Whilst the UK has given the green light to foreign travel, many are still uncomfortable with travelling so soon after the pandemic peak. Safety aside, airports and planes feel a hassle, and is there any point visiting somewhere if you can’t enjoy everything it has to offer? (main image credit: Barcelona – Johan Mouche)
But what if you could have a cultural experience from the comfort of your living room?
LuggageHero recently used Tripadvisor data to find the Top 10 Most Culturally Enriching Cities on the planet. And for those looking to experience the highlights of these fantastic cities without leaving their homes, LuggageHero have put together a guide on How to Experience the World’s 10 Most Cultural Cities Virtually.
1. Tokyo – Cultural Score 8,805
Tokyo is a sprawling city with a lot to offer. Ancient temples, art galleries on top of skyscrapers and noisy, neon arcades. Luckily, it’s possible to experience a lot of what defines Tokyo online – perfect if you’ve put your trip to Japan on hold this summer.
If you’re a fan of Miyazaki movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, you need to check out the virtual tours of the Ghibli Museum. These are more walk-throughs on Youtube, but the Museum is notoriously elusive – photography is banned – so these videos are an excellent alternative for animation fans. If you’re interested in retro games and anime culture, jump on this virtual tour of the Akihabara area. The tour costs £14.86 and takes you round arcades, anime stores and shops stacked with video-game merch.
2. Paris – Cultural Score 4,206
If you can’t get to Paris this summer, bring Paris to you instead. The City of Lights is a cultural powerhouse, defined by its architecture, art and history, and one which is fantastic to visit even if only virtually. Many of Paris’ iconic cultural spots can be viewed online, and it’s easy to cultivate a virtual dream trip regardless of interests.
Lovers of religious history and architecture can tour the bright, glowing glory that is Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, where virtual tours, ran in English, paint such a vivid picture you’ll feel like you’re stood on the Butte Montmartre, with beautiful Paris sprawling behind you. Fans of the theatre and arts need to visit the Palais Garnier, or Opéra de Paris – one of the most gorgeous buildings in the world which you can tour through one of four virtual experiences, one of which will take you to a mysterious underground lake! If you love fine art, take a virtual tour of the Musée du Louvre, with offers three educational visit packages to rival the real thing.
3. London – Cultural Score 3,704
London is known for its culture. Aside from the wonderful architecture, bustling theatre and nightlife scene, London boasts some of the best museums and galleries in the world. Thankfully, many of these cultural spots can be experienced from the comfort of your own sofa.
If you’re interested in other cultures and world history, then look no further than this tour of the British Museum. There’s also a slick online tool that lets you browse museum artifacts by century, continent and theme – you might actually learn more this way than you would actually visit! London is also defined by its architecture – the mix of Georgian town houses, old-English pubs and grand glass skyscrapers, which you can experience through the Visit London’s tours, which provides an all encompassing, 360 degree view of some of London’s most iconic spots.
4. New York City – Cultural Score 2,119
Culture in New York City means something different to everyone. For some, the city is all about shopping, for others architecture and art, for the rest the nightlife and the food. So how to experience the bustle of the Big Apple without ever hopping on a plane?
There’s a few ways to get a real feel for the city from your home. This nerve-wracking helicopter tour through the towers of Manhattan is a great way to get to know the city from above. NYC is a real paradise for art lovers – arguably, it’s the best city in the world for modern art – and you can get wonderful tours of MOMA and the Guggenheim through Google’s Arts and Culture feature. Get a real insight for what New York City is like by watching classic movies too – Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Manhattan make a good start!
5. Istanbul – Cultural Score 1,984
Opulent Ottoman palaces, museums filled with relics of the ancient worlds – Istanbul boasts an impressive array of cultural touchstones, and there’s enough to keep any traveller occupied for a long time. Fortunately, many of these can be experienced online.
If you’re interested in religious history or architecture, the iconic Hagia Sophia can be toured online here. Likewise, you can find a tour of spectacular Dolmabahçe Palace here. The Pera Museum, a must for art-lovers, can be found on Google Arts and Culture too.
6. Osaka – Cultural Score 1,708
Osaka is an attractive and energetic city, defined by canal-side streets of glowing, Blade Runner-style neon and an excellent culinary culture. Being a smaller city than Tokyo, less of Osaka can be found online, but you can see one of Japan’s best landmarks online.
Osaka Castle is an impressive landmark with a lot of history, one which played a key role in the unification of Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. If you love architecture and history, the castle can be toured virtually.
7. Milan – Cultural Score 1,480
Milan is a wonderful balance of the old and new. The city mixes culinary perfection with stunning architecture and a thriving fashion scene. A city where you can shop for the finest designer brands in the morning, see The Last Supper in the afternoon and head out for a fantastic calzone by the evening. But can you experience this culture without actually visiting?
Well, yes! In fact, Milan is one of the best cities in Europe for a virtual tour. The iconic Milan Duomo is open to online tourists for a quick two minute tour here. The Last Supper can be viewed with a virtual paid tour, costing around £9, via Eventbrite. This is handy, as it’s actually pretty difficult to get tickets to see The Last Supper in real life!
8. Barcelona – Cultural Score 1,321
Barcelona is a vibrant, colourful city, defined by its gorgeous Gaudi architecture, street-side Sangria and sun-drenched Gothic alleyways of the Jewish quarter. There’s a lot going on in Barcelona, much of which is available online. This means that you can get a pretty authentic Barcelona experience from your own home!
If you love Gaudi’s architecture, then start with a Google tour of Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside, but you get a pretty authentic sense of the place through Maps. Follow this by visiting Park Güell, one of the biggest bucket list sights in Barcelona. And if architecture isn’t your thing, football fans can take a virtual tour of Camp Nou.
9. Seoul – Cultural Score 1,158
Seoul is a thoroughly modern city and global economic super-centre, known for its cutting edge technology, fantastic K-pop nightlife and wonderful food. Luckily, you can enjoy this fast-paced East Asian metropolis whilst sitting at home in your pyjamas with a few handy virtual tours.
Firstly, get to know a bit of Seoul’s history with a virtual trip through the National Folk Museum of Korea. Culinary explorers can virtually learn to make the city’s best dish, kimchi, here. And fans of K-pop need to check out Facebook for some epic 360-degree concert experiences.
10. Bangkok – Cultural Score 982
Everyone at some point has spent some time in Bangkok. Often the entry point into Asia, Bangkok is a huge, messy and sprawling 24-hour city, defined by its excellent food and crazy nightlife. Can you capture this buzz through a computer screen?
Whilst a lot of Bangkok needs to be experienced first hand, you can visit one of Bangkok’s biggest cultural spots – the Grand Palace – online! Perfect if you want to experience the fantastic Thai architecture without the hassle of the crowds.
Cultural Cities Methodology
Cultural Scores calculated by taking the most visited cities in the Mastercard 2019 global report and scoring them on different criteria from Tripadvisor – i.e. Sights and Landmarks, Museums, Nature and Parks, Architectural Buildings, Art Galleries, Sacred and Religious Sites, Theatres, Food and Drink, Nightlight, Concerts and Shows.