16 Virtual Tours in Europe You Can Take Right Now
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
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Have you ever thought about taking some virtual tours in Europe? I know I hadn't, until I came across some fantastic online tours that took me back to some of my favourite travel destinations, as well as many places that are still on my bucket list. Virtual tours are a great way to explore destinations that you may not otherwise be planning to visit any time soon. Not only that, but they also give you that all important wanderlust feeling and get your travel engines running again.
I've put together 16 virtual tours in Europe that you can easily take either from the comfort of your own home, or even on the go. Most of these virtual tours are free and self-guided, but some are run by authentic tour companies who want to give you the experience of a live tour even if you aren't there in person. Keep reading to find out which famous European attractions you can go on a virtual tour of from anywhere in the world!
Virtual Tours in Europe
1. If you haven't been to St Petersburg in Russia yet then you're really missing out. I had the opportunity to visit St Petersburg last summer, and took one of the many river cruises on offer to see the city from a different perspective. Anglotourismo is now offering an off the beaten track walking tour of St Petersburg, which focuses on one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city - Vasilievsky Island. Not many tourists travel to this part of St Petersburg, so this virtual tour is a great way to see a unique part of the city, and be introduced to some pretty interesting historical sites along the way too. All you need to do is book the tour online, download Zoom, sit back and enjoy the tour. There's no set price for this virtual tour, so you can determine how much you want to tip your tour guide.
2. St Petersburg is known for its abundance of palaces, so I had to throw in one of my favourite ones - Catherine Palace. Using Google Arts & Culture, this virtual tour allows you to move around the palace grounds in a street view mode, and get up close to the details of this stunning historical site. For those of you who have visited here before, you'll know that the queue is enormous most of the time, so this virtual tour is a great way to be introduced to the palace and a bit of Russian history without spending hours waiting to purchase a ticket. Of course, nothing beats the real thing, but if you're unable to travel to Russia or are trying to plan a trip to St Petersburg in the near future, this is a great introduction to one of the city's main tourist attractions.
3. As a major history lover, one city in the top part of my bucket list is Athens. I came across this virtual tour of the Acropolis while researching things to do in Athens, and loved that you could click on the different areas of it, and then explore it in more detail using a street view. The Acropolis has played an important role throughout human history for thousands of years, and still stands tall overlooking the city of Athens. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, so if you can't be there in person yet, you may as well as practice online first!
4. One attraction I still need to visit in Paris are the Catacombs. It's a very unique site to explore, not only in France but also in the whole of Europe. The official website offers a great virtual tour of the Catacombs, which works like a panoramic photo. It's a completely free tour, and allows you to look at various rooms in HD. The Catacombs hold the remains of over 6 million Parisians from the 18th century, which was meant to lower the risk of diseases spreading from the overcrowded cemeteries. The bones themselves are arranged in a variety of decorative shapes, in order to make the whole experience a bit more attractive for tourists. But if you can't make it there in person, a virtual tour of Paris and the Catacombs are good second options.
5. The Palace of Versailles is a phenomenal historic site to visit just outside of Paris, and is a great option for a day trip. It's one of my favourite palaces in Europe to visit, so I was really pleased to stumble upon a virtual tour of Versailles. This is another free virtual tour in Europe which offers a glimpse into what you would see if you were there in person. The tour takes you around the grounds, and at each location there is a text box providing some historic background and interesting facts. So, if you find yourself longing for a French aristocratic escape and can't get to Paris, take a few minutes to virtually walk around the world-famous gardens at Versailles. You never know, maybe you'll see something you missed on a previous trip!
6. Who doesn't love a fairytale castle? Neuschwanstein Castle is probably on everyone's radar, and is now open to the public once again following lockdown. It may look like a medieval castle, but it was actually built in the 19th century as a retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Neuschwanstein Castle is at the top of my list of castles to visit in Europe, but for now I decided to take an aerial virtual tour instead. With this tour, you get to experience the castle from a helicopter's point of view, which is pretty unique and something I probably wouldn't have been able to do in person. Castle tours in Europe don't come much better than this, and I can't wait until I eventually visit and get to see it with my own eyes.
7. Windsor Castle is not only the oldest occupied castle in the world, it's also the largest. It was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, and today is one of the Queen's main residences. If you find yourself in London or the surrounding area, Windsor Castle makes for a great day trip by train. If you don't want to ruin your planned trip too much, you can take a quick look inside the castle at a few of the more elaborate rooms by taking a virtual tour. This is another panoramic tour, but you get to see a lot of great detail, including a State Banquet set up in St George's Hall.
8. Edinburgh is filled with incredible historic attractions to visit, and one of the most popular attractions is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It sits at the end of the Royal Mile, and is the official Scottish residence of the Queen. It's most famous for being the home of Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. On a regular tour of the castle, you'd be treated to 14 State Apartments as well as the grounds and a 12th century abbey. But for now, virtual tours of palaces are what a lot of people will have to put up with. The virtual tour of Holyrood Palace is similar to that of Windsor castle, with a panoramic view of three parts of the palace for you to explore. Once again, this is a free virtual tour and takes almost no time at all to do.
