As the world adjusts to a more homebound lifestyle—at least for the time being—cultural institutions are opening their doors to the internet, allowing people to enjoy their art, music, and more from across the globe. Whether you’re taking a virtual tour of the Musée du Louvre, perusing the works on view at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, or watching the Metropolitan Opera perform Carmen, there’s plenty to explore online. (Or you can just join an online yoga class or Instagram Live dance party—it doesn’t have to all be high-brow.) Here, a few of our favorites for your evenings in.
Head to the museum
A number of museums have virtual tours available online—including the Louvre, which offers a tour through its Egyptian antiquities department and the recently restored Galerie d’Apollon, and Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, which has its Rembrandt and Portraiture in Amsterdam, 1590-1670 exhibit on virtual view. The Vatican Museums offer 360-degree tours of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and more, and the Smithsonian also has a self-guided tour (albeit a little clunky) of the National Museum of Natural History in New York.
If you don’t need to see the art in context of a wall, head to Google’s Arts and Culture collections, where works from museums like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and the Tate Modern in London are all on view. It might not be quite the same as seeing the works in person—but the zoom will get you closer to the art than any museum docent ever will. There are also virtual tours of sorts (less freewheeling around the galleries, more history lesson) of places like the Uffizi Galleries available.
Take the kids to the virtual aquarium
The team at Boston’s New England Aquarium is bringing the day-to-day life of its residents to the public, offering scheduled Facebook Live–access to feedings, tours, behind-the-scenes looks, and more. So far, we’ve gotten to see Myrtle, the green sea turtle, eat some breakfast (a delicious mix of lettuce, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and learned all about epaulette sharks and sting rays. (For parents needing some kid-friendly distractions, head to the aquarium’s at-home activities sections.)
Blast some music
Symphonies around the world are streaming live rather than cancelling their performances entirely, or are replaying old shows for free online. The Philharmonie Berlin is closed until April 19, but has opened its digital library of performances, filled with more than 600 shows. Use the code BERLINPHIL by March 31 to get 30-day access to the orchestra’s stunning work (look for performances conducted by Simon Rattle, the orchestra’s principal for 16 years). The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is live-streaming its performances on Youtube, as it is closed to the public until April 13. While the 7 p.m. AEDT (or 4 a.m. EDT) showtimes may not be an ideal time to watch a symphony performance, you can rewatch the show later on the orchestra’s Youtube channel. So far, they’ve hosted performances of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, with plans for more throughout the closure.
Pop artists are also streaming performances, attached to the Twitter hashtag #TogetherAtHome. Coldplay’s Chris Martin started it all, performing a 30-minute set live on Instagram on Monday afternoon. John Legend is taking up the baton next, performing Tuesday, March 16, on Instagram Live at 1 p.m. PDT, according to tweets. Be sure to follow the hashtag on Twitter for more updates, as more musicians are likely to follow.
Spend a night at the opera
If you’ve gone to a movie theater in recent years, you’ve likely seen a trailer for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, where they throw the storied opera’s most popular performances onto movie screens for all to enjoy. Since most theaters—of both the opera and movie variety—are closed, the Met is opening that series up to all, streaming live each night. Each performance will become available at 7:30 p.m. EDT and will be viewable for 20 hours, starting with the 2010 production of Carmen on March 16.
If you don’t want to be tied down by a schedule, OperaVision offers free recorded performances from all over the world, including Madama Butterfly from the Royal Swedish Opera and Tosca at the Polish National Opera.
Grab your Google Cardboard
Virtual reality has made destinations that many of us may never see—like the summit of Everest—feel a lot more accessible. While these options are not new (we reported on them back in 2017), they seem more important than ever, allowing us to fully escape into a new place. For some, you’ll need the equipment (like a Oculus Rift headset or an HTC Vive), while others use a low-tech Google Cardboard VR viewer. We’d start with a tour of Florence from above or Hong Kong’s stadium through Google Earth’s virtual reality offerings, then cool off with this first-person journey up Everest.
This article was originally published in March 2020. It has been updated with new information.