European museums host some of the world’s best artistic masterpieces and oldest ancient artefacts.
But glimpsing these treasures isn’t always easy. Too often, visitors must spend hours waiting in line, nursing aching feet and resisting the desire to abandon the queue in favour of a gelato.
Luckily, some of the continent’s best museums are accessible from the comfort of your own home.
In the digital age, you can take a stroll around the British Museum, pop into Amsterdam’s Rjiksmuseum, and peruse sculptures in Florence – all before lunch.
Without further ado, here are seven of the best virtual museums and exhibitions to check out this summer. You won’t even have to change out of your pyjamas.
The seven best online museums to visit in Summer 2022
1. The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The national museum of the Netherlands welcomes more than 2.5 million visitors per year – and with good reason. Many are drawn in by the paintings of the Dutch masters, including the Milkmaid by Vermeer and Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to settle for a distant glimpse. Instead, get up close and personal with carefully prepared deep-dives into the museum’s most famous paintings.
2. The British Museum, London
Boasting more than 8 million objects, this gargantuan museum hosts one of the largest collections in the world.
Thanks to the museum’s partnership with Google Arts and Culture, most of these are free to peruse online. From the ancient Islamic world to Egyptian mummies, there’s something for everyone.
If you find the sheer number of exhibits a tad overwhelming, check out one of the ‘stories’ curated by museum staff. Highlights include a whistle-stop tour of Iron Age Celtic art and an in-depth look at the Rosetta Stone.
3. The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb
Sometimes, relationships don’t last – but stuff does.
Housing hundreds of donated possessions, this unique museum documents heartbreaks and break-ups through the items that outlast love affairs.
From a dominatrix’s stilettos and an old sailor’s cap to a piece of belly button lint, the objects in this museum offer a poignant reflection on love and loss. Much of the collection is available to browse online.
4. The Vatican Museums, Vatican City
The Vatican Museums house the immense collection of art amassed by popes from the seventeenth century onwards. Regular entry price is €17 – but online, you can access 360-degree virtual tours of the Vatican’s seven most popular sites for free.
Marvel at the stunning ceiling of the world-famous Sistine Chapel, hand-painted by Michelangelo and his assistants. Make sure you zoom in on the beautiful details.
5. The Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figaro, Spain
Dedicated to the life and work of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, the Dalí Theatre-Museum is an artwork in itself.
Adorned with bread rolls and topped by giant eggs and massive versions of the Oscar statuette, this is no typical museum. Indeed, it is also a tomb – as per his last wishes, the artist is buried in the museum’s central hall.
Every part of the museum is accessible in this virtual tour.
6. Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum
The Pergamonmuseum can be found on Museum Island in the historic centre of Berlin but many of its exhibits are available to view from home.
As the museum’s name suggests, the most famous of these is the Pergamon Altar, a magnificent construction commissioned by the Ancient Greek King Eumenes II in the 2nd century BC.
This excellent online exhibition tells the story of the altar in all its glory.
7. The Louvre, Paris
If you’ve ever visited the Mona Lisa, it’s unlikely you got any closer than three metres. The painting is so popular that visitors must crane over a sea of waving phones to get a decent look.
But the museum’s “Mona Lisa – beyond the glass” app promises to “bring the artwork to life” through visualisation in a 360-degree panorama.
The Louvre also hosts several excellent online exhibitions, with subjects that range from the connection between art and political power to Darth Vader.