A Virtual Day Trip of London's Iconic Places

Have you been wanting to visit London for the first time? Or maybe you want to come again for what you didn't get a chance to see before. If you want a taste of some of the iconic places in London, there are many virtual explorations you can check out right from the comfort of your own home.


Besides the historic buildings, quaint streets, and endearing British accents, a visit to London isn't complete without checking out the iconic places including museums, galleries, gardens, and palaces. Brew yourself a fresh pot of tea and lay out of tea sandwiches and pastries while you dive into these beautiful places virtually.


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1. VisitLondon's Virtual Tour

We can start off with visiting Big Ben, the Kia Oval, the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Zoo, the Horse Guards Parade, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, Picadilly Circus, and The Savoy - just to name a few - using the VisitLondon Virtual Tour. At first glance, this website lists pretty much every iconic place in London that you would pay money to go see. But how could it be just as good as going to these places in person? Well, I've been to nearly all of these iconic places in person - some of them multiple times. With the crowds and wet weather, you don't get this kind of a peaceful and open view in person. You're often squeezing by people, trying to get that one clear picture of the Buckingham Palace, British Museum, and so forth and often failing. This website provides an impressive view of all of these beautiful places for free. Another great positive of this site is that many of the outdoor views were taking during the Golden Hour when the sun is just beginning to set and everything looks extra romantic in London.




2. The British Museum

The museum has teamed up with Google to provide the public with an interactive timeline of artefacts that are organised by themes - Art & design, Living & dying, Power & Identity, Religion & belief, and Trade & conflict - and further divided by continent of origin. It's extremely well curated. You can click on the artefact listed for more information and the site will open up to a full descriptive page with an audio option.


Some of my favourite pieces are Musical Chamber Clock (European), Nebamun Hunting in the Marshes (Egyptian), the statues of Ancient Greece, and the priceless ceramics of Africa. When you click for more details on an artefact, it also provides other suggestions of similar artefacts you may like to see.




3. The National Gallery

On the National Gallery website, you can select a variety of rooms to tour - a Google tour of some Renaissance masterpieces, the Sainbury tour of early Renaissance pieces, or a virtual tour of 300 paintings (in 18 rooms) originally created in 2011.


The Sainbury tour is breathtakingly beautiful. The early Renaissance pieces are full of so much colour including golds, blues, and reds that really make the painting burst with life. Double click into the room you want to walk into. Hover over the right bullseye next to each painting for its description. If you get lost, click on the bottom left on the "dollhouse" or "floor plan" icons to zoom back out.


An important tip to make sure you get a fully immersed experience is to be in "full screen" mode so that it feels like you're directly in front of each painting. Take full advantage of this way of viewing the artwork because in reality, these museum wings would be busy with many spectators and you have to wait your turn to actually be able to stand in front of each painting.




4. Tate Modern

As mentioned in a previous post, this is my all time favourite gallery in London filled with modern artwork. I have so much fun when I visit because the artists really make creative and profound statements that really make you think deeply. The artists, the artwork, and the gallery layout are all curated so well. They really know what they're doing at the Tate Modern. You're never disappointed with the newest exhibitions.


The Tate Modern website has online displays for free. Currently, they're showing the work of Ed Ruscha, a display called Artists and Society which include 13 rooms of art, a display called Performer and Participant which include 9 rooms of art, and 13 rooms of Media and Networks. You can also search through the Tate Modern collections for specific pieces or artists you are looking for. This isn't so much a virtual tour as it is more of collection of artwork, but nonetheless, it's mentally and emotionally stimulating.




5. National Portrait Gallery

This gallery houses collections of portraits of famous and important British people including royalty. The website has seven virtual gallery rooms including the Tudor galleries, 17th & 18th Century galleries, Victorian galleries, Weldon galleries, Lerner galleries, and the Main Hall. The virtual clips provide you with a 360° view of each collection. If you want a more clickable and descriptive virtual tour, you want to try the Mirror Mirror exhibition which is a collection of self-portraits created by women artists.




6. Hayward Gallery

The last exhibition I visited was Among The Trees at the Hayward Gallery. It's a small gallery that has only one exhibition at a time, but it's curated very well spanning two floors and several different rooms. I find myself going time and time again when a new exhibition is out. The latest exhibition has now been turned into a virtual tour with the director of the Hayward Gallery, Ralph Rugoff, narrating the four-minute tour. The video moves a bit quickly especially on the artwork in the beginning, which were some of my favourites when I visited. You may want to pause at times to admire and take it in.



Just because you're at home doesn't mean you can't have fun outside. Just because you've never been to London doesn't mean you can't experience all of the magnificent places it holds. Especially now when there's such advanced technology at our fingertips. The quality of these virtual tours were surprisingly great. I hope you and your family get to enjoy the benefits of London's beautiful and iconic places without hurting your wallet or having to stand in a queue. Let me know how it went by leaving a comment below.



-Esther

The Palette Cleanser




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