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11 Noteworthy European Virtual Museum Tours

 

Did your 2020 travel plans include a visit to one of Europe’s cultural sites or museums? Maybe you were headed to London’s British Museum, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or the archaeological site of the Acropolis (that’s what I had planned!) in Athens?  

Well, how about the next best thing? Thanks to the latest technology, Google Arts & Culture and tech-savvy curators from over 2500 world-famous museums and galleries have created a new way of bringing their priceless collections to the public – through virtual museum tours.

While I typically spend my days crafting custom travel itineraries for travelers, this time I’ve planned a virtual museum tour itinerary for all of you. As usual, my recommendations are based on personal experience and plenty of research. These are what I consider to be 11 of the most well-done virtual tours for European museums available online today. 

Enjoy the experience of having exhibitions of world-class art and history at your fingertips! The price of admission: free!

1. The Acropolis (Athens, Greece)

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

This archaeological site virtual tour makes the top of my list for its ability to truly transport us onto the hill of the Acropolis. Explore the four major ancient monuments of the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaia, and Temple of Athena Nike. 

Bonus tour: You can also view the marble masterpieces of the Acropolis in the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum (a “must visit” for an Athens travel itinerary).

Planning tip: Given Greece’s size and the variety of things to see and do – whether you are looking for an island vacation or an ancient civilization historical immersion (or a bit of both) – there is a lot to consider when planning a trip to Greece. These are the Greece guidebooks that I recommend to get you started.

2. The British Museum (London, England UK)

British Museum Great Court

The British Museum houses a spectacular collection from past civilizations. It is one of my favorite museums in all of Europe and I find that their virtual tour really does the museum justice. I’ve provided links to some of what I consider the highlights of the collection.

Start by circling the iconic glass-domed Great Court (pictured above), then take advantage of the rare opportunity to get close to the Rosetta Stone (since a perk of a virtual tour is that there are no crowds). 

A personal favorite in the museum is the Pediment Sculptures in The Parthenon Galleries. These sculptures were originally a part of the triangular pediment above the Parthenon’s main entrance. 

Next, I recommend passing through this Human-Headed Winged Lion Arch to enter the impressive Ancient Assyrian gallery.  

Lastly, Egyptian art and history aficionados won’t want to miss the Egyptian sculptures and mummies.

3. Buckingham Palace (London, England UK)

Buckingham Palace exterior

This is a treat. The official residence of the Queen of England is only open to the public for two months out of each year (usually August and September). This virtual tour invites you into the 317-year-old palace to view the marvelously ornate Throne Room, Grand Staircase, and White Drawing Room. The tour is short, but I just think it’s wonderful that we can visit Buckingham Palace virtually, year-round.

4. Chateau Chenonceau (Chenonceaux, Loire Valley, France)

Cassie Tetro at Chateau Chenonceau
Me during a visit to Chateau Chenonceau in 2014

Explore 500 years of French history in a virtual tour of Chateau Chenonceau. I consider this estate to be the crown jewel of the Loire Valley and it’s always a prioritized stop on Loire Valley castle itineraries that I craft for travelers

Chateau Chenonceau’s most famous resident was Catherine de’ Medici. We can credit her for constructing the best feature of the castle – the three-story extension that crosses over the Cher River. Walk The Medici Gallery in the virtual tour and enjoy a view out the windows and onto the river. If your travels bring you to Chenonceau, consider renting a rowboat to savor the views of the chateau from the river.

Don’t miss a stroll in the manicured gardens before ending your virtual tour.

5. Musee d’Orsay (Paris, France)

Orsay Museum interior

Housed in an ornate former train station, a sight in its own right, Musee d’Orsay displays an impressive collection of French Impressionist paintings, predominantly between 1848-1914. On your virtual tour of the museum, you’ll be invited into galleries featuring the artwork of renowned French artists, including Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Renoir, to name a few. Admire the beautiful restoration of the train station from this vantage point, which would have been the central train platform. It sure is gorgeous, isn’t it?

6. The Vatican Museum (Vatican City, Rome, Italy)

Raphael's School of Athens
Raphael's School of Athens

The trick to a successful in-person visit to the Vatican Museum is to go during those precious short moments when there are the fewest crowds (something I 𝑎𝑙𝑤𝑎𝑦𝑠 strategize in my client’s itineraries). And that’s the beauty of this virtual tour – all the art, history, and beauty and none of the crowds!

Highlights from the virtual tour include a 360-degree view of the Sistine Chapel (imagine if we could enjoy this in solitude in real life!). And Raphael’s School of Athens in the Raphael Rooms

A little bit of School of Athens trivia for you: Do you see the guy on the middle-left – wearing boots? Raphael modeled him to resemble Michelangelo.

