Visit These 5 (Virtual) Museums Without Leaving Home

A field trip to a museum was one of the necessary educational activities while growing up. I think it still is. The only difference is that with the explosion of the web and virtual environments, a student can cover so many more sights than earlier possible.

Virtual environments open up many more educational options. You can go to places you wouldn’t even dream of, or even be able to in your real life. For example, a virtual museum tour is not real, but it is infinitely more “˜real’ than boring texts and pictures.

As you check out the cool virtual museum tours below, you will realize that it’s not only educational but also gives you a preview of what to expect when you do the real thing. Take these five virtual tours of museums in your pajamas without bothering to pay the price of an admission ticket.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

virtual museum

It is part of the largest museum complex in the world run by the Smithsonian Institution and is also the most popular. Even if you take the real tour, it is a complex of 19 museums and research centers. For a lot of us, it has to be on the “places to visit in our lifetime” list. Even though that day is in the future for a lot of us, we can take a peek into the treasures thanks to the virtual tour.

You can enter the rotunda and go for the comprehensive self-guided, room-by-room walking tour of the whole museum. Directional arrows and a few controls help to guide you around the exhibits. You can directly go to a spot by using the map. If you see an icon of a camera, clicking on it displays the exhibit in close-up. Make sure your internet connection is fast enough before you start the virtual tour.

European Virtual Museum [No Longer Available]

virtual museum tour

A collection of items from various museums in Europe have been put up on this portal with the help of 3D images. Visitors can explore the history of Europe through the artifacts’ and archaeological information linked to them. You can go by the eras, the area, objects, route, or pick up a museum to browse their collection online. Although it’s not as visually impressive as the online museum above, the European virtual museum is an educational treasure trove if you are studying European history.


virtual museum tour

Another museum which ranks among the world’s largest and also has a neat virtual tour is the Louvre. When it comes to art, this museum in Paris holds the top spot. The virtual tours of the museum come in snippets which cover different sections of the museum. You can take in the architectural splendor from the outside and then go into the different departments housing the art objects. An inline QuickTime player gives you pan and zoom controls to close in on the exhibits. You can see a listing of all the virtual tours around the museum on the left sidebar. When it comes to the view, the medieval tour of the Louvre is the best.

Vatican Museums

virtual museum tour

From paintings and sculptures to frescoes, the Vatican Museum is an art connoisseur’s delight. The homepage includes several collections you can view online if you haven’t yet managed a trip to the Vatican City. The 360 degree virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel will show you what you are missing. You can explore the other collections in a little Java player.

Toyota Automobile Museum

virtual museum

The Toyota Automobile virtual museum doesn’t give you the 3D experience with pan, zoom, and tilt, but if automobiles are your thing, you won’t mind. If you are planning to visit the museum in Japan, check out the virtual tour beforehand. Clicking on the map takes you to the different galleries and you can take a look at the photos of the cars that are displayed there. The only thing that’s missing is a bit of historical detail on the cars displayed. But I guess that’s available on the museum floor.

Most virtual tours are designed for the purpose of tourism. They do take you around the world 8 Panorama Websites For A 360 Degree Virtual Tour Around The World Read More . But when it comes to history and culture, online virtual tours are useful educational tools. If you want to check out some more cool examples, visit the BBC Virtual Tours page. Do you think that virtual tours are the next best thing to an actual visit?

Image credit: Shutterstock

Explore more about: Education Technology, Virtual World.

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  1. Saikat Basu
    January 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Here are a few -

    Is there any specific reason for these tours?

  2. Diane18702
    January 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Do you have any info on virtual tours of factories or businesses?

  3. Josain Zsun
    December 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    FWIW: Second Life has many virtual museums, art galleries, educational, scientific & ecological builds.

  4. Aibek
    December 22, 2010 at 10:56 am

    hey Saikat, thank for the post.

    I had no idea that Louvre had a virtual tour of the museum. Awesome.


    • Saikat Basu
      December 22, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks, Aibek. We are going from virtual to immersive experiences thanks to virtual reality and 3D headsets. The future is going to be mind-boggling for sure.

      • pastol
        December 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

        No doubt Saikat, but think about it, the future is now. Pretty amazing stuff that we take for granted today. It boggles my mind when I stop and think about it. I'm at the Louvre, browsing at my own pace, my butt firmly planted in a chair in small town Illinois. WOW!

    • RichInSydney
      December 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

      The Louvre also offers a free app foe the iPhone - also very good.

  5. Aibek
    December 22, 2010 at 11:56 am

    hey Saikat, thank for the post.

    I had no idea that Louvre had a virtual tour of the museum. Awesome.