29 Virtual Ways to Experience London
by a Londoner
I live in London but right now I am not seeing much more of this amazing city than my couch! So hopefully this virtual London travel blog will be of use to residents who aren’t able to get out and about in their wonderful city and for those around the world that would love to experience some of London in their lounge room!
Visit London’s Top Art Exhibitions from your Couch
The National Gallery’s Titian: Love, Desire and Death had only been open for 3 days when London had to lockdown. This exhibition unites Titian’s mythological paintings for the first time. Hear from the experts and curators who owned which works, what they’re about and where they’ve been.
The National Gallery also offers a range of virtual tours through Google Street view.
Perfect for these surreal times is the Royal Academy’s exhibition on Belgian artist Leon Spilliaert. Spilliaert was an insomniac who wandered the streets of Belgium searching for inspiration. He’s all gloom and angst and his famous work woman by her window feels very in keeping with our current isolation.
For something a little perkier the Royal Academy also has a short video of its Picasso and Paper exhibition. They also have a range of videos on their websites that cover everything from tours to interviews with curators and much more.
One of the best virtual exhibition tours I have seen is George IV at the Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace. George IV liked a drink and a bit of fun and this is a proper virtual tour that allows you to choose where you’d like to go and which pop up descriptions you’d like to read.
Slices of Time at the Now Gallery is the most colourful of the virtual options currently available. 100 different colours represent the passage of time.
Take a Virtual Walking Tour
Tour guide Katie Wignall is hosting virtual walking tours across London on her Instagram stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2pm GMT.
Visit some of London’s top Tourist Attractions
Buckingham Palace | I mentioned Buckingham Palace’s George IV exhibition above. The palace is also now offering some fantastic 3D tours of the different rooms in Buckingham Palace itself. The white dressing room is my favourite.
The British Museum | The British Museum has several options for a virtual visit. It is the largest indoor space on Google Street View! Imagine how long it would take you to walk through all those exhibitions! Great news – now you can check them all out from your couch! Start your tour with the Egyptian Gallery.
There are also virtual galleries on the British Museum’s website which has a mix of new and classic collections. Or head to the museum’s Youtube channel to check out their Curators Corner series which features interviews with various museum staff.
Or go audio! The Museum Podcast offers loads of great behind the scenes fun facts and interviews. (Soundcloud) . Or take an audio tour of one of the museum’s 64 galleries from your living room.
Natural History Museum | The Natural History Museum is home to over 80 million specimens and some pretty fantastic dinosaurs! And it is one of my favourite buildings in London. Their interactive experience, Making Natural History, is voiced by Museum researchers and curators. Don’t miss the amazing butterflies!
V&A | If you’re looking for fashion and design the Victoria and Albert Museum is the place for you! The V&A online offers over 5,000 items and 11 different collections to visit.
Houses of Parliament | Visit the House of Commons, hang out in the House of Lords chamber, the Royal Gallery and loads of other rooms and corridors in the Houses of Parliament 360 virtual tour.
Tower of London | The Tower of London is one of my favourite London tourist attractions. Not only is it home to the Crown Jewels there are loads of fantastically gory stories about beheadings and deaths and misery! The Beefeaters do a fantastic job of entertaining the crowds.
The Tower of London virtual tour will help you beat the queues and get closer to the exhibits than would ever be possible in real life. Audio provides all the key things you need to know whilst watching.
10 Downing Street | Pop into the home of the UK Prime Minister on a virtual tour of 10 Downing Street. The tour has also incorporated Youtube content and has some really interesting stories of incidents at No 10 interspersed throughout the tour.
Churchill War Rooms | Churchill War Rooms is my personal favourite London tourist attraction! Churchill actually ran World War 2 from these rooms and they were left as they were when the war ended in 1945.
Visiting the Churchill War Rooms is like walking back in time and the team does a brilliant job of bringing to life the details of the time down to the ashtrays! And there is a fantastic Churchill museum.
Enjoy the Churchill War Rooms from home without the crowds – and then add it to the top of your list of things to do in London!
The View | The Visit London website has some fantastic 360 view across London – from Kings Cross to St James Park to the top of the London Eye.
See A Show
The National Theatre | One of the best free options to see London theatre in your living room is through The National Theatre Youtube Channel. The channel has a premiere every Thursday night which is then available on demand for one week. Highlights so far have been Jane Eyre, Treasure Island and One Man, Two Guvnors.
The Globe Theatre | London’s famous Globe Theatre is offering free live streaming of some of its plays from early April to the end of June. Outside of these times, you can still watch Hamlet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream from home for a fee – and there are some great behind the scenes bits.
Royal Court Theatre | The Royal Court Theatre is a bit of a London hidden gem. It is located on Sloane Square in Chelsea rather than in the West End and is known for having edgier and more innovative work as well as showcasing some of the hottest new talent on the London theatre scene.Check out The Royal Court Theatre Youtube Channel where you can see some of its more recent performances in full plus some great behind the scenes videos.
Royal Shakespeare Company | 17 shows from the Royal Shakespeare Company are currently streaming on Marquee TV with premieres every Saturday. Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Marquee TV and you’ll also have access to more than 400 dance, theatre and opera performances.
Royal Opera House | The Royal Opera House has created a mix of free content and live broadcasts of both opera and ballet that can be watched all over the world. Current shows on offer include Peter and the Wolf, Cosi Fan Tutte and The Winter’s Tale.
There are several ways to access the Royal Opera House’s content. It is available on Marquee TV, on the Royal Opera House facebook and youtube platforms and their collaborations with the BBC are on the BBC iplayer.
Hampstead Theatre | Another theatre better known by Londoners than tourists, Hampstead Theatre has been an early home to some of the most well-known names of stage and screen. They are using Instagram TV to share their content.
London’s most famous Dance Theatre, Sadler’s Wells | Sadler’s Wells has opened up its digital archives and added loads of new content on its streaming platform Digital Stage. They will be streaming a mix of old and new content which covers all ages.
For Food Lovers
Learn how to Bake Bread from Borough Market | Bread Ahead is one of London’s best bakeries and also offers fantastic cooking classes. I took their NY bagel and pretzel-making class a few months ago and it was fantastic. They are hosting live baking lessons every day at 2pm on Instagram.
Borough Market Cooking Lessons | London’s iconic Borough Market is live streaming cooking demonstrations every weekday at 1pm GMT on Instagram. The focus is on using common store cupboard essentials to cook up something tasty.
Go Greek with The Athenian | Every Saturday night at 7pm GMT Tim Vasilakis of London’s Athenian restaurant will be live streaming cooking classes on Instagram.
Go to the Pub | The Staying Inn is a website that features 12 minutes of pub ambiance footage – chat, clinking glasses, the search for the loo – and you can play it on a loop for the whole evening!
Many of London’s best retailers will be happy to deliver their goods to you so you can have some literal London at home!
One of my favourites is the wonderfully eccentric Liberty. This iconic London department store with its well known Tudor exterior has been a part of London life since the 1920s.
In addition to a wonderfully curated range of designers in all areas, Liberty is most famous for its iconic prints. Their amazing prints have been revived for the modern world and are on everything from gorgeous silk pajamas to my favourite, the travel cosmetics bag.
Tourists got to Harrods, Londoners go to Selfridges. From the hottest designers to the world’s biggest and most exciting cosmetics and skincare floor to its amazing food area Selfridges is one of my London happy places. Experience the yellow at home with some online shopping.
Speaking of cosmetics, Kate Moss’ buddy Charlotte Tilbury is the London lady’s make up of choice with its innovative products that bring to life dewy skin and smoky eyes! If Charlotte Tilbury doesn’t have it Space NK will. These fabulous stores stock the hottest new and classic beauty brands.
For a wonderful mix of the classic and the eccentric check out London perfume brand Penhaligons. Their gorgeous sample box is one of my favourite things to buy as a gift.
And finally, my favorite London shoe brand is the fantastic Lucy Choi. Her uncle is Jimmy Choo. Lucy is the quintessential Londoner and her gorgeous shoes are made in Italy. They are a great mid-price point between Jimmy Choo and LK Bennett. And best of all they are actually really comfortable!
The Best Movies & The Best TV Shows Set in London
28 Days Later is perhaps the most timely of the movies shot in London – although perhaps not the happiest! Enjoy the creepy story of a man who wakes up after 28 days and finds out that London is empty after a zombie apocalypse.
If you like the sound of zombies taking over London but also like a comedy check out Shaun of the Dead. Or keep up the horror theme with An American Werewolf in London.
Have a much happier view of London by working your way through some Richard Curtis movies! Start with the first – and I think the best – of his film’s Four Weddings and a Funeral and see how Hugh Grant became famous. Then enjoy some more Hugh in Notting Hill and if you’ve had a few wines Love Actually will seem sweet rather than sucky!
If you’re still craving more Hugh I think he is great in About a Boy. He’s so much better when he’s playing a not so nice or not so sure if I’m nice bloke! And yes it’s Gwyneth but Sliding Doors is pretty cute and something to which we can all relate.
In my opinion, all of the Bridget Jones movies are worth another watch and will make you smile. Particularly Hugh. The other quintessential London movie actor is Simon Pegg. Run Fat Boy Run is very amusing and he also stars in the far less well known but really cute Man Up.
A Fish Called Wanda will provide some more laughs, Withnail and I fits in well with my approach of drinking myself through this lockdown and if you’re still okay watching Woody Allen films Match Point is actually quite fun and London looks beautiful.
My favourite TV show set in London is Luther – although that could be more about Idris Elba than the show! But I also love love love Alice who is played by the wonderful Ruth Wilson.
The most recent BBC version of Sherlock (2010) makes London look like it has been shot through a fairytale/Harry Potter lens eg mysterious and fun!
For humour, of course Absolutely Fabulous is the classic London show – particularly for its visits to Harvey Nichols! And the Absolutely Fabulous movie is also excellent – and ultimate London lady Kate Moss is in it! More recently Fleabag shows off quite a bit of London as does the hilarious Catastrophe.
If you haven’t seen it get ready for some brilliant binge-watching with the fantastic The Bodyguard. Spooks is also fantastic for some intense London based viewing.
And when you’re having a bad day check out a bit of Paddington – although I am a bigger fan of both of the recent Paddington movies which made London look like something out of a storybook!
One of my favourite places in London is The School of Life. The School of Life was created by philosopher Alain De Botton (who is AMAZING – I have a serious crush on him) with the aim of teaching us all the things we don’t learn in school – self-knowledge, how to manage relationships, how to be happy, how to find calm and many other terrific topics.
Their classes and courses are always delivered with a sense of humour and I promise they are very down to earth and useful. The School of Life is running virtual classes covering everything from How to Find Love to Finding a new job to improving your emotional intelligence.
About the Author
I’m Amanda, an Australian who has called London home for over 15 years. I have visited over 70 countries and love finding hidden gems, boutique hotels and great food and wine. I’d love to help you find your next memorable vacation.