Beat lockdown blues by taking a virtual tour of London.
Why do you travel?
For some people, it’s an opportunity to decompress, perhaps in a warm climate with a good book as a companion. Others seek out new experiences, including sampling local cuisine. But for many, travel is an opportunity to learn more about the place, its people, its culture and history.
With regular travel currently an impossibility, curling up with a bestseller on the beach or hiking across a mountain range may be off the cards for the foreseeable future. However, anyone with an internet connection can continue to explore and learn about places and cultures as a virtual traveller.
Extend your horizons beyond your living room by taking a virtual tour of London’s flagship attractions. Just because we are in lockdown doesn’t mean that you have to stop exploring and learning. And lets’ face it … there’s only so much Netflix that you can consume.
Here are the best of the bunch.
Virtual tour of London: The best interactive experiences
Explore the British Museum from home
There are two virtual galleries available: Oceania and Prints & Drawings. Take a virtual tour of these galleries by scrolling through high-quality images of the collections.
However, it is the British Museum’s online collection that is outstanding, allowing visitors to search over four million object records online or to explore collection highlights and stories. Many of the museum’s objects have more than one image.
Podcasts are also available.
For a different virtual experience, you can take a virtual museum tour with Google Street View, including the hugely popular – and usually rammed – Egyptian Gallery.
Take a virtual tour of the National Gallery
Google has also created 360-degree tours of the National Gallery, including seven rooms as well as its Central Hall. This virtual collection includes Renaissance masterpieces from the likes of Titian and Holbein.
And like the British Museum, you can search the gallery’s vast collection with almost 2,500 of its works available to view online.
Explore the Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is one of those slightly off-the-main-radar art galleries in London. Built over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, this collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, arms and armour and porcelain. it was bequeathed to the British nation in 1897.
And The Wallace Collection has an impressive online presence. Watch a three-minute introductory video and then explore the Wallace Collection highlights.
Want to know more about Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier? Then you are in luck. Where this virtual collection is head and shoulders over its neighbours is the depth of information offered on exhibits, even to the extent of providing suggestions for further reading.
Take a tour of the Houses of Parliament
The home of UK democracy may be shut, but you can explore its nooks and crannies on a Houses of Parliament 360-degree virtual tour.
Starting at the central lobby, walk through the labyrinthine corridors of power to the House of Commons. Embrace your inner historian by clicking on the information icons on the ‘hotspots’ along the way.
There is also a separate Woman and Parliament Virtual Tour which traces the role of the gentler sex in UK Government, including the Suffrage movement.
Visit 10 Downing Street
Let’s stay with UK politics. It’s not as if many people will get an opportunity to visit the Prime Minister’s London home in person, but you can take a peek inside courtesy of a virtual tour of 10 Downing Street.
I really like this London virtual tour. The image quality is superb and you can explore 10 Downing Street inside and out.
Start with the iconic staircase, lined with photographs of past Prime Ministers and then venture to the Cabinet Room with its elegant Corinthian columns. Complete your visit by checking out the Prime Minister’s office and the elegant Pillared Room.
Go full-screen for the best experience.
Take a virtual tour of Churchill War Rooms
I confess that as a Londoner, I’ve never visited the Churchill War Rooms, although it has been on my London bucket list for some time.
But with this sophisticated Churchill War Rooms virtual tour, perhaps I don’t need to physically visit. Just hit play and this slick tour will take you through the highlights of the Government’s secret bomb shelter and command hub during WWII.
You can just imagine Churchill’s ministers and military strategists thrashing out the allied strategy in smoke-filled rooms.
Explore Hampton Court Palace
Anyone who has read Hilary Mantel’s books will be familiar with the magnificent 16th Century Hampton Court Palace which was once the home of Henry VIII. It’s a fantastic place to visit, albeit pricey, but – you guessed it – you can now take a virtual tour of Hampton Court Palace
Start in the Grand Hall with its enormous stained-glass windows and tapestry screens. When you are ready, continue to the Great Watching Chamber. The final stops are the two Great Kitchens, where royal banquets were once prepared.
It’s a short tour and one that is lacking information on what you are viewing, but the rooms are beautifully photographed. Although you can zoom in and out in each room, there is no panning function.
A free online course on the history of royal fashion is also available.
Take a narrated tour of the Tower of London
Where some of the London virtual tours fall short is that they lack a narrative. Not so with the virtual tour of the Tower of London.
This highly informative virtual tour included a detailed commentary on the Tower of London, The Crown Jewels and more.
London virtual tours: Are they worth it?
Just because we are in lockdown, doesn’t mean that we cannot indulge in virtual travel.
These virtual tours of London’s top sights vary hugely in their quality and in the depth of information provided. As might be expected, most of these are very visual experiences at the expense of contextual information about what you are looking at.
However, the advantage of experiencing London’s key attractions from the comfort of your own sofa is that you can go at your own pace and don’t have to battle with the crowds. A virtual experience also provides an opportunity to views spaces normally closed to the public, such as 10 Downing Street.
So pause Netflix and just do it.
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