It can be challenging for travel lovers when we can’t travel. Trust me, I know! The great news is there are so many creative ways to scratch that itch for travel from the comfort of your own living room! It really just calls for more creativity and curiosity (and some online searching). Here are some of the best virtual tours that I found for an armchair tourist to celebrate your love of traveling while in your pajamas in your living room!
And don’t forget to support the businesses, museums, and organizations you love to make sure they will be around tomorrow and for future generations.
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What is an Armchair Tourist?
Believe it or not, the term “armchair travel” was actually around well before 2020. Previously, it was focused on sensory travel experiences for people who were either physically incapacitated or elderly and incapable of traveling. An armchair tourist is essentially someone who participates in armchair travel.
Of course, now this term has much broader meaning. Whether someone is physically incapable of traveling or can’t for any reason, the label of “armchair tourist” can still fit! It doesn’t matter if it’s due to financial challenges or other restrictions, we can still get our travel fix right from the comfort of our own home. Even when we can’t travel.
What’s It Take to be an Armchair Tourist and Is It Worth It?
Nowadays, anyone can be an “armchair tourist.” We can see so many places in the world without even leaving living our homes. There are so many different virtual experiences, and with a recent surge of energy and creativity, the opportunities have expanded dramatically. Take a cooking class, tour a museum, wander a city’s streets, or check out a watering hole in Africa. You can find almost any type of experience you’re seeking.
It may not be quite the same experience as being in person but just think — no flight, so you can instantly be transported to a new destination with a little imagination and openness, lower cost, and still an amazing experience. Something to think about! There is an up-side.
I may be a tad late to the game on this personally and here’s why—I thought it would make it harder for me while I can’t travel. That it might feel like a tease seeing the world and not being able to go. I was a bit resistant, but let me tell you, I’m so impressed! I have been thoroughly enjoying the research I’m doing for this piece and plan to participate in many of the options I share. A number of them, I already have!
Types of Virtual Travel
Virtual travel has been around for quite a while now. Necessity is the mother of invention and of course the volume of virtual travel and tours has increased exponentially. For the purpose of this article, I’m breaking virtual travel into three groupings: live virtual tours, online tours, and live cams.
Live virtual tours are when you do something live online, whether it’s a walking tour, a cooking class, or the like. It may be private or a group of people. Online tours for this article are either pre-recorded videos or short video snippets that are not recorded live. Live cams are cameras that are displaying real-time on location. They may be fixed or moveable to provide different views.
There really isn’t a better or worse with these as it really depends on the experience you’re seeking and your budget. Some of these are free and some, like the live virtual tours, do have a cost. Of course, cost is relative as it’s much less than if you went in-person!
Live Virtual Tours
A number of well-known and reputable companies are jumping on the bandwagon with live virtual tours. They started small, and with an enthusiastic response from armchair travelers, they are increasing their offerings. If you don’t see something you’re interested in, flag the page and go back. They’re adding more tours regularly.
Get Your Guide Virtual Tours
This is one of my favorite tour companies when I travel, so I’m excited to check out their virtual tour offerings. Here are some that I’m looking at:
- Live tour of Pompeii, a city frozen in time — Pompeii, Italy. Tour with a leading archaeologist!
- Tour of the Acropolis — Athens, Greece
Places I have been that I highly recommend:
- Vatican and the Sistine Chapel — Rome, Italy
- Colosseum and Gladiators — Rome, Italy
- The Louve Museum with an Art Historian — Paris, France
- Venice live interactive tour — Venice, Italy
I went to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with a guide who was an art historian and it was an incredible experience. If you’re (a tad nerdy and) an art and history lover, I highly recommend!
They also have some fun cooking classes if you’re eager to try your hand at something new. I’m a huge fan of fresh pasta so if you do that one and live in Phoenix, please invite me for the taste test. 🙂
- Virtual pasta-making class — Rome
- Live virtual cooking class with a professional chef — Paris, Rome, Philadelphia
eatwith Online Experiences
Oh my, I may have just found my favorite new place for virtual culinary experiences. I cannot wait to take some of these classes! I just learned about this organization and I must say I’m smitten. I can’t wait to be able to travel to try out some of their live experiences as well!