7. The Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)

Uffizi Gallery Florence

The Uffizi Gallery is home to the greatest collection of Italian paintings under one roof. The virtual tour is made easier to navigate thanks to the museum’s U-shaped design. Highlights of the collection include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Spring, Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, and  Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch. I also can’t help but stare at Caravaggio’s fascinating Medusa. Roam the galleries and you’ll find many more works from these artists and more. 

I invite you on a treasure hunt: Look for Michelangelo’s only completed easel painting. If you can’t locate it, message me on Facebook and I’ll send you the link!

8. Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam exterior

The Rijksmuseum is home to the largest collection of works from the Dutch Golden Age. The most prominent Dutch Master in the museum is Rembrandt with a total of 22 paintings, including The Night Watch. Notice how this painting expertly plays with light and depth, showcasing Rembrandt’s artistic genius. The Rijksmuseum has only four Johannes Vermeer paintings, but they are some of his best. Paintings such as The Milkmaid and Woman Reading a Letter prove that an artist can make a big impression with a small portfolio. 

Bonus Dutch Masters: If you enjoyed the Rijksmuseum, check out the Mauritshuis’ virtual tour or in-person at The Hague. The Mauritshuis is home to perhaps Vermeer’s most famous painting, the Girl with the Pearl Earring.

9. Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam Self-Portrait Gallery
Photo Credit: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Jan Kees Steenman

The Van Gogh Museum is one of my favorite museums, anywhere. Not because it is necessarily the “best” but because I absolutely love the works of Vincent Van Gogh! I also adore the way the museum tells the story of Van Gogh’s life by leading visitors through the paintings in chronological order. The virtual tour is just as easy to navigate. You’ll start with works like The Potato Eaters, see famous pieces such as the Almond Blossom and the Sunflowers, By the end, when you get the Wheatfield with Crows, a depiction of the field where he was fatally wounded, you feel a real sense of loss. 

Don’t miss the Self-Portrait Gallery before you go. If you enjoyed the virtual tour, be sure to visit on a trip to Amsterdam. The museum’s collection includes 500 drawings, 200 paintings, and more than 750 personal letters.

Stay-At-Home Bonus: The movie Loving Vincent (2017) is the world’s first painted feature film. The movie’s frames are painted in Van Gogh’s signature style and many of the characters came straight from his own works (for example, the postman is a character in the film).

10. Pergamon Museum (Berlin, Germany)

Pergamon Alter at Pergamon Museum Berlin
Pergamonaltar, Seitenansicht. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Foto: Johannes Laurentius

The Pergamon Museum is Berlin’s world-class museum of classical antiquities and is among the largest and most-visited museums in Germany. While nothing can beat the awe-inducing feeling of visiting in-person, this virtual tour imparts invaluable insight into what awaits visitors.

The museum’s namesake is the huge second-century B.C. temple, the Pergamon Altar. The temple is a replica constructed with pieces from the original uncovered in the Greek city of Pergamon (modern-day Turkey). In another room, the Market Gate of Miletus, dating back to 575 B.C. was reconstructed from the ruined original gate that was destroyed in an earthquake. Miletus was a Roman city in Mesopotamia (Iraq). The large number of ancient artifacts is nothing short of mind-blowing and I highly recommend visiting in person as a part of your Berlin itinerary.

Don’t miss the Ishtar Gate of Babylon or The Sanctuary of Athena while on your virtual tour!

11. Schönbrunn Palace (Vienna, Austria)

Schönbrunn-Palace-Vienna
Schönbrunn Palace © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H., Severin Wurnig

Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer home of the Habsburg rulers. Located on the outskirts of Vienna (about 10 minutes away by subway), it is most associated with Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth (“Sisi”). Franz Josef was born and died at Schonbrunn. With his death, the Habsburg monarchy ended, and, in 1918, Schönbrunn Palace became the property of the newly founded Austrian Republic.

If you’ve been to the Palace of Versailles in France, this virtual tour will likely find it striking how much Schonbrunn resembles Versailles. Do you agree that Schönbrunn’s magnificent Great Gallery closely resembles Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors? These are my favorite rooms in both palaces!

The Imperial Apartment’s luxurious decorations reveal the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by Franz Josef and Sisi. Begin your virtual tour in the Guard’s Room and follow the numbered rooms (shown above each doorway). Some most notable rooms to view would be the wood-paneled Walnut Room, Franz Josef’s Bedchamber (and small restroom), Josef Franz and Sisi’s Bedroom, the Family Dining Room and the Mirror Room.  

Bonus tour: If you enjoy grand palaces, there is a virtual tour for Versailles too!

We Will Travel Again

I hope you’ve enjoyed virtually touring your museum selections and found them as interesting and well-done as I did! Not being able to take a flight doesn’t mean that we can’t still explore!

The world will soon defeat the Coronavirus, and we will all be able to travel again. In the meantime, continue to get inspired by European travel by following Montage Travel on Facebook. And, when you’re ready to start planning your next trip, contact me to discuss how I can maximize your time, reduce your stress, and customize a trip exactly to your interests and travel style.

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