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Virtual culture you can enjoy at home

With major cultural institutions shuttering their doors temporarily amid the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many ways to get a virtual culture fix from the comfort of your own home

Degas’ The Ballet Class and Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat

Art and museums

Google’s Arts & Culture platform gives access to show-stopping exhibitions from around the world. Take a tour of leading art institutions – including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Johannesburg Art Gallery and Tate Modern in London – and zoom in on some of their most notable artworks for a closer-than-real-life look. At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, for instance, peruse the likes of Henri Rousseau’s The Dream and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, or take in the virtual exhibitions at Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, which include Degas’ The Ballet Class and Millet’s Gleaners.


Now is the time to catch up on those books piled up on your bedside table, but you can also expand your literary world via the libraries that are opening and digitizing their archives. The British Library is offering a digital voyage through history – apt for this period of restricted travel – by focusing its expertise on its digital collections. Among the virtual treasure troves will feature ancient manuscripts and the chance to explore antique globes, which are rarely viewed – even in person – due to their fragility, using augmented reality.

Swan Lake at London’s Royal Opera House and La Traviata at New York’s Metropolitan Opera

Opera and ballet

From London, the Royal Opera House’s YouTube channel boasts an array of opera arias and choruses along with ballet performances, making it ideal for taking in the highlights. New York’s Metropolitan Opera is doing a nightly opera stream, through the Met Opera On Demand app, with each performance available for 23 hours. Or you can settle down in front of a full stream of the Wiener Staatsoper’s recent performances.


From the Palace of Versailles and the Taj Mahal to the White House and NASA’s Space Shuttle Pavilion, discover the extraordinary array of virtual content on offer from Google Arts & Culture. The technology allows private, close-up tours of some of the world’s most interesting and spectacular locations.


Musicians from every continent and genre have been bringing their live performances into people’s homes. The likes of John Legend and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have taken to Instagram Live, while Neil Young has started acoustic Fireside Sessions filmed at his house and shown on his website.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, meanwhile, is live-streaming performances on YouTube; and you can access an archive of concerts from the Montreux Jazz Festival’s website, which includes performances from the likes of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone.

Inside the Palace of Versailles, near Paris
Kinky Boots on Broadway


For musical lovers, BroadwayHD is a streaming service that offers more than 200 Broadway shows, from older renditions of the likes of Death of a Salesman to original performances of hits such as Kiss Me, Kate and Kinky Boots.

In the UK, the BBC will be releasing new plays written for broadcast and recorded performances to “give British culture an audience that can’t be there in person”, along with poetry, podcast dramas and book readings. The pre-recorded live performances will include productions such as Mike Bartlett’s Albion and Emma Rice’s Wise Children. The plans are part of the BBC’s proposed new arts-and-culture service, called Culture in Quarantine, which will be available on television, radio, iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

London’s National Theatre is streaming a production on YouTube every Thursday – kicking off with James Corden’s One Man, Two Guvnors – while Hampstead Theatre is also making a play available to watch online, via its website, each week. Finally, for a work of Shakespeare in your living room, tap into The Globe’s on-demand service, which boasts over 130 of its productions on film.