Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Located along the Atlantic Seaboard, Virginia was one of the original 13 colonies that established the United States. At the time of European contact, the area was home largely to Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Powhatan confederacy. English settlements like Jamestown were established in the early 17th century, with the name ‘Virginia’ being a reference to Elizabeth I, ‘the Virgin Queen’. Several of the most prominent figures in the American Revolution, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were Virginians. Its economy reliant heavily on slave labour, Virginia joined the Confederacy in 1861, with the Virginian city of Richmond becoming the secessionists’ capital. In the ensuing Civil War, Virginia saw more battles than any other state and it was here that the Confederate leaders surrendered in 1865.

Archaeology & History Sites in Virginia

Belle Grove Plantation

Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the Belle Grove Plantation was established by the Hite family, who had arrived in North America from Germany. The plantation house was built in the 1790s; the wider plantation then relied on a workforce of nearly 300 enslaved people. In 1851 the plantation passed from Hite family ownership and in 1864 it was caught up in the Battle of Cedar Creek. The house now forms part of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park, with much of the former plantation still used for agricultural purposes.

Colonial Williamsburg

The first reconstructions of Colonial Williamsburg were carried out in the 1920s, today this is one of the biggest living history projects in the US and is a major tourist attraction in the area. This 122 hectare historical area has many restored buildings from the 17th century and more recent reconstructions to allow visitors to experience the capital of colonial Virginia. Costumed employees work on three main streets to create an atmosphere and circumstances of 18th-century America. Visitors are free to wander the streets, but charges apply for entering historic buildings, such as the courthouse a well as various taverns and shops.

Historic Jamestown

Historic Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America. Open throughout the year, visitors can tour recent excavations of James Fort and principal buildings, and get to see some of the best of over two million excavated artefacts now on display in the Archaearium museum. A number of churches have stood on the site. The foundations of the third church, which was also housed the first representative assembly of English North America, can be seen beneath the floor of the twentieth century Memorial Church building.

Historic Yorktown & Battlefield

Yorktown is a picturesque and historic waterside town, which played a pivotal role in winning the American Revolution War (also known as the American War of Independence) for the North American colonies against Great Britain. For it was here that General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in October 1781. On the edge of the town is the Yorktown Battlefield and Visitor Center, from where you can take tours of the battlefields, Washington’s Headquarters, the Yorktown Victory Monument, and the Moore House where surrender terms were negotiated.


Probably the most famous plantation in the country, Monticello was home to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson oversaw construction of his plantation house in the 1760s but continued to alter and expand his creation over the coming decades, reflecting his interest in the Neo-Classical architectural style that he encountered in Europe. Worked by enslaved people, the broader plantation grew tobacco and then wheat. Since 1987 Monticello has formed part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shirley Plantation

Established in 1613, Shirley was the first plantation in the English colony of Virginia. The plantation initially relied on indentured laborers from Britain but later switched to the use of enslaved Africans, although no residences where these workers lived survive today. The surviving plantation house, built in the Georgian style, was completed in 1738. The Shirley Plantation remains privately owned, having the distinction of being the oldest family-owned business in the country. Descendants of its 17th-century owners still reside in the house, which can be visited as part of a guided tour.

Museums & Art Galleries in Virginia

Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk

Over 30,000 objects represent some 5,000 years of World history. Contemporary and modern American and European arts make up the core of the Chrysler Museum of Art’s collection, but it also has artefects from the ancient world, Asia, Africa, and Pre-Columbian America (notably a large collection of Maya ceramics) that are well worth seeing. About a third of the museum’s collection is made up of glass objects, spanning 3,000 years – making this one of the largest collections of glass in the World. The museum is open everyday of the week except Mondays, and general admission is free of charge.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

With over 33,000 art objects, the Virginia Museum of Fine arts prides itself in having something in its collection from every major culture in the World. A collection of 50 paintings owned by local judge John Barton Payne formed the founding collection of the Museum. Since then the museum has grown rapidly, with an increasingly diverse collection being housed in an ever growing institution. The collection has a large collection of African artefacts, ancient art including Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Byzantine, as well as ancient American and South Asian arts. The museum is open throughout the year and is free to visit.