- Ice cream is one of my favorite foods, and gelato is the creme de la creme. What could be better than eating gelato, except perhaps learning how to make gelato so you can eat it all the time?! Wow. Dangerous!
- Or learn how to make everyone’s favorite food: pizza! Three different ways. Learn from a master in Florence how to make the perfect ‘za.
- Want to learn about Portuguese wines? You can do it from the comfort of your home. Try different wines without worry about the drive in this wine tasting.
- If you love baklava, you’re in for a real treat with this masterclass. Learn how to make the perfect baklava in this hands-on class.
- Ever wonder how to make Indian food? Learn how to make paneer and chapatis from scratch in this online cooking adventure. You’ll get step-by-step instructions and helpful tips.
They offer online cooking classes and workshops to tide you over until you can travel, or in-person events when you’re away and looking for a fun time cooking with new friends. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry! 🙂
Airbnb Online Experiences
There are so many online experiences with Airbnb that it’s impossible to choose! A friend of mine took an Airbnb virtual tour and couldn’t rave enough. Here are some of the ones I’m most interested in as well as a link to the main page. Check them out.
- Visit Kyoto, Japan’s sacred mountain and the Fushimi Inari Shrine for the thousand torii gates. Learn about Shinto rituals and how forest bathing is done at one of Kyoto’s oldest shrines.
- Take a Brazilian samba class with a dancer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where samba got its start! (Of course, you can do this from the comfort of your own home. So, who cares what you look like as long as you have fun!)
- Learn to make a caipirinha while delving into life in Rio, Brazil. If you’ve never had one, be ready to have your socks blown off! They are great!
- Delve into the secrets of Chaing Mai, Thailand. Journey into the past while immersing in the city’s unique and vibrant history, learning stories along the way.
- Learn about nature in New Zealand on a farm. Enjoy the gorgeous landscape along with some adorable farm animals. Or, if you’d like to focus just on goats, check out this experience at a goat rescue.
- Enjoy cooking experiences from all around the world! Make empanadas and chimichurri in Argentina,,sushi in Tokyo, Moroccan tagine, Vietnamese food, or an authentic Turkish breakfast. Remember the pastel de nata that I was OBSESSED with when I visited Portugal? You can learn to make them, too! (And again, I’m happy to taste test for you!)
Of course, it was only a matter of time before Amazon got into the virtual tours market. And of course, they started with a big splash! Here are some of the tours on my list, though there’s a large number of Amazon Explore tour options on their main page.
- A journey through Melbourne’s laneways: history, street art, and hidden bars. Explore how the small alleys defined the city’s character and culture while enjoying street art murals and the history of how this area became the chic hangout it is today.
- Historical Heart of Berlin’s Royal Boulevard, Palaces, Churches & Bridges: take a stroll down Berlin’s royal boulevard and visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Museum Island.
- Scandals and Legends: Stories from the French Quarter in New Orleans: Take in the unique culture of New Orleans while touring the infamous French Quarter. Learn about the rich history of this area including the myths, magic, and mysteries of New Orleans.
- Mysteries, monsters and magic: explore Edinburgh’s unusual tales: Take a virtual walk through Edinburgh’s most famous streets and gaveyard to explore the bizarre side of the city.
- Rickshaw Tour Through Tokyo’s Asakusa: Virtually upgraded: Explore Tokyo’s Asakusa district in the most Japanese way—by rickshaw. See how it seamlessly blends old traditions with state of the art technology in one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city.
And, if you’re a lover of Argentinian red wines like malbec, check out this wine tasting. They share the list of wines so you can be prepared for a full and immersive experience. Yum!
These online tours aren’t live, but many give you the feel of being live and on location. Some are videos on YouTube. Others are loaded on their site. And some are pictures of the incredible artwork shown in their museums. There’s a little something for most here.
Explore Museums and View Works of Art
One of the most famous and iconic museums in Paris is the Louve. It’s simply massive, and you can’t possibly see everything in a day. This museum houses many famous works of art, and probably the most famous is the Mona Lisa.
When I went to Paris on my first solo trip, I wanted to explore the Louve but honestly, felt a bit overwhelmed. So, I got a Cart de Musee (museum pass) where individual visits were free, and stopped by most days on my way back to my hotel. I’d spend an hour or so exploring a different part each day. I still didn’t see it all, but boy did I fall in love with that museum!
The Louve even has video “shorts” where you can see some exhibits and get a short lesson as well. Want to see the Mona Lisa up-close without the massive throngs of people? Check out other Louve works of art? Or even learn about the history of the Louve itself? You can do all of that online now.
If you’d rather see art museums through images and not videos, you can do that too! Check out museums from all over the world including some favorites of mine:
- Van Gogh Museum — Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Vatican Museum — Vatican City, Italy
- National Gallery of Art — Washington D.C., United States
- Uffizi Gallery — Florence, Italy
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) — New York City, United States
- Botero Museum — Bogota, Colombia
- Norman Rockwell Museum — Stockbridge, Massachusetts, United States
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — Boston, United States
- Reina Sofia Museum — Madrid, Spain
There are art museums from all over the world including Japan, Hong Kong, Argentina, Mexico, and many others, so check this out!
Other Museums and Places of Interest
It’s not just art museums getting in on the armchair tourist virtual action. Some of these are favorites of mine including the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Tenement Museum, and Winchester Mystery House. Some of these are virtual tours and video clips while others are exhibits. If you’re a history lover, I cannot gush enough about the Tenement Museum. I have been there in-person many times and done their virtual tours and they are all amazing.
- National Women’s History Museum — Alexandria, Virginia, United States
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History — Washington D.C., United States
- Winchester Mystery House — San Jose, California, United States
- Legoland — Carlsbad, California, United States
- Walt Disney World and Disney Land — Virtual tours of the theme parks in California and Florida, United States
- Universal Studios — Orlando, Florida, United States
- Tenement Museum — New York City, NY, United States
- National Anthropological Museum — Mexico City, Mexico
Another really interesting thing I found was the Google Arts Project: Street Art. It shares the world’s greatest street art works and shares the stories behind them about the artists and their pieces. If you’re obsessed about street art like I am, check it out!
Zoos and Aquariums
I personally don’t often visit zoos and museums as I don’t love seeing animals in captivity. However, I understand the educational aspect of them so I do occasionally visit them. And when you can’t travel, sometimes you just want to see some adorable tigers, bears, seals, and hippos! Here are some of the zoos and aquariums that have virtual visits for armchair tourists.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium — Monterey, California, United States
- National Aquarium — Baltimore, Maryland, United States
- San Diego Zoo — San Diego, California, United States
- Atlanta Zoo Panda Cam — Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Explore Famous Locations
It’s not just museums getting in on virtual sharing! Here are some other well-known places that you can also tour from the comfort of your sofa.
- The White House — Washington D.C., United States
- Eiffel Tower — Paris, France
- Versailles — Paris, France
- Anne Frank House — Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Sanssouci Palace Picture Gallery — Potsdam, Germany
Many of them even include write-ups about the pieces so you can learn more about them as you view them.
Visit Castles and Palaces
If you’re obsessed with castles and historic architecture, here are some places to add to your virtual travel list:
- Windsor Castle — London, England
- Wavel Castle — Krakow, Poland
- Prague Castle — Prague, Czech Republic
- Neuschwanstein Castle — Hohenschwangau, Germany – a personal favorite
- Snežnik Castle — Kozarišče, Slovenia
- Montserrat Abbey — Montserrat, Spain
- Pena Palace — Sintra, Portugal
- Drachenburg Castle — Königswinter, Germany
- Edinburgh Castle — Edinburgh, Scotland
- Real Alcazar— Seville, Spain
View Cities and Places from Above
I may be a little bit obsessed with my new favorite site, AirPano. It has many cities and beuatiful narual areas that you can see from above and it’s spectacular.
