If you’ve read our blog before, you’ll be aware that we love all things VR, including virtual reality tourism… We Brits love a holiday and since March 2020, with travel plans being rudely interrupted by a certain pandemic, for a lot of us the desire to get away has never been stronger. VR tourism has stepped into the gap left by in person tourism, and it’s fantastic. So many amazing places are now available to be explored through the medium of virtual reality, and this week we are focusing our attention on virtual tours of some rather special places. Take a look at these 8 spectacular buildings you can visit in virtual reality (VR).
- Close your eyes and imagine the sound of castanets in the distance, as the sun beats down on your face. When you open your eyes, you are standing in front of Casa Battlo, Antonio Gaudi’s fantastical mansion. Locally this creation is known as ‘the house of bones’ due to its slim bone-like columns and the skull-like masks that hang over the balconies. This building boasts an undulating iridescent sealed roof, and a coral reef coloured facade. Inside, you can expect to be wowed by the stained glass, the curvaceous walls and blue tiles. One of the great thing about touring buildings virtually is that you can skip the climb up the spiral staircase, and with a simple click, transport yourself to the rooftop that provides you with panoramic views. This building is a delight for the senses!
- For a building of a completely different flavour, you can take a tour of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s 242 hectare estate in Taliesin, Wisconsin. Not familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright? He’s the man who designed the Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater amongst others. Of his estate, he wrote that “no other landscape cradles you as do these south-western Wisconsin hills”. This tour takes you through the loggia and living room, into the Hillside Assembly Hall. The Hall is built from local sandstone and oak timber, and the large windows showcase the glorious views.
- Next up, we’re feeling the heat in Australia! This building was designed in the 1980’s and was 10 years in the making. The Bubble House in Karalee was the brainchild of architect Graham Birchall, and just like the other houses on the list, it is unique. It’s made up of 11 domes, all of which are between 4-8 metres in size. Within these domes are 16 rooms including a fireplace, bathrooms with whirlpool baths, a bar and a cinema. Fun fact: Graham Birchall lived in this house for 30 years. When he decided to sell up, he had thousands of inquiries about the property. Having to self isolate might not be such a terrible thing within these walls!
- And now, for a total temperature change with the Dominion Tower in Moscow. Whilst bordering on the more modest end of the scale, this tower is pretty special. It opened in 2015, and has been built with a really playful style of geometry. On the virtual tour, you can delight in the cleverness of the tower’s staggered levels and monochrome, looping staircase. The architect who designed this, Zaha Hadid won the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2016, less than 2 months before she died. Her legacy is spread all over the world in the form of futuristic, curvaceous buildings including the London Aquatics Centre and the Guangzhou Opera House.
- For something, a little more romantic- or at least romantically named, why not take a tour of the Castle in Love with the Wind, in Ravadinovo, Bulgaria? This faux medieval palace by the seaside has a lot of character, although perhaps not in the way you would usually expect! The interior is pretty kitsch, with a sense of fun- take the faux baroque wine cellar that comes with fake cobwebs on the picture frames, which looks like a cross between a grotto and banquet hall. Outside in the garden, you can enjoy palm trees, plant covered towers, ponds and statues.
- Another great virtual reality tour to undertake is of Jaipur’s City Palace. The palace was built in the 1700’s by Jai Singh II, who built observatories in many Indian cities and founded modern Jaipur. This is another stunning building, showcasing the warm peach colour sandstone of Jaipur and the elegance of Mughal architecture. One of the tour highlights is the private audience hall, featuring marble floors, graceful arches and painted walls. You also get to check out one of the world’s largest silver pots! This was commissioned by a maharaja in order to transport 8,000 litres of holy water from the Ganges to Britain. And who knows, you may even get the chance to stay here in real life one day. Padmanabh Singh (polo player and maharaja of Jaipur) has listed a suite in the palace on Airbnb before, for a whopping £6k a night which was donated to charity.
- A slightly more modest offering now, but jam packed with history – Anne of Cleves House, in Lewes, Sussex. As you might expect from an English building of the period, it’s timber framed with beautiful exposed beams throughout. This mansion was given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII after their marriage was annulled, along with Hever Castle, Richmond Palace and other properties. Given Henry VIII’s track record with his Queens, it’s safe to say Anne of Cleves did pretty well! The tour begins in the grounds of the mansion, so the viewer can appreciate the garden full of foxgloves and spreading trees, before heading into a show us round a Tudor kitchen. The stairs in this property are steep, so it’s just as well you don’t need to climb them in order to see the high beamed bedroom with a beautifully carved four poster bed.
- We’re finishing on a big one… how about a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles? If you want a tour that’s going to keep you occupied for a while, this might be the tour for you! The corridors are lined with artworks that you can zoom in on. And not any old art, but artworks by the likes of Veronase and Jacques Louis David, mind you. And let’s not forget the statues and the trompe-l’oeil murals. On this tour, you can transport yourself into the mesmerising Hall of Mirrors, where 357 mirrors reflect 73 metres of crystal and gilded bronze. The baroque (and you can be sure it’s all real here) ceiling celebrates Louis XIV and is a treat for the eyes. If you need to get out and about for some reinvigorating fresh air, you can use google maps to explore the maze-like groves and the lakeside. The gardens are full of fountains and statues and you can definitely lose yourself here for a while.
We think it’s amazing that there are so many fascinating places available to tour virtually. As well as being able to simply see and tour these gems of buildings, there are so many perks to viewing in VR. You don’t need to worry about costs, carbon footprint, visas, covid tests or travel admin. Simply click and enjoy! Your only real concern perhaps, is where to visit first…
If you’ve just developed the VR travel bug, check out our blog here for some more ideas of where to visit next.