Best virtual tours around the world

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it - for now at least - but it has also inspired waves of unpredictable creativity all over the world, particularly where cool tech is concerned.

Billions of people globally are sensibly following their local government’s guidance which, in most cases, means staying indoors to save lives. Seasoned travellers might find the prospect of lockdown a little more challenging than most. Fortunately, however, there are tons of intelligent tourist organisations, tech-savvy museums and creative companies anywhere from Rome to New York, that are using the latest technology to enable ‘digital travel’.

Here’s five of the very best virtual tours and experiences available online right now. What are you waiting for?

Explore the full length of the Louvre

If pre-lockdown you had long dreamed of going to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, now might just be the very best time to beat the Louvre’s infamously pushy crowds. With France on lockdown and the museum’s many doors now firmly bolted shut “until further notice”, there currently isn’t a single soul inside. At the same time, museum staff appear to have been busy shooting cool footage and creating comprehensive virtual tours covering four of the Louvre’s top exhibitions, which can now all be enjoyed online.

The museum’s Galerie d’Apollon, Egyptian Antiquities, Advent of the Artist and Remains of the Louvre’s Moat can all be explored digitally in photorealistic, 360-degree detail. Better yet, each room seems eerily quieter and emptier than the last. Meanwhile, close-up videos ogling every brush stroke of Da Vinci’s world-famous masterpiece are available elsewhere on the Louvre’s official website.

Walk the walls of the Colosseum  

If living La Dolce Vita in Italy is more your kind of thing, take a look at this unique and unusual virtual tour of Rome’s iconic Colosseum. Fronted by a knowledgeable local guide, this video-based tour features stunning footage of this monumental landmark during lockdown, with literally no crowds in sight.

The video offers a detailed Spanish-language commentary documenting interesting facts about the Colosseum and fascinating stories behind its history and construction, told by expert local guide Eleonora. Darting back-and-forth between spookily quiet video footage, expert commentary and still images showing the Colosseum’s interior and exterior from multiple angles, this unique video offers an experience not too dissimilar from a guided walking tour of the great ancient Flavian Ampitheatre (as the Romans once called it) itself. Watch this space – as Roman Private Guides is expected to share several other superb video tours over the coming weeks.

Go wander the Guggenheim  

Everyone in New York knows the Guggenheim – and everyone outside of the city wants to visit it. Designed by iconic architect Frank Lloyd-Wright way back in the 1950s, this gorgeous spiral-shaped art gallery is one of The Big Apple’s most distinctive landmarks, housing game-changing contemporary art exhibits from all over the world.

With the Empire State hit particularly hard by the pandemic, the Guggenheim is currently closed until further notice – but the museum’s staff have been going above and beyond to invite curious visitors to explore its amazing collections from home via what curators call a “virtual community”. Visually, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed building can be experienced in HD using a Google-powered virtual tour, allowing art lovers to wander all the nooks and crannies of this wonderful maze-like museum. Meanwhile, a series of official audio guides created in collaboration with the popular podcast “99% Invisible” can be streamed on the Guggenheim’s website. Eager listeners can discover the history behind the museum’s unique architecture, the complex processes behind creating, curating and installing exhibitions, and much more.

Discover an ancient Egyptian tomb from your armchair 

If meandering through artsy museums with your mouse isn’t really your thing, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has launched a spooky virtual tour that’s perhaps a little better suited to the more adventurous traveller. Using astonishing 3D modelling technology, tech wizards working day and night on the ambitious Giza Project at Harvard University have recreated a 5,000 year-old Egyptian tomb in astonishingly meticulous detail – and there’s four more recreations yet to come.

First excavated in 1927, the real Tomb of Queen Meresankh III quite a reputation among archaeologists on account of the abnormally high-quality, well-preserved paintings inside. Virtual tomb raiders can click their way around its many chambers, discover stunning bas-reliefs, the remnants of ancient offerings intended to sustain Meresankh’s soul in the afterlife, and much more. An added bonus is that the virtual tour has no long queues and doesn’t require travellers to pay 50 Egyptian Pounds (£2.50) to gain entry. Keep an eye on the tourist board’s website and social media for news of other virtual tours expected to launched very soon.

Lose yourself in dazzling Los Angeles 

If ancient ruins and historic artworks simply aren’t for you, then how about something a little trendier? The uber-cool art galleries in the City of Angels attract some of the edgiest, most daring contemporary art anywhere in the world. Pre-lockdown, one particular exhibition – Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinite Mirrored Room at The Broad – had been gaining an awful lot of attention. This bizarre multisensory experience enables visitors to bathe in a twinkling, reflective abyss of thousands of stars – a sensation which can now be enjoyed entirely from home.

Thanks to The Broad’s innovative Infinite Drone project, which seeks to reimagine the ways the public can access its art and literary works during the current health situation, those looking for something a little different online can enjoy a series of four immersive light and sound experiences on YouTube. Each audio-visual video features carefully selected music by celebrated musicians and sound artists from across Los Angeles. These futuristic tunes have been fine-tuned to suit the spacey displays on show. What’s more, art aficionados can linger among Kusama’s stars for as long as they like – whereas, in comparison, the in-person experience limits each visitor to a maximum ‘star-bathing’ of just 45 seconds. Be sure to check up on The Broad’s website and follow #TheBroadFromHome on social media, as other immersive online works are expected to drop any day soon.