9. Of course, you can't do a virtual tour of Edinburgh without stopping by Edinburgh Castle. This Scottish hot spot is one of the most popular castles in the world, and seen by many as one of the most iconic. The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 12th century, and you can catch a glimpse of the Scottish crown jewels within the walls as well if you happen to be able to visit in person. Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, visitors can now take a virtual tour of the castle from anywhere in the world. This is one of the lesser detailed virtual castle tours I've come across, but it's still worth a quick browse if you're missing the charm of Scotland. Travel tip: If you're visiting Scotland and want to explore its many medieval castles, I would recommend purchasing the Explorer Pass to save a lot of money.
10. Blarney Castle may not be the largest medieval castle you'll ever come across, but it does have something on offer that no other castle does - the Blarney Stone. For over 2 centuries, people have come to Blarney Castle to kiss the stone and gain the gift of eloquence. If you're scared of heights you may want to miss this out, since you'll be leaning backwards from the top
of the castle to do so! This is a great Ireland castle tour to go on if you're staying in the Cork area, but for now we'll all have to make do with a virtual tour of the castle instead. You may not be able to kiss the stone, but you can tour the gardens as well as inside of the castle.
11. One castle that I can't wait to explore in eastern Europe is Bled Castle. It sits on a steep cliff overlooking Lake Bled and is the oldest Slovenian castle on record, dating back to the 11th century. Even if you aren't a castle lover (shame on you), judging from photos I've seen, the walk to the top of the hill is worth it for the incredible views of the lake and the surrounding landscape. There are a lot of virtual tours in Europe you can take, and Bled Castle is no exception. The panoramic virtual tour of Bled Castle that I came across is a bit of a strange one, since it's done at night so you can't really see much detail or any of the beautiful views either, but it's still interesting to take a look at.
12. Bran Castle was brought into the limelight due to its ties with Dracula, and is now one of the biggest (if not the biggest) draws for tourists in Transylvania. The castle itself was completed in the late 14th century, and was used as a defense against the Ottoman Empire. The virtual tour of Bran Castle is a series of 4 videos, each showing a different aspect of the castle. The videos are only short, so if you're feeling curious about this castle, you can easily fit this tour into your daily schedule. I've read a lot of interesting historical facts about Bran Castle, so I can't wait to visit Romania some time in the near future and walk around this incredible castle.
13. For those of you who have been to Prague before, you'll know what a charming European city it is. The medieval streets are breathtaking, and for me there's nothing better than feeling like you're walking through history. Prague Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in the city, and was founded over 1000 years ago. It's a very unique European castle to explore, because it's made up of various palaces and ecclesiastical buildings, which is why it holds the world record for the largest coherent castle complex in the world. Prague Castle's virtual tour offers a glimpse at various parts of the castle, and there is also an option to view some great photos as well.
14. Poland is an amazing country to visit, with lots of great historical sites to see and national parks to sink your teeth into. One attraction that really catches my eye is Malbork Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 13th century and is the largest castle in the world based on land area. It's also considered to be the largest brick structure ever built by hands during this time period. You can now take a virtual tour of Malbork Castle, which is a great option if you want to see if this is the type of castle you'l be interested in visiting. Or maybe you've already visited it and want to reminisce about your time there. Either way, it's a fun historic virtual tour in Europe to go on!
15. One city that really impressed me when we visited it earlier this year was Vienna. It's known for being one of the more expensive cities to visit in Europe, but we found that it's definitely doable on a budget, and there are a number of free historic sites to visit as well. Schonbrunn Palace was one of my favourite spots in the city, and it's free to walk around the grounds too which was great. We didn't have time to go inside and take a guided tour, so I was really pleased to come across this online virtual tour of the palace instead. Google Arts & Culture lets you see quite a lot when compared to other virtual tours, so it's well worth checking out, especially if you haven't seen the inside before.
16. In my opinion, one of the best ways to explore a city is by taking a food tour. When we visited Dublin, we had the opportunity to join Secret Food Tours and eat our way through some Irish dishes. They're now offering virtual tours for just $10 in a number of cities across Europe, as well as New York City. For each tour you go on, you'll receive $50 back in tour vouchers which are valid for 2 years! I don't know about you, but I think this is a great way to start saving for your next trip, all while helping the tourism sector bounce back after months of people being in lockdown. I'll be taking part in their virtual tour of Paris and can't wait.
BONUS: Yes, I know Machu Picchu in no way counts as a virtual tour in Europe, but if you're like me and are itching to travel here then you'll take what you can get. If you aren't familiar with this phenomenal historic site, it dates back to the Incan Empire in the 15th century, and sits 7000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. It was once a royal estate visited by emperors, but following military campaigns and the plague brought along in the 16th century by Spanish explorers, the Incan royal line came to an end. The virtual tour of Machu Picchu allows you to explore a large portion of the ruins, and see it from different angles, all while not having to take the long hike up to the top.
These are just a handful of the many virtual tours of Europe you can take. Many popular museums are now hosting incredible virtual tours which are growing in popularity as well, which are worth clicking on if you want to add a bit of culture to your day. Don't forget to check out my blog post covering 18 Incredible Places to Visit in Europe After Lockdown for some further travel inspiration, and follow me on my travels on Instagram as well. I would love to hear if anyone else has been taking virtual tours recently, so please drop me a comment below!