Virtually brilliant: the best online tours of London’s landmarks

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virtual tours london

Just like so many other cities on Planet Earth, London’s on lockdown; nobody knows quite for how long but, without question, one day everything in the capital will open up again and the place will be bustling like the world-leading metropolis it is.

So, if you’re an undiluted Anglophile but, right now, can’t take advantage of one of the deals or offers at romantic hotels in London, what to do in the mean-time? Well, how about taking a virtual tour of the UK capital and its landmarks? Here are the best of them to check out…

London 360°

A suitable name for a virtual tour of London, especially when it’s as good as this one, London 360° gives online visitors a fantastic impression of the capital’s biggest and best landmarks. Not least with every landmark linked to an impressive, related information page that’s full of fascinating details. The sun may have been – annoyingly – shining for so many of us Brits during lockdown, but this sun-dappled virtual tour really is the next-best-thing for exploring the city in person.

Take the tour here

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

In all truth, in ordinary summers outside of lockdown, it’s not the easiest thing getting your mitts on tickets to go inside and look around Buck Palace, so this virtual tour of HM The Queen’s official residence is the closest that many of us will ever get to snooping about her London digs. And that’s just as well, actually, because it enables you to discover several of the palace’s most ornate rooms, such as the Throne Room and the White Drawing Room. Moreover, you can enjoy a walkthrough of The Queen’s Gallery, specifically of the ‘George IV Art & Spectacle’ exhibition that – pre-lockdown – was held in said room.

Take the tour here

The Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

Again, even in normal times, it’s not easy getting inside the seat of UK democracy (you have to have a request to visit granted by a British citizen’s local MP, via that citizen), so this virtual look-around the Victorian neo-Gothic masterpiece is a welcome digital development, indeed. It’s great just for noting the, well, not so subtle differences between the relatively workaday look of the commoners’ House of Commons (lower chamber) in contrast to the resplendent grandeur of the House of Lords next door (upper chamber). And also for exploring the all labyrinthine corridors and nooks and crannies that this extraordinary building’s full of; as well as all its priceless works of art – portraiture and sculpture, in particular.

Take the tour here

Tower Bridge 

Tower of Bridge

One of London Town’s most recognisable landmarks, Tower Bridge is up there in iconic status with the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Christ the Redeemer statue. But how about a closer look? This awesome 360-degree tour’s the answer, especially as it even allows you to look down through the bridge’s relatively recently added glass floor – without fear of vertigo suddenly afflicting you.

Take the tour here

The Tower of London 

Tower of London

The medieval-built bastion of so much of the UK capital’s history (not least some of its most politically lurid, grisly incidents), the mighty Tower has, did you know, not just functioned as a military keep, but also a Royal palace, prison, jewel depository and informal zoo. You can find out more about those very things – and much more fascinating stuff – courtesy of the official virtual tour of this, one of London’s most significant and, arguably, its most historically resonant building.

Take the tour here

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

Perfect for a night out of unforgettable culture when you’re able to stay at the Grand Park London Hyde Park hotel once more, the RAH is London’s ultimate musical venue, with its cavernous, oval-shaped auditorium, incredible acoustics and Victorian grandeur. It’s home to the vast majority of the BBC Proms classical music season each summer and, a sign of its revered status, it’s where today’s James Bond movie premieres take place. Best of all, when it’s open (which it certainly will be again), a wide variety of concerts are on its daily roster – but, until then, there’s an excellent virtual tour to take, which’ll teach you all about its architecture and inner details, including its amazing 70-feet-tall organ that features 9,999 pipes. Yes, really.

Take the tour here

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court London

Lying a few miles to the west of London’s city limits, this Royal palace is a true treasure of important English/ British history. Originally built by the notorious Tudor-era figure Cardinal Wolsey, before being appropriated by the monarch he served (the equally notorious Henry VIII), it was lived in and added to in spectacularly splendid fashion by future kings and queens over subsequent centuries. It’s definitely a site to put on your must-visit-list once you can, but before then there’s a fine 360-degree tour, which takes in its Great Hall, Watching Tower and kitchen – and more besides.

Take the tour here

Look Up London 

Here’s an example of a series of excellent real-world tours of London becoming excellent virtual ones, instead. Tour guide Katie Wignall is currently hosting three-times-weekly, 20-minute-long online iterations of her what she did daily for her pre-lockdown day job, each one guiding viewers through tidbits about some of the capital’s lesser known treasures, as well as its renowned landmarks (i.e. those covered above). Look out for her tours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2pm (BST).

Find them here

The Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery London

Finally, of all the outstanding art galleries in the West End, we’re picking the Courtauld Gallery for this list, owing to the uniqueness of its online tour. Located slap-bang in the centre of the city (hence making it ideal for 4 star hotels Hyde Park), the Courtauld’s actually undergoing a renovation right now, so was closed sometimes before the lockdown; even so, its website’s virtual tour is a must-visit for experiencing unadulterated masterpieces from the likes of Manet and van Gogh. And yet, the real reason why it’s on this list is its online piece de resistance: its YouTube channel’s virtual tour… hosted by none other than the incredibly affable Bill Nighy. Pretty much perfect.

Watch Bill Nighy’s tour here