Tag Archives: museums

taj mahal in india

Culture for the Self-Quarantined: Virtual Museums, Historic Landmarks, Concerts, and More

Just because we have to be socially distanced, it doesn’t mean we have to be bored. Many cultural institutions have long offered virtual tours for those who can’t make the trek, and more legendary landmarks are adding those kinds of activities now. Whether you’re an opera buff, a museum aficionado, or a history lover, these online experiences can help satisfy your traveler’s curiosity for now—and give you ideas about spots to visit in person later. Know of any other cool virtual tours to keep us travelers happy? Tell us about them in the comments. And don’t miss our guide to virtual outdoor adventures too.

Historic Landmarks

The best part of all this virtual touring may just be the lack of crowds. Set your alarm for sunrise and head to the Taj Mahal, or into Angkor Archeological Park — you’ll have Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and other temples to yourself. Bonus: no heat and humidity. (That said, there is a way to visit Angkor without the hordes in real life too.)

Machu Picchu’s virtual tour should hold you over until you can get to Peru in real life. Click on the map to get a glimpse of the Inca Trail or of the surrounding mountains from the Intiwatana, an ancient stone structure used as an astronomical clock of sorts.

Stonehenge’s website re-creates the mysterious ring of stones, and if you click on one of the image’s marked hot spots, info cards or videos pop up with deeper information.

Atop the Acropolis in Athens, armchair travelers can scramble over ancient rocks to take in the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and other notable spots, or zoom in on details they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get close to. The 360-degree views alone are worth the “trip.”

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower should also be on your virtual travel list—especially since no stairs are required. You can walk fully around the observation deck and see Paris from on high.


Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre is one of many museums you can tour virtually. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

Google has been teaming up with museums around the world for years to create virtual walk-throughs via its Arts & Culture hub (also available as an app on both Android and iPhone), using the same technology as its “street view” option on Google Maps. By now the options number more than 500. You can climb the famous circular ramp of the Guggenheim, zoom in to admire the artist’s thick brush strokes at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, skip the lines to admire Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or wander the rich galleries of the Palace of Versailles (if you have a VR headset you can visit Versailles that way too). And since Google’s catalog of partner museums is extensive, you can also discover lesser-known museums and the gems they house, such as South Korea’s Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art and the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Many museums have cool digital features on their own websites too. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been upping its online game for the past few years by making more and more of its collection visible online, introducing behind-the-scenes videos and creating special stories, themes, and social media projects. The Tate also displays a lot of its collection online and presents multimedia features like video interviews with artists and audio descriptions of notable works. TheLouvrehas its own walk-through tours of various galleries. In Italy, the Vatican Museum offers virtual walk-throughs—and, yes, we know everyone would rather gape at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling in person, but at least this way, there’s no stiff neck.

Concerts, Theater, Talks, and Books

NYC’s Metropolitan Opera is presenting videos of its full performances, including Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia

NYC’s Metropolitan Opera is presenting videos of its full performances, including Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Photo: Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera has shut its doors for now, but every night at 7:30 pm, it will stream free performances from its Live in HD series. Just show up at the opera’s homepage at 7:30 pm to see a previously recorded masterpiece (invite some friends; you can Zoom for drinks during intermission). Each show will be available for 23 hours, and the lineup includes Puccini’s La Bohème, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Similarly, the Berlin Philharmonic is making its archive of previously recorded live performances free through March 31. Check the orchestra’s website for instructions on how to use the voucher code BERLINPHIL to register and get complimentary access. For a full list of streaming classical music performances, bookmark this page from WKAR, Michigan State University’s public broadcasting station.

As the global lockdown continues, more and more cultural organizations are offering online diversions. The Vienna State Opera is presenting some of its performances, and the Jewish Museum Vienna has created Spotify playlists of music from the 1920s and 30s

There are plenty of ways to catch shows outside the classical genre too. StageIt is a website that showcases live, intimate performances by artists. Viewers buy tickets (prices are set by the artists), then tune in to watch the musician play from wherever they happen to be—at home, backstage, in the studio.  In the past they have streamed sets by VIPs like Bonnie Raitt and Jimmy Buffet, you’re more likely to discover names that are completely new to you.

New York’s 92nd Street Y is a respected arts and learning destination, known for its classes as well as its top-notch series of talks with artists, writers, thinkers, actors, and musicians. Now man talks from its archives are free online. Highlights include James Gandolfini reading a Maurice Sendak story, Neil deGrasse Tyson in conversation with Bill Nye, plus talks with Kirk Douglas, Malcolm Gladwell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and the Bon Appetite Test Kitchen staff.

Many theaters around the world are also providing online entertainment. For instance, on the Public Theater’s website, you can watch a recording of last summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, as well as past musical performances from its Joe’s Pub Live series. They’re even issuing fun social media challenges, like asking everyone to record and share their interpretation of Shakespeare passages.

