London is one of my favorite cities in the entire world. It is a city with a vast history, yet it is a modern city at the same time. There is something for everyone, and it is a place where you will never be bored. I have made many trips to London and still haven’t seen everything on my bucket list.
If you can’t make it to London in person, there are some online options. Many of the most popular tourist attractions in London have developed ways for people to “visit” from the comfort of home. Taking a virtual tour of London can help fill the gap until you can travel again.
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What is a virtual tour?
A virtual tour is a way of exploring a destination remotely. It can come in different formats like a 360 photo or video, audio tour, or narrated video, for example. More and more venues are creating virtual tours to give prospective visitors the inside scoop.
The Best Virtual Tours in London
As online tours grow in growth in popularity, there are a lot of options for those interested in learning more about some of London’s top attractions. Let me tell you more about the best virtual tours in London.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Normally, it is only open to the public during the summer when Queen Elizabeth is in Scotland. I finally got the chance to go to the Buckingham Palace summer opening last year, and it did not disappoint.
The only negative was that there were a lot of people and we did have to wait in a long line before we were allowed in. With the virtual tour, you don’t have to worry about that. Explore some of the staterooms any time you like. Check out the Buckingham Palace online tours here.
If you are interested in learning more about the Changing of the Guard ceremony, there is an online tour with a London Blue Badge Guide offered by Take Walks. You will learn more about the tradition and can ask the expert questions in this live experience. It costs $8 for the tour, but you will also receive a $25 voucher for any Take Walks tour, valid for 2 years. Get more information here.
The National Gallery is an art museum with a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900 housed in an iconic building in Trafalgar Square in Central London. Both the impressive collection and the architecture make this one of the must-visit museums in London.
There are different types of online tours you can do of the National Gallery:
- Take a tour of the Renaissance masterpieces with Google
- Use your desktop, mobile phone, tablet or VR headset to take a virtual reality tour of the Early Renaissance paintings in the Sainsbury Wing
- See more than 300 paintings from 18 different room in this virtual tour from 2011
- Search the collection online
Get more information about the National Gallery virtual tours here.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a historic castle that was founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. Over the years, it has served as a royal residence, prison, armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, and a public record office. Today, it is still the home of the Crown Jewels of England and the ravens, who are known as the guardians of the tower.
When visiting the Tower of London, you must take one of the tours included with admission led by the Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters. From home, try the virtual tour here, which is very informative, too.
Read about more virtual castle tours.
The British Museum has a huge collection (over 8 million pieces) covering human history, art, and culture. It’s not possible to see everything in one visit. It was a challenge to try and see the highlights of the British Museum in three hours!
When visiting from home, it is possible to take time and browse the collection. The curators have several ideas for how you can experience the museum from home:
- Tour the museum virtually with Google Street View
- Explore the virtual galleries
- Get the behind the scenes scoop on the Museum Podcast
- Listen to audio tours
- Watch videos on YouTube
- And more! Get the details here.
Houses of Parliament
More formally known as the Palace of Westminster, this building is home to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. At the north end, you will find the Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben, which is under renovation until 2021. Note: Big Ben is actually the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock.
It can be fascinating watching the debates in Parliament, and I would love to take a tour one day. In the meantime, there are two 360 degree virtual tours of the House of Parliament that you can do online here. The Parliament tour shows the different rooms and explains the history and traditions. There is also the Women and Parliament tour which shares stories about the role women have played in the history of the country.
10 Downing Street
This is the office and official residence of the Prime Minister. Even during normal times, the public is not allowed inside. There is a short virtual tour that you can do here. It is interesting to get a glimpse of the rooms where so many important decisions are made.
Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. It includes the Cabinet War Rooms, which was the underground complex that housed a British government command center during the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a museum exploring the life of Winston Churchill. You can take a virtual tour here.
Westminster Abbey is a royal church in Central London with over a thousand years of history. It is the place where coronations are held and key figures (including many monarchs) are buried. In addition to all the history, the architecture is something to marvel at.
When you can’t visit in person, the audio tour app, which also includes pictures, can be downloaded here. They also have a podcast that features readings, short addresses, anthems, prayers, blessings, and music from the Westminster Choir.
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the former Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames. Its permanent collection includes British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum has a vast collection that covers Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology, and Zoology. It is also a world-renowned research center, specializing in taxonomy, identification, and conservation.
Museum of London & Museum of London Docklands
The main Museum of London tells the story of the city from prehistoric times to the current day and is located near the London Wall in the City of London. The Museum of London Docklands houses their port and river collection in a 200-year old warehouse.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of London. A church has been on this site since 604. The present cathedral was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren after the previous church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London.
Many important historical events have been held inside St. Paul’s including the funerals of Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Nelson. It was also the venue for the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana.
You can explore the Cathedral through a 360 degree video here. They also allow you to download the multimedia guide here for IOS and here for Google. The St. Paul’s Choir has music available on Spotify here.
Kew Gardens is a botanical garden in southwest London that houses the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world.” In addition to all the nature you can see at Kew Gardens, there are also the Great Pagoda, Palm House, Princess of Wales Conservatory, and more.
You can tour the gardens virtually here. Note some of the videos are of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Wakehurst.
The Science Museum is located close to the Natural History Museum. It has interactive galleries, a 3D IMAX theater,3D and 4D simulators, and world-famous objects like the Apollo 10 command capsule and Stephenson’s Rocket
You can take a virtual tour of the Science Museum with Google Streetview or watch videos of the curators in the main galleries here.
The HMS Belfast is a town-class light cruiser built for the Royal Navy just before World War II. The ship also served during the Korean War. It is now permanently moored in the Thames as a museum which is operated by the Imperial War Museum. Take a virtual tour here.
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian (0 degree longitude). You can learn about the Royal Astronomers that lived and worked at the Observatory and how they solved the “Longitude Problem.” There is also a planetarium as part of the complex. You can search the collections online and get insights from museum curators here.
Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall in the Kensington neighborhood of London. It is the venue for some of the most notable events in British culture including the Proms concerts, Classic Brit Awards, Festival of Remembrance, and more. You can take a virtual tour inside Royal Albert Hall using Google Street View here.
Experience London from Home
In addition to the virtual tours, there are other ways to bring the spirit of London into your home no matter where you are in the world. Anglophiles would love to get a monthly themed box of gifts direct from London UK brands! Each box features accessories, homeware, self-care, apparel, stationery, and an edible treat. Get more info about the LondonPopbox here or read about more subscription boxes for travelers here.
Benefits of Virtual Visits
I know exploring an attraction online is not quite the same as getting to see it in person, but there are some benefits:
- All these online tours are free (with the exception of the live Changing of the Guard online experience), so take as many as you like.
- Many of these attractions are very popular, but when you visit online there are no crowds.
- Virtual tours are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You don’t have to worry about any of the attractions being closed when you want to visit.
- Your feet won’t get tired from all the walking or standing.
- Since these tours are online, you can pause as needed and continue whenever at your convenience. It’s much more flexible than taking a live guided tour.
Another option, if you can’t make it to London, is to try a London travel themed game at home.
Have you done any online tours in London?
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