How to use Google Street View – the free and easy way to see the world

If you haven't used Google Street View yet, you're missing out...

The surface area of the Earth is 509 million square kilometres – and unfortunately, life is too short to explore it all.

Thankfully, Google Street View is on hand to show you some of the far corners of the world – all from the comfort of your home, and for free, too. Come see the world, armchair explorers!

[Read more: How to plan your route on Google Maps]

Google Street View is a 360-degree explorer service which allows you to navigate around roads, forests and even inside some public spaces, from Buckingham Palace to the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi.

To create Street View, Google attaches sophisticated 360-degree cameras to cars, bikes and backpacks. Then it explores all different parts of the globe, from Brazilian rainforests to cul-de-sacs in Chiswick, to capture as many images as it can. 

Since their launch, these cameras have captured more than 10 million miles of road and taken more than 80 billion photos. 

The images are then stitched together and uploaded online, where we can all explore them using either our internet browser or the Google Maps app for smartphones and tablets.

Street View is an extension of Google Maps, but it can sometimes be tricky to find. Here we show you how to get started, whether you’re using a computer or a mobile device. Watch our video below to find out more.

[Read more: 7 great tips and tricks for getting more out of Google Maps]

How to use Google Street View on a computer

Step 1: Launch Street View

First, go to Google Maps.

Type in the name of the place you want to look around in the top left box – for example, we visited Trafalgar Square.

How to use Google Street View

In the bottom right corner, you should see a yellow man.

How to use Google Street View

Clicking on the yellow man will turn the roads you are able to explore blue. Blue dots indicate off-road areas you can also look around.

To explore, drag the yellow man to a spot on the map and let go to drop him there.

 How to use Google Street View

Step 2: Go exploring

Your view will now change from a map to real photos of the area.

To navigate around, simply click, hold and drag the mouse in the desired direction (or use the arrow keys on your keyboard if you prefer).

How to use Google Street View

An arrow may appear on the ground. Click it to move forward.

You can also use your mouse’s scroll button to zoom in and out.

Step 3: Go back in time

Google is constantly updating Street View to keep images fresh. But you can also step back in time and glance at older images as far back as 2007.

If older Street View images are available, you will see a small clock icon in the top left box.

How to use Google Street View

Click on this and use the timeline that appears, with a slider to choose the date you want. Once you’ve decided, click the image above it and explore as normal.

How to use Google Street View

If at any point you want to return to a normal map view, click on back arrow in the top left-hand corner.

How to use Google Street View on a smartphone or tablet

Step 1: Launch Street View

Find the Google Maps app. If you don’t have it already, download it from Google Play.

How to use Google Street View

Search the location you want to explore in the top box, then tap the right suggestion listed below.

How to use Google Street View

When the map appears, tap and hold on an area until a red pointer appears. This drops a pin.

How to use Google Street View

Flick the bottom information box upwards and you should see a Street View image. Click it to explore from your phone or tablet.

How to use Google Street View

Step 2: Go exploring

Use your finger to look around the area and tap the arrows to move in a different direction.

To zoom in and out, do a pinch gesture.

How to use Google Street View

If you want to return to the map view, simply press the Back button on the bottom left of your screen.

[Read more: How to remove your face from Google Street View]

Amazing places to explore with Street View

Now you’ve got the hang of Street View, why not look around some of these extraordinary areas which are all covered:

HMS Ocelot submarine

The El Capitan cliff in California’s Yosemite National Park

National Trust sites across Britain

Loch Ness

Elephants and Lions