10 Famous Museums You Can Tour From Home

Stunning collections you can view from your couch.

Jonathan Kendall

Shot of the Napoleon Courtyard at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Photo credit: Alexander Kagan on Unsplash

We’re going through a moment—actually, that’s an understatement. Life as we’ve known it has been turned upside down, and we don’t know how long this may go on. Flights are cancelled. Grand events have been postponed. Malls, and the stores within them, have closed. Even the stalwarts of culture, art galleries and museums, have shut their doors around the world for the time being.

However, as we stay hunkered down, we should take some solace in the fact this crisis has happened in the digital era—during a time when many of us are still able to take classes online and go to work from home. It’s something to be grateful for. This said, while we try to figure out how to stimulate our minds amid the same set of walls we’ve seen for the past week, we’d like to offer you this list of 10 museums whose stunning collections you can tour from your chaise longue.

Even in times of difficulty—perhaps especially during these times—it’s important to turn down the volume of the noises around us that ignite fear, and indulge, even if for a moment, in things that remind us that there’s hope. What is a better testimony to our resilience and ability than art?

Many of the masterpieces held in these institutions have stood the test of time. They’ve survived depressions, wars, and, yes, even pandemics. So will we.

 To check out its online collection, click on the respective institution’s hyperlinked name.

1. British Museum, London

Interior of the British Museum in London. Photo credit: Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Britain’s flagship cultural institution has about 8,000,000 objects in its collection—half of which you can view online. What can you see? You can check out some of the earliest objects fashioned by humans, such as Mesolithic headdresses and Phoenician ivory sphinxes, to masterpieces created by more contemporary artists, such as the etchings Epifania (by Michelangelo) and Where there’s a will there’s a way (by Francisco Goya).

2. Prado Museum, Madrid

Visitors unwind around the Prado’s impressive property. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

From scandalous depictions of mythical deities to sprezzaturan renderings of the Virgin Mary, the Prado Museum’s online collection offers a review of the many faces that have represented the divine to humanity over the centuries. The Madrid-based institution is also renowned for holding the largest collection of Spanish master paintings in the world. If you’re a fan of Goya, Dalí and Picasso, then this is the place for you.

3. Louvre, Paris

A modern crowd gathers around Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece La Gioconda (aka “The Mona Lisa”). Photo credit: Photo by Juan Di Nella on Unsplash

Come for the Mona Lisa, stay for the literally endless array of works—from ancient Greek artifacts to Impressionist dreams. Through the musée’s online tours, you can also explore Egyptian antiquities, remnants of the Louvre’s moat, and survey the Galerie d’Apollon, an homage to France’s “Sun King”: Louis XIV.

4. Brera Art Gallery, Milan

Portrait of Laura da Pola by Lorenzo Lotto, which is on display at the Brera.

Founded in 1809, this Milan-based institution is the city’s first museum. In its more than 200-year existence, the Brera has amassed a sophisticated collection of masterpieces that puts it in the very top ranks of the world’s most outstanding cultural centers. True to form, its online counterpart is also quite impressive. Many of the featured works come from the skilled hands of Bellini, Tintoretto, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Tiepolo and Bramantino.

5. National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Photo by Mika on Unsplash

Much of Western art, not to mention civilization, traces back to Greece. Through the museum’s online collection you can peruse what forms and figures ancient Hellenic people were obsessed with: what they idealized. There is sophistication in their simplicity. If you’d like to get a blast from the past, and see how much things have changed yet stayed the same, then this museum’s online collection might be for you.

6. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Visitors perusing the Hermitage Museum’s collection. Photo credit: Artem Bryzgalov un Unsplash

This is Russia’s largest art museum. There’s a lot to behold, if you’re curious. Through the Hermitage’s website, you can take a virtual tour throughout the museum. On top of offering an ample set of ancient Roman artifacts, the Hermitage also possesses a robust collection of Russian art throughout the nation’s long history. Since Russia is vast, the list of different territories that intersect its story is equally long.

This said, on top of surveying the nation’s most renown painters—Andrei Rublev and Wassily Kandinsky, among others—you can also check out art from Central Asia, from as far back as the 3rd century, and armor from the Middle East during the 15th and 19th centuries.

7. Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Visitors decline the Bramante Staircase. Photo credit: Yoosun Won on Unsplash

The Vatican Museums hold one of the most sophisticated collections of religious-oriented works on the planet. Through their website, you can tour the galleries’ hallowed halls—they abut the Sistine Chapel—and glimmering sculptures. Some of the famous works you can check out include Laocoön and His Sons and Apollo Belvedere.

8. Metropolitan Museum, New York City

Fragmentary colossal head of a youth, on display at the Met Fifth Avenue. Photo credit: Levi Clancy on Unsplash

Through the Met’s online database you can explore the very best New York has to offer. It’s a collection as cosmopolitan as the city itself. Indeed, not only will you see ancient antiquities from Greece and Egypt, but you’ll also encounter modern works of art that don’t seem to have simple explanations. Works by Willem de Kooning and Egon Schiele, for instance, that seem to convey ambiguous feelings, on first review, but that become more comprehensible through conversations with our peers.

In such a puzzling time as this, perhaps taking time to solve existential enigmas with one another will keep us sane. Even if those inspiriting chats are just over the phone, for the time being—or via FaceTime. On top of all this, you can check out the Met’s many imperial spaces through its 360° Project.

9. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Museumgoer snaps a shot of Sandro Botticelli’s iconic “Primavera.” Photo credit: Dim 7 on Unsplash

If you’re a big fan of the Renaissance and Italian Old Masters such as Caravaggio and Piero di Cosimo, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Uffizi’s online collection. Among the famous pieces you can virtually check out are Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera, as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation.

10. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Photo credit: Emma Steinhobel on Unsplash

Through the National Gallery of Art’s online collection you can view Italian paintings from the 13th century to Dutch paintings of the 17th century to works by American artists in just the past 100 years. Throughout the collections you glimpse the light and shadows that fell on the people of every displayed era. Some of the presentations have some pretty snazzy narrators. (Stanley Tucci, for instance.)