The Best Virtual Tours of London Landmarks and Museums
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Here's my wanderlusty guide to the best virtual tours of London landmarks and museums.
Do you wish you were in London? Or need some destination or cultural inspiration (who doesn't)? Well, there's a fix. Now, you can virtually tour many of London's must see sites right from your couch or computer. You'll be vicariously transported to London with the wonders of armchair travel.
I went to school in London and have been to these sites many times. Let's tour London virtually. You can explore London's museums, churches, government buildings, and UNESCO sites. If you want to plan a future trip to London, here's my 5 day travel itinerary. And here's all the tourist traps to avoid in London.
The Best Virtual Tours of London
Here are the best virtual tours of London that you can check out on the internet right now.
1. 360 London Virtual Tour
There are scads of virtual tours you can take of London. The best place to start is the 360 virtual tourof the city. With an interactive map, this site takes you to London's iconic landmarks -- Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and so much more.
You can also check out the London Skyline on a virtual tour with the Eye Revolution Project. You can zoom in and out on the landmarks you're interested in.
the iconic Houses of Parliament
2. Houses of Parliament Virtual Tour
The Houses of Parliament is known as the Palace of Westminster. It's the meeting place for the parliament of England. It was listed as a UNESCO site in 1987.
The Gothic palace took almost 30 years to build. It's been used as a courtroom, for coronation banquets, and as a venue for heated debates. The most beautiful part of the house is Westminster Hall. It's hammer beamed roof survived the great fire of London. If you're visiting in person, the guided tour follows the route the queen takes annually when she officially opens Parliament.
If you can't be in London and take the pricey tour, you can take a virtual 360 tourof the Houses of Parliament instead. The virtual tour let's you explore the House of Commons and House of Lords chamber, the member lobby, the Royal Gallery, and the Prince’s Chamber. If you want to know exactly how parliament operates, take this 60 second tour.
the moat surrounding the Tower of London
3. The Tower of London Virtual Tour
The Tower of London is one of my favorite sites in London. The UNESCO-listed Tower of London is history, the perfect site for history nerds and culture vultures.
The Tower of London has served as a royal palace, a fortress, a prison, a mint, a military storehouse, a treasury, home to the Crown Jewels, an armory, a public records office, a royal observatory, and a royal zoo.
On a visit, you'll be blissfully immersed in the various successions of the Edwards, the Richards, and the Henrys. You can relive the life of Henry VIII. And tour the Bloody Tower, the White Tower, Tower Green, and the Crown Jewels.
If you want to know more about the murder mystery surrounding the deaths of the two princes in the Tower of London read my analysis of whodunit here. If you want to explore the Tower of London online, you can take a virtual 360 tour. Here's my complete nerdy guideto the Tower of London.
the atrium of the Tate Britain, probably London's prettiest museum
4. Virtual Museum Tours in London
London is blessed with a plethora amazing free museums that should be on your London itinerary. The art work is diverse and ranges from the prehistoric to modern. You could spend a lifetime visiting all of London's museums. They're incredibly rich, diverse, and endlessly fascinating.
In particular, the British Museum is one of the world's foremost museums. It's a universal museum, holding many of the world's most important artifacts. The British Museum is famously home to the Elgin Marbles, artifacts acquired by conquest from the Parthenon. Here's my guide to the disputed marbles.
Seagram Murals, 1950s, Mark Rothko
My other favorite London museum is the Tate Modern. Opened in 2000, the Tate Modern is home to room after room of world famous international modern and contemporary art. It's not just limited to paintings either. They are installations, sculptures, films, and photography.
Right now, there's an exhibition on Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern, from March 12 to September 6. You can see it virtually on the Tate Modern's Youtube Channel.
If you want to relive WWII and the rousing speeches of the politician Winston Churchill, you can also virtually tour the Churchill War Rooms.
The Churchill War Rooms is a labyrinthian underground bunker, made famous by the dramatic movie The Darkest Hour. The museum is managed by the Imperial War Museum. It gives visitors a rare glimpse into British command headquarters during WWII.
The Churchill War Rooms sit on the Clive steps of King Charles Street underneath the streets of Westminster. There’s two sections to the museum: one part dedicated entirely to Churchill’s life and career, and another dedicated to the Cabinet War Rooms – the underground bunker which housed the British command center in WWII.
the War Cabinet Room in the Churchill War Rooms Museum
If you're there in person, you can listen to excerpts of rousing Churchill speeches and first hand accounts of life during WWII. A highlight is a huge 15 meter touchscreen table that chronicles Churchill's life and the timeline of the war. You can see Churchill in his pajamas and samples of his cigars and champagne.