- Madrid, Spain
- Seville, Spain
- Valencia, Spain
- Belfast, U.K.
- Mykonos Island, Greece
- Zermatt, Matterhorn, Switzerland
- Moskow Kremlin, Russia
- Porto, Portugal
- Bern, Switzerland
- Budapest, Hungary
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Hong Kong City, Hong Kong
There are SO many more places on this website and I think I’m kind of in love with it. I *might* have gone back to it at least half a dozen times while researching and writing this article. Maybe.
This list is a selection of many different experiences from swimming with sharks, touring Japanese shrines, exploring cities, and seeing the incredible seven Wonders of the World. Now’s your time to check some of these incredible experiences off on your bucket list, virtually!
- Diving with great white sharks — Have you ever wanted to swim with sharks? Now’s your chance.
- Visit the Great Barrier Reef — No need to be scuba certified on this tour.
- Explore Antarctica ice caves — Get a taste for Antactica without freezing your @$$ off!
- Kyoto, Japan shrines — Tour some of the most beautiful temples and shrines in Kyoto, Japan.
- Explore Switzerland by train — Take in this exhilirating journey through some beautiful scenery.
- African safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa — Your very own personal safari from home.
- Niagara Falls boat cruise — You can almost feel the power of these falls as you cruise around them.
- Visit Carlsbad Caverns in Arizona — Learn about the incredible beauty of this living cave.
- Tour many U.S. national parks including the Badlands, Acadian, Arches, Bryce, Joshua Tree, Olympic National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and many more!
- See the Seven Wonders of the World — Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer, Petra, Chichen Itza, the Colloseum, and the Taj Mahal. If you haven’t seen them, now’s your chance!
- Hike the Inca Trail in Peru —Hiking the Inca Trail is an incredible excursion.
- Visit Austria — Both city and nature lovers will be thrilled with this selection.
- Eiffel Tower — Head to the top with no lines and no pickpockets!
Other Virtual Viewing
Or, maybe you’d like to view something outside of the earth, or above it. If that’s your thing, check out the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) pages. There are some really interesting images and online exhibits that I’ll be checking out!
And, here’s another interesting one, called CyArk. This non-profit organization works to digitally record and share our world’s cultural heritage. They have captured more than 200 monuments on all 7 continents. You can see the Moai of Easter Island, the historic city of Ayutthaya in Thailand, and the ancient temples in Bagan, Myanmar. I have a feeling I’ll be adding some new places to my list once I dig in!
Take in the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris.
These live cams show some amazing things that you might not get to see, even if you’re on location. I know I got caught up in watching some of the wildlife viewing cams when researching for this post. If your sound is on on your computer, you’ll be alerted when there’s action and can quickly switch over to watch in real-time. It’s pretty amazing!
If wildlife is your thing, you can get a bird’s-eye view (pun intended!) Here’s a number of different animals you can watch on live cams from all around the world. I don’t know about you, but watching the baby pandas seriously makes me want to snuggle one!
- Watering holes in Laikipia County, Kenya
- Bald eagles in Iowa, United States
- Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa
- Northern Lights in Churchill, Canada
- Happiness Village Baby Panda Garden — Gengdu, Sichuan, China
There’s a lot more available so check them out to find what you’re most interested in. Many zoos are also getting in on the live action, including the San Diego Zoo. Kids (and big kids, alike!) will enjoy watching the animals including elephants, lions, penguins, apes, and more.
Try Out Virtual Travel from Home
There are virtual tours around the world that can help take the pain out of those times when you can’t travel. Some are live with a virtual tour guide, others are pre-recorded journeys, and there are even live cams where you can catch the action as it’s happening.
Online travels may not be quite as exciting as going in person, but there are upsides as an armchair tourist. How else could you see the wonders of the Great Wall in China in the morning and tour the Colosseum in Rome in the afternoon.
I’d love to know what your favorites are in the comments below. Happy online travels!
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