-century Jordan Staircase, Winter Palace, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Photo: Tarker / Bridgeman Images

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Crouching Boy, circa 1530-34. Marble, height 54 cm. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Photo: Bridgeman Images

Highly recommended is the excellent 360-degree Virtual Visit of the museum’s galleries, complete with an interactive floorplan and text descriptions of standout works. If you have five hours to spare, settle in to watch The Hermitage Shot on an i-Phone Pro, a one-take film (with audio but no voiceover) that takes you languidly through the museum — no clicking required.

Don’t miss… The Italian Cabinet (Room 230), which is home to Crouching Boy (1530-1534), the only work by Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo (1475-1564) in Russia. 

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Pergamon MuseumView the Pergamon Altar

Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is home to one of the world’s most important collections of Greek and Roman art, as well as a remarkable collection of Islamic and Middle Eastern art. The library of online activities and resources includes a browsable digital database of the collection, a 360-degree virtual tour of museum galleries, and, most impressively, a 3D model of its star exhibit, the Pergamon Altar.


Overall view of the Pergamon Altar, built in first half of 2nd century BC. Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Photographer: Johannes Laurentius

Built during the reign of Eumenes II, king of Pergamon (in the west of what is today Turkey) in the first half of the 2nd century BC, the altar depicts the Gigantomachy, the battle between the Olympian Gods and the Giants. The hall that contains the altar is closed for refurbishment until at least 2024, so make the most of the 3-D model tool which allows you to explore the Hellenistic masterpiece up close.

Detail of the Pergamon Altar. Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Photographer: Johannes Laurentius

Don’t miss…The Market Gate of Miletus, one of the best-known exhibits in the Pergamon Museum. This large marble monument was built in Miletus in the 2nd century AD, but was destroyed in an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. It was later excavated by a German archaeological team and rebuilt for display in the Pergamon. 

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