Top 10 art museums online

Visiting the world’s famous art museums in person may be impossible, but you can virtually explore the most breathtaking works from the Met, Prado and more.

By Heather Camlot

Visiting the world’s greatest art museums in person may be an impossible dream for some, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get up close and personal with the most breathtaking works of art the world has ever known.

Follow the links below for a whirlwind tour d’art — without leaving the comforts of home. You may not get the full-on experience, but you won’t have to fight the crowds for a mere glimpse of the Mona Lisa, either.


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City:  With 5,000 years of world culture tucked into 2 million square feet, you may be glad to have a seat. You can see almost 300,000 works online, from Caravaggio’s The Musicians to Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30).

Museum of Modern Art, New York City: By browsing the 33,500 works in the online collection, you’ll come across some of history’s most intriguing modern and contemporary art, from Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans to Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory to Ferdinand Porsche’s Volkswagen Type 1 Sedan. Oh, and you can also browse and buy online at  one of the best gift shops going.

The Smithsonian, Washington, DC: Made up of 19 museums and galleries, the Smithsonian can be a week-long adventure. Start with a tour led by Ben Stiller (who filmed the second instalment of Night at the Museum here), then hit the collections database with 5.4 million records and 460,000 images, videos and sound files.

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa: The largest in Canada, this museum is home to the original plaster pattern for The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, Champlain’s astrolabe and over 5 million artifacts representing Canadian history and culture.


Louvre, Paris: Start with a video tour, then get a front row view of the Mona Lisa, the Titeux Dancer, the Venus di Milo and oh so much more.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid: Not only does the Prado have an online museum where you can see as many as 1,000 works organized by how much time you’d like to spend there (1 to 3 hours), but you can also watch some 67 videos (in Spanish) about temporary exhibitions and restorations. Fascinating.

British Museum, London: Explore the museum’s 1.8 million objects in the collections database, including the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island statue, or take an online tour through Africa, Egypt, the Pacific and more.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao: Start with guided, subtitled, virtual tour of the museum’s iconic building, designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Then select artists for viewing, like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Marc Rothko.


The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg: This masterful museum houses over 3 million works from around the world, with highlights including the uniform dress of Catherine the Great, the Imperial staterooms, and Rubens masterpieces. Browse the online collection by subject or visit the special gallery featuring IBM technology to zoom right into the images.


National Palace Museum, Taipei: The 3D virtual tour is the place to start. It features only five highlights from the museum, but goes into so much detail you’ll be yearning for more. Continue to the Selections for images so large you feel like you’re right in front of them, and then to the Theme sites for eye-popping lessons in art appreciation.

First published January 6, 2011, on

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