London's museums and galleries open doors to virtual visitors

Some of the UK capital's top cultural attractions are offering online tours of their collections

London might be on lockdown right now but that doesn’t mean art enthusiasts need to miss out on enjoying the UK capital’s best cultural attractions.

Some of the museums and art galleries that closed last week to curb the spread of coronavirus are offering virtual tours, giving visitors a chance to view their collections online.

While an online visit does not offer the same thrill as seeing the works in real life, a virtual tour allows art and culture lovers to skip queues, avoid paying for tickets and, most importantly, stay safe.

British Museum

The British Museum’s permanent collection of eight million works is one of the largest in the world.

So, it is perhaps no surprise that the museum has witnessed a huge spike in online visitors since closing its doors to physical visitors.

In just a few weeks, the number of website visits doubled with the museum reporting a surge in page views from Italy, a country on strict lockdown.

Most of the Museum is covered by Google Streetview and allows an online visitor to check out historical works such as the Rosetta Stone and the Lewis Chessmen.

The website has good zoom functions, which allow close-up views of medieval and Renaissance pieces housed in the famous Waddesdon Bequest gallery.

National Gallery

A masked visitor walks past the National Gallery in a near deserted Trafalgar Square in central London on March 25, 2020, after Britain's government ordered a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Britain was under lockdown, its population joining around 1.7 billion people around the globe ordered to stay indoors to curb the "accelerating" spread of the coronavirus. / AFP / Tolga AKMEN

Ahead of the curve, Britain’s National Gallery began offering a virtual tour of its 18 gallery rooms, allowing online visitors to immerse themselves in 300 paintings, including works by Titian, Veronese, and Holbein.

The National Gallery said it had recorded "a huge increase in the number of users taking a look at our virtual tours and online collection" since the coronavirus outbreak.

Victoria and Albert Museum

A handout photo of Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum, London) *** Local Caption ***  al26ju-culture-victoria.jpg

The V&A is often cited as one of the best museums in the world. It has videos on its website of its famous galleries showcasing works from the medieval & renaissance period.

One of its curators has taken to social media to offer virtual tours of the V&A's theatre and performance collection. Simon Sladen, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Performance, has been posting daily Twitter tours with different themes, from make-up to souvenirs.

Royal Academy of Arts


Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts had to shut its doors half way through an exhibition of Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert. However, those hoping to see 80 of the self-taught artist’s gothic paintings still can. The Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy in collaboration with the Musée d‘Orsay, Paris is available to view via video tour.