Today Tix, a discount ticket app that operates in many cities, put together great lists of where to stream musicals and how to watch theater around the world, including London’s Royal National Theatre, which is uploading a past performance to YouTube every Thursday and Broadway World’s Living Room Concerts.

Broadway fans can also tune into YouTube for “Stars In The House”, a concert/interview show hosted by theater maven Seth Rudetsky and his producer husband James Wesley. It features a variety of stage stars and airs every day at 2 pm ET and 8 pm ET, a nod to traditional curtain times.

Attention, Andrew Lloyd Webber fans! Every Friday starting April 3,  he is streaming one of his musicals for free on the new YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On! The series starts off with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (starring Donny Osmond and Richard Attenborough)) and, as Weber says in this intro video, will include his flop By Jeeves.

Theater fans can also subscribe to Broadway HD, a Netflix-like subscription service that’s $9/month, with a free seven-day trial. The site’s library includes a mix of recent hits and classics, such as Cats, Kinky Boots, Patrick Stewart’s MacBeth, and Angela Lansbury’s Driving Miss Daisy.

To host your own movie night with friends, you can use NetflixParty It’s an easy-to-install browser extension for Chrome that allows viewers to sync whatever they’re watching and make the night more social. It was developed by an Airbnb engineer back in 2015, and is not surprisingly a lot more popular lately.

If you’re a reader, the Kindle store always has a selection of free classic books.  For more academic types, Cambridge Publishing is offering 700 online editions of books. The free reading period is until the end of May, and includes some Christian and theological works. Audible is offering free kids audio books as long as schools are closed, and some authors of children’s books are reading their works and doing literary activities with kids online.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Holocaust Memorial in Budapest

The Ultimate Jewish Heritage Trip in Israel Includes a Stop in Europe

Starting this spring, U.S. travelers who are passing through Europe on their way to or from Israel can take advantage of special new Jewish-heritage itineraries. “It’s actually very convenient to combine a tour of Israel with a stopover or a few days in Europe or North Africa,” says Joe Yudin of Touring Israel, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Israel. “It’s a great way to break up a long flight while keeping the theme of the journey.”

Joe has teamed up with Europe specialists on The WOW List to create the customizable multi-country itineraries, which typically include visits to historic synagogues, Jewish museums and cemeteries, and restaurants specializing in traditional Jewish food. So far, these travel experts have created seven itineraries—six in Europe and one in Morocco—that tell a seamless story. “After all, the story of the Jewish people began in Israel 4,000 years ago,” says Joe, “and with the Roman conquest of Israel the Jewish nation was dispersed throughout the known world. These tours will focus on the connection of those events and be tailored to each traveler’s specific interests.

“Of course, travelers can also visit the usual iconic sites in those countries, just as a Jewish-heritage itinerary in Israel also includes visits to Christian and Muslim and secular sites.” The tours are hosted by guides specialized in Jewish culture and history and include opportunities to meet local Jewish community leaders. Highlights include:

* Morocco: In Casablanca, the Moroccan Jewish Museum, the only Jewish history museum in the Arab world.

* Spain: The Jewish Quarter of Cordoba and the Maimonedes Synagogue, built in 1315, as well as Jewish heritage sites in Barcelona, Seville, Toledo, and Gerona/Besalu.

* Portugal: The little towns of the Serra da Estrela and one of the oldest synagogues in Europe at Tomar.

* Budapest: The Holocaust Memorial in Budapest and the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives in the Great Budapest Synagogue.

* Prague: The Spanish Synagogue, as well as the ancient Old-New Synagogue and Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, founded in 1478.

The Jewish Museum at Dorotheergasse, Vienna

The Jewish Museum at Dorotheergasse, Vienna. Photo courtesy Ouriel Morgensztern.

* Vienna: The Jewish Quarter of Leopoldstadt, the Jewish section of the Central Cemetery, and the Jewish Museum at Dorotheergasse, where a permanent exhibition gives a comprehensive insight into Jewish life and the Jewish history of Vienna.

* Italy: The Jewish Ghetto in Rome and a medieval Tuscan hill town known as La Piccola Gerusalemme, or Little Jerusalem, for the Jewish community that coexisted with the majority Christian population in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, the Medici rulers confined the Jews to a ghetto, and travelers can visit the synagogue, bakery, mikvah, and other remnants of Jewish heritage.

Spotlight on Venice
A destination of particular interest this year is Venice, which established a Jewish ghetto on March 29, 1516. The city and the Jewish community of Venice are marking the quincentennial with Venice Ghetto 500, a yearlong program centered on three main events: an opening ceremony at the Fenice Opera House on March 29; the exhibition “Venice, the Jews and Europe” at the Doge’s Palace (June–November); and the refurbishment of the Jewish Museum and restoration of three historic synagogues, a $12 million project begun in 2014.

In connection with the quincentennial, Touring Israel has teamed up with Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore to offer a three-day, privately guided tour that comprises both prominent landmarks and little-visited sites. The following itinerary can be customized to suit individual travelers’ interests and time constraints:

Day 1: You’ll take a private water taxi to the dock of Ca’Sagredo, one of Venice’s oldest and most esteemed five-star hotels near the major sights. Although on the Grand Canal and close to the Piazza San Marco and Rialto, the hotel is a bit apart from the tourist thoroughfare. Home to one of the Venetian Republic’s wealthiest and most powerful families, this 42-room property is housed in the palazzo that was their fifteenth-century residence. Paintings of important seventeenth-century Venetian painters adorn the common areas, and there is a restaurant on site with seating on the Grand Canal.

In the late afternoon an English-speaking Venetian will meet you in your hotel lobby to accompany you on a bacarata, stopping in at some choice spots for ombra and cicchetti (wine and Venetian appetizers) during the traditional cocktail hour. This is a great introduction to La Serenissima through a truly local custom, and you can learn about Venetian gastronomy as you become familiar with the lay of the land.

Day 2. A local expert guide will lead you through the Jewish Ghetto. The term ghetto originates from the Venetian word getto, meaning the pouring of metal. Today the word has a negative connotation, but in 1516, when an enclosed neighborhood for Jews was created in Venice, it referred to the foundry that the district replaced. The Venetian Republic segregated Jews to placate the Roman Catholic Church, which had already forced the expulsion of Jews from much of Western Europe. Nonetheless, in the span of a few decades the Venetian Jews were able to overcome obstacles and establish a tight network of trade that involved the states bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. You will visit the ghetto and learn the historical importance and contribution of the Jewish population during the Serenissima Republic, and you will see the famous hidden synagogues, which are among the oldest and most valued in Europe. Your specialized guide will accompany you privately into three stunning synagogues and explain the ghetto’s history, art, and curiosities. After the ghetto tour, you’ll explore the Cannaregio neighborhood, a very interesting but little visited section of Venice. Enjoy lunch here at one of the restaurants that feature classic Venetian kosher cuisine. After lunch you’ll explore the Jewish Cemetery on the Lido, where the tombs date from 1389. The cemetery endured a long and tumultuous history until it was abandoned in 1938.

Day 3: Your guide will get you past the lines for the Basilica in the iconic Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, where, you’ll get to see the 500th-anniversary exhibit, a multi-media celebration of Jewish art, culture, and civic society throughout the history of the lagoon.

Day 4: On your final morning, you’ll get to take a private water taxi from your hotel to your point of departure (airport, train station, port, or Piazzale Roma).

For more information or to customize your own itinerary, contact Joe Yudin of Touring Israel.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

American Museum of Natural History sleepover

5 Reasons to Sleep in a Museum: A 10-Year-Old’s Opinion

Hi.  I’m Doug, and I’m 10 years old.  My brother Charlie and I got to spend the night at the American Museum of Natural History.  My mom asked me whether the sleepover made the museum truly memorable. It did because the museum is a lot different at night than it is during the day. Here are five reasons why I remember my night at the museum so well:

AMNH dinosaur skeleton

Cool dinosaur skeletons

1. You get to go around the museum with a flashlight.

AMNH reptile exhibit

Reptile exhibit

2. There’s nobody blocking your view.

AMNH museum scavenger hnt

Scavenger hunt

3. You get to have a scavenger hunt where you answer questions in a book.

AMNH tiger exhibit

Tiger exhibit

4. You can see a lot more of the museum because it’s not crowded at night.

AMNH Hall of Ocean Life

Hall of Ocean Life, at the American Museum of Natural History

5. You get to sleep under a giant blue whale.

Those are the reasons why my night at the museum was truly memorable.

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

Join Me for #TripChat, TripAdvisor’s First-Ever Twitter Chat

As host of TripAdvisor’s first-ever Twitter party, I cordially invite you to join us this Wednesday, October 1, from noon to 1:00 p.m. Eastern.  We’ll be chatting about how to make museum visits truly memorable.

TripAdvisor recently announced its list of the top 25 museums in the world, as well as the top 25 in the U.S. and in dozens more countries and regions around the globe. What makes for a great museum experience (besides a fantastic collection)?  What’s your favorite museum ever?  Which one is on your bucket list?  And, when it comes to the world’s most important—and biggest—museums, what are your hard-earned tips for navigating them?  As I wrote in 5 Ways to Save Time and Money at Top Museums, I personally like to suss out hidden side entrances and go at night.

I know you have many tips of your own to share, and I can’t wait to hear them!  So please join us on Wednesday at noon.  Just follow @TripAdvisor, @wendyperrin, and #TripChat.