12 World-Class Museums You Can Visit Online

A virtual tour of the Vatican Museums lets you view its splendor without the crowds.
A virtual tour of the Vatican Museums lets you view its splendor without the crowds.
malouette, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

While it’s hard to beat the experience of seeing a seminal piece of fine art or important historical artifact with your own two eyes, you could easily spend a lifetime traveling the world in search of all of them. Fortunately, the digital age has made it possible—easy, even—to visit some of the world’s most famous museums from the comfort of your own home. Here are a dozen of them.

1. The Louvre

The Louvre is not only one of the world’s largest art museums, but it’s also one of Paris’s most iconic historic monuments. The museum offers free online tours of some of its most important and popular exhibits, such as its Egyptian Antiquities and works from Michelangelo. You can take a 360-degree look at the museum, and click around the rare artifacts to get additional information on their histories.

2. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The inside of the Solomon R Guggenheim museum.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While the architecture of the Guggenheim’s building itself, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is quite impressive, you don’t have to visit the Big Apple to get an up-close view of some of the priceless pieces of artwork inside. The museum makes some of its collections and exhibits available online for people who want to get a taste of what the museum has to offer, including works from Franz Marc, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Jeff Koons.

3. The National Gallery of Art

Founded in 1937, the National Gallery of Art is free and open to the general public. For those who aren’t in Washington, D.C., it also provides virtual tours of its gallery and exhibits. You can view its current exhibitions and listen to audio and video recordings of past lectures online.

4. The British Museum

With a collection that totals more than 8 million objects, London’s British Museum makes some of its pieces viewable online. The museum also teamed up with the Google Cultural Institute to offer virtual tours using Google Street View technology.

5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

A virtual tour of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History lets you experience its exhibits without the crowds.Alex Proimos, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History, one of the most-visited museums in the world, offers a peek at its wonderful treasures with an online virtual tour of the entire grounds. Viewers are welcomed into its rotunda and are greeted with a comprehensive room-by-room, 360-degree walking tour of all its exceptional exhibits, including the Hall of Mammals, Insect Zoo, and Dinosaurs and Hall of Paleobiology.

6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met is home to over 2 million works of fine art, but you don’t have to be in New York City to enjoy them. The institution’s website features an online collection and virtual tours of some of its most impressive pieces, including works from Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Giotto di Bondone. In addition, The Met also works with the Google Cultural Institute to make even more artwork (that’s not featured in its own online collection) available for view.

7. The Dalí Theatre-Museum

Located in the town of Figueres in Catalonia, Spain, the Dalí Theatre-Museum is completely dedicated to the artwork of Salvador Dalí. It features many rooms and exhibits surrounding every era of Dalí’s life and career, and the artist himself is buried here. The museum offers virtual tours of the grounds and a few exhibits.

8. NASA

Pilot your own virtual tour at Space Center Houston.Bryan SJS, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

NASA offers free virtual tours of the Langley Research Center in Virginia, as well as of Ohio’s Glenn Research Center. The Space Center Houston also has an app that provides virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, and videos and audio stories about space exploration.

9. The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums feature an extensive collection of important art and classical sculptures curated by the Popes over many centuries. You can take a virtual tour of the museum grounds and iconic exhibits, including Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

10. The National Women’s History Museum

The mission statement of the National Women’s History Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, is to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future “by integrating women’s distinctive history and culture in the United States.” Part of that mission is delivered through well-curated online exhibits and oral histories.

11. The National Museum of the United States Air Force

As its name suggests, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force. Centered on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, it houses a wide array of military weapons and aircraft, including the presidential airplanes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. The museum also offers free virtual tours of its entire grounds, letting you glimpse objects like decommissioned aircraft from World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War.

12. The Google Art Project

To help its users discover and view important artworks online in high resolution and detail, Google partnered with more than 1200 cultural institutions from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art and to provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. The Google Art Project features fine art from the White House, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and even São Paulo street art from Brazil. Here’s a complete list of museums you can visit virtually.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

1. Apple AirPods Pro; $219

Apple

You may not know it by looking at them, but these tiny earbuds by Apple offer HDR sound, 30 hours of noise cancellation, and powerful bass, all through Bluetooth connectivity. These trendy, sleek AirPods will even read your messages and allow you to share your audio with another set of AirPods nearby.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

2. Sony Zx220bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones (Open Box - Like New); $35

Sony

For the listener who likes a traditional over-the-ear headphone, this set by Sony will give you all the same hands-free calling, extended battery power, and Bluetooth connectivity as their tiny earbud counterparts. They have a swivel folding design to make stashing them easy, a built-in microphone for voice commands and calls, and quality 1.18-inch dome drivers for dynamic sound quality.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

3. Sony Xb650bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones; $46

Sony

This Sony headphone model stands out for its extra bass and the 30 hours of battery life you get with each charge. And in between your favorite tracks, you can take hands-free calls and go seamlessly back into the music.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

4. Martha Stewart 8-quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker; $65

Martha Stewart

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new pressure cooker, this 8-quart model from Martha Stewart comes with 14 presets, a wire rack, a spoon, and a rice measuring cup to make delicious dinners using just one appliance.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

5. Jashen V18 350w Cordless Vacuum Cleaner; $180

Jashen

If you're obsessive about cleanliness, it's time to lose the vacuum cord and opt for this untethered model from JASHEN. Touting a 4.3-star rating from Amazon, the JASHEN cordless vacuum features a brushless motor with strong suction, noise optimization, and a convenient wall mount for charging and storage.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

6. Evachill Ev-500 Personal Air Conditioner; $65

Evachill

This EvaChill personal air conditioner is an eco-friendly way to cool yourself down in any room of the house. You can set it up at your work desk at home, and in just a few minutes, this portable cooling unit can drop the temperature by 59º. All you need to do is fill the water tank and plug in the USB cord.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

7. Gourmia Gcm7800 Brewdini 5-Cup Cold Brew Coffee Maker; $120

Gourmia

The perfect cup of cold brew can take up to 12 hours to prepare, but this Gourmia Cold Brew Coffee Maker can do the job in just a couple of minutes. It has a strong suction that speeds up brew time while preserving flavor in up to five cups of delicious cold brew at a time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

8. Townew: The World's First Self-Sealing Trash Can; $90

Townew

Never deal with handling gross garbage again when you have this smart bin helping you in the kitchen. With one touch, the Townew will seal the full bag for easy removal. Once you grab the neatly sealed bag, the Townew will load in a new clean one on its own.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

9. Light Smart Solar Powered Parking Sensor (Two-Pack); $155

FenSens

Parking sensors are amazing, but a lot of cars require a high trim to access them. You can easily upgrade your car—and parking skills—with this solar-powered parking sensor. It will give you audio and visual alerts through your phone for the perfect parking job every time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

10. Liz: The Smart Self-Cleaning Bottle With UV Sterilization; $46

Noerden

Reusable water bottles are convenient and eco-friendly, but they’re super inconvenient to get inside to clean. This smart water bottle will clean itself with UV sterilization to eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. That’s what makes it clean, but the single-tap lid for temperature, hydration reminders, and an anti-leak functionality are what make it smart.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

What the Color Codes on Toothpaste Tubes Really Mean

PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images
PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images

Packaging details—like the circles on chip bags and the symbols on cosmetics labels—can be mystifying to the average consumer. For years, a graphic has circulated the internet claiming to explain the hidden meaning behind the colored markings on the bottom of toothpaste tubes. While it's true that those color codes are there for a reason, the reason is much less interesting than the online rumors suggest.

According to Snopes, a widely-shared image on social media alleges that the colors on the seams of toothpaste tubes correlate to certain types of ingredients. The picture shows four different colored markings, with green meaning natural, blue indicating natural and medicine, red meaning natural and chemical composition, and black signifying pure chemical.

This "decoding" isn't based in truth, however. The markings on toothpaste packaging have nothing to do with the ingredients inside the tube—and even if they did, classifications like natural and chemical are too vague to mean anything. The real reason the colors are there is to aid the machinery responsible for putting the packaging together. The tiny colored rectangles are actually called eye marks or color marks, and they tell light beam sensors where a tube needs to be cut or folded. Once the toothpaste reaches the store, the markings no longer serve a purpose.

If you do want to know more about the ingredients in your toothpaste, it's not as hard as deciphering a mysterious code. "Oral care companies don’t mark their toothpastes with colored squares to try to trick consumers and hide ingredients from them," Colgate writes on its website. "If you want to know what kind of ingredients your toothpaste has, don’t look for a colored block at the end of the tube. Instead, take a look at the packaging for a comprehensive list of ingredients."

You can find the ingredients in your toothpaste listed on the outer box and/or the tube itself—and you don't need to know any secret codes to read them.

[h/t Snopes]