Culture for the Self-Quarantined: Virtual Museums, Historical Landmarks, and more!

By: Wendy Perrin

Just because we have to be socially distanced, it doesn’t mean we have to be bored. Many cultural institutions have long offered virtual tours for those who can’t make the trek, and more legendary landmarks are adding those kinds of activities now. Whether you’re an opera buff, a museum aficionado, or a history lover, these online experiences can help satisfy your traveler’s curiosity for now—and give you ideas about spots to visit in person later. Know of any other cool virtual tours to keep us travelers happy? Tell us about them in the comments. And don’t miss our guide to virtual outdoor adventures too.

| Historic Landmarks

The best part of all this virtual touring may just be the lack of crowds. Set your alarm for sunrise and head to the Taj Mahal, or into Angkor Archeological Park — you’ll have Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and other temples to yourself. Bonus: no heat and humidity. (That said, there is a way to visit Angkor without the hordes in real life too.)

Machu Picchu’s virtual tour should hold you over until you can get to Peru in real life. Click on the map to get a glimpse of the Inca Trail or of the surrounding mountains from the Intiwatana, an ancient stone structure used as an astronomical clock of sorts.

Stonehenge’s website re-creates the mysterious ring of stones, and if you click on one of the image’s marked hot spots, info cards or videos pop up with deeper information.

Atop the Acropolis in Athens, armchair travelers can scramble over ancient rocks to take in the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and other notable spots, or zoom in on details they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get close to. The 360-degree views alone are worth the “trip.”

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower should also be on your virtual travel list—especially since no stairs are required. You can walk fully around the observation deck and see Paris from on high.

| Museums

Google has been teaming up with museums around the world for years to create virtual walk-throughs via its Arts & Culture hub (also available as an app on both Android and iPhone), using the same technology as its “street view” option on Google Maps. By now the options number more than 500. You can climb the famous circular ramp of the Guggenheim, zoom in to admire the artist’s thick brush strokes at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, skip the lines to admire Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or wander the rich galleries of the Palace of Versailles (if you have a VR headset you can visit Versailles that way too). And since Google’s catalog of partner museums is extensive, you can also discover lesser-known museums and the gems they house, such as South Korea’s Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art and the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Many museums have cool digital features on their own websites too. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been upping its online game for the past few years by making more and more of its collection visible online, introducing behind-the-scenes videos and creating special stories, themes, and social media projects. The Tate also displays a lot of its collection online and presents multimedia features like video interviews with artists and audio descriptions of notable works. The Louvre has its own walk-through tours of various galleries. In Italy, the Vatican Museum offers virtual walk-throughs—and, yes, we know everyone would rather gape at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling in person, but at least this way, there’s no stiff neck.

| Performances

self quarantine

The Metropolitan Opera has shut its doors for now, but every night at 7:30pm starting through the end of March, it will stream free performances from its Live in HD series. Just show up at the opera’s homepage at 7:30pm to see a previously recorded masterpiece (invite some friends; you can FaceTime for drinks during intermission). Each show will be available for 20 hours, and the lineup includes Puccini’s La Bohème, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Similarly, the Berlin Philharmonic is making its archive of previously recorded live performances free through March 31. Check the orchestra’s website for instructions on how to use the voucher code BERLINPHIL to register and get complimentary access. For a full list of streaming classical music performances, bookmark this page from WKAR, Michigan State University’s public broadcasting station.

There are plenty of ways to catch shows outside the classical genre too. StageIt is a website that showcases live, intimate performances by artists. Viewers buy tickets (prices are set by the artists), then tune in to watch the musician play from wherever they happen to be—at home, backstage, in the studio. The site is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day special and a “Shut In and Sing” festival of Americana and folk rock. While they have streamed sets by VIPs like Bonnie Raitt and Jimmy Buffet, you’re more likely to discover names that are completely new to you.

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