10 Downing Street in London. image source: Wikipedia
6. 10 Downing Street Virtual Tour
Over 300 years old, 10 Downing Street is headquarters to the UK's prime ministers. Most refer to it colloquially as Number 10. It houses the UK Cabinet Room and the Prime Minister's Executive Office.
Number 10 may have the world's most famous door. It's a narrow black door with a lion door knocker, and it's always locked. The number 10 is painted in white and the zero is a bit wonky. It's tilted 37 degrees the the left, as a nod to the original door which had a poorly fitted zero. The original door is on display in the Churchill War Rooms.
Today, you can take a virtual tour of the famed residence. As part of the EyeRevolution Project virtual tours of London, you can explore the great staircase, the cabinet room, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Pillared Room.
the Queen Victoria Statue in front of Buckingham Palace
7. Buckingham Palace Virtual Tour
Buckingham Palace is the Queen's royal residence and administrative headquarters in London. It's the site of royal weddings, jubilees, and the changing of the guards. It's known as the "Queen's House."
Normally, I'd skip it when touring London because there's always a crush of tourists that make it unpleasant to visit. But now you can tour it virtually on Google Arts & Culture. The virtual tour takes you to Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room, and the Blue Drawing Room. A similar virtual tour is available on the RoyalUKwebsite.
the Royal Albert Hall
8. Royal Albert Hall Virtual Tour
As a college student in London, I went to many performances on the cheap at the Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871, the oval-shaped terra cotta brick hall was conceived by Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert.
It's an extraordinary example of Italianate architecture in London. Both the interior and exterior are red and gold. The interior glazed iron dome is impressive, measuring 20,000 square feet. The Royal Albert Hall can seat over 5,000 spectators.
Unfortunately, Prince Albert didn't live to see it in person. Now, the Royal Albert Hall is an incredible music venue, focusing on orchestral classical music. But it's also a Eurovision venue. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles even performed there together in 1963.
When open, the Royal Albert Hall hosts up to 800 events per year. You can take a virtual 360 tour of the Royal Albert Hall online.
the exterior facade of the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey
9. Westminster Abbey Virtual Tour
Originally a Benedictine monastery, Westminster Abbey dates back to 1245. It's the site used for all royal coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066.
The most beautiful part of Westminster Abbey is the Henry VII Chapel, also called the Lady Chapel. It's the last great masterpiece of English medieval architecture and the mausoleum for much of England's royalty.
With all those accolades, the chapel was grandiosely nicknamed a "wonder of the world." The chapel is the work of England's first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, who vanquished Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth and seized control of England. Here's my guide to the Henry VII Chapel.
Kew Gardens, a UNESCO-listed botanic garden in London
10. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Kew Gardens is another UNESCO-listed site in London, inscribed in 2003. The gardens are the work of lauded landscape architects like Capability Brown. It has incredibly diverse botanic collections, used for scientific research and study.
Kew Gardens was designated an official royal garden in 1759. Within the gardens, you can visit two historic residences -- the 17th century Kew Palace and the 18th century Queen Charlotte's Cottage.
If you can't be there in person to Instagram the flora, now you visit Kew Gardens virtually on Google Arts & Culture.
the Royal Observatory in Greenwich
11. Maritime Greenwich
Located in southeast London, Maritime Greenwich is an ensemble of buildings in Greenwich and its park. It became a UNESCO site in 1997 for its royal origins and ties to British maritime history. Greenwich was the birthplace of many Tudors, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
The significant buildings to explore include the Old Royal Naval College (designed by the famed Christopher Wren), the National Maritime Museum, and the Royal Observatory. They're renowned for their elegant symmetry.
You can explore Maritime Greenwich online with Google Arts & Culture. There are 273 images, many with helpful descriptions.
coffered dome of the Old Sessions House, modeled after the Pantheon
12. Old Sessions House
The Old Sessions House functioned as a courthouse until 1920, earning a reputation for doling out harsh sentences. Built in 1779, it's a classic old Georgian style building. In the entrance hall, there's a beautiful coffered dome that was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, complete with an oculus (eye).
The Old Sessions House is now privately owned and reimagined as an "all day destination"-- with restaurants, bars, and temporary exhibitions. You can see the magnificent dome and tour the place virtually on The Eye Revolution Project site.
13. St. George's Cathedral Southwark
Southwark Cathedral is a little Gothic gem that dates back to 606 A.D. The cathedral is London's oldest Gothic structure, located on the South Bank.
The original building was destroyed by fire in 1212. The older Norman influences can be seen in the rear facade. The Gothic influences are on the front. Inside, there's an airy vaulted ceiling made of a sandstone colored brick.
St. Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most iconic buildings. The church has a colorful history. It's been looted, burned, and destroyed. It was rebuilt for good in 1710 by Sir Christopher Wren, and survived Nazi bombing. St. Paul's has been the site of royal funerals and weddings, including that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
St. Paul's Cathedral has the scale and classicism of St. Peters in Rome. The exterior features Wren's magnificent Renaissance dome, 225 feet high. The interior is beautiful as well, especially the high altar in marble and gilded wood. In the mezzanine balcony, there's a "whispering gallery" where sound travels.
Stonehenge is a popular day trip from London. This UNESCO-listed megalithic structure is over 3,000 years old. Scholars only have vague speculations as to the structure's real purpose.
Stonehenge might have been used for religious ceremonies or to study the movement of the sun or moon. The blue stones were transported from Wales in the Neolithic Period. Scholars have tried to replicate this feat with little success.
the Fountain facade of Hampton Court Palace outside London
16. Hampton Court Palace Virtual Tour
London's Hampton Court Palace is the world's greatest surviving medieval palace. And it has a deliciously rich and scandalous history.
Hampton Court Palace was the favored playground and leisure complex of England's infamous King Henry VIII and other notorious characters in English history. "Golden Boy" Henry suffered an injury there that would change the course of his life -- transforming him from a dashing energetic king into a tyrannical monster.
gorgeous wisteria at Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is really a tale of two palaces smooshed together. It's a combination of the Gothic Palace of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII and the Baroque Palace built by the Stuart monarchs William and Mary. The palace was a royal residence from the early 1500s until the 1730s.
Calling all music lovers. Andrew Lloyd Webber will be streaming his musicals for free online in a new series for West Endfans. Entitled "The Shows Must Go On," the series will start with the 2000 rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
If you'd like to attend a theater performance virtually, the National Theater in London has you covered.
As part of the "National Theater at Home" program, full length productions of plays are uploaded to the National Theater YouTube channelevery Thursday at 2:00 pm EST.The play One Man Two Guvners premiered on April 2. It will be available for free to stream for a week. Next up is Jane Eyre on April 9.
Shakespeare's Globe Theater has entered the streaming age as well. Tune in to the theater's YouTube channel to see a Shakespeare performance. Right now, Romeo and Juliet is streaming until the end of May. After that, other classics will follow.
The Globe dropped the paywall to stream some of its productions through the theater’s on-demand streaming service starting April 6. You can explore the Globe Theater on Google Arts & Culturetoo.
Neal's Alley in Covent Garden
19. Virtual Walking Tours of London
Look up London is sharing virtual walking tours of London. You can explore Covent Garden, Tower Hill, Trafalgar Square, Mayfair, and so much more.
the Tower of London, filled with poppies celebrating WWI veterans
20. Films and TV Shows Set in London
If you'd like to travel vicariously, fire up your TV. There are scads of films set in London to view online or on TV. My favorites are Notting Hill,Love Actually, Battle of Britain, Bridget Jones' Diary, The Bourne Ultimatum, Bend It Like Beckham, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Fish Called Wanda.
Almost every James Bond film has scenes that were shot in London, including Spectre, Skyfall, The World is Not Enough, and For Your Eyes Only. And the Harry Potter film series prominently features Platform 9 3/4, which is now a pilgrimage site for Harry Potter fans in London.
If your'e streaming TV shows, there's some good ones set in or featuring London, including Killing Eve, Sherlock Holmes, The Crown, and The Tudors.
Here's my guide to the best wanderlusty shows on TV to let you travel the world for free and tour unique destinations.
The Princes in the Tower -- a fantastic medieval murder mystery
21. Books Set in London
Maybe you prefer to put your nose in a book rather than watch TV? I'm a bookworm myself. If so, here's a list of my 10 favorite books that are set in London, feature London as a character, or explore London's tumultuous history. They include biographies, non-fiction works, fiction, and historical fiction -- something for everyone.
London, Edward Rutherford
London, a Travel Throughs Time, Matthew Greene
Everything You Know About London is Wrong, Matt Brown
The Sunne in Splendor, Sharon Kay Penman
Letters from London, Julian Barnes
The Plantagenets, Ben Hubbard
The Princes in the Tower, Alison Weir
Five, the Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold
The Last Lion, William Manchester & Paul Reid
London, the Biography, Peter Ackroyd
Are you interested in the Princes in the Tower, who were supposedly murdered by their evil uncle King Richard III? It's one of history's greatest unsolved murder mysteries. I think Richard III is innocent. Here's my post on the cold case whodunit.
If you'd like to travel virtually to other places in Europe, I've got guides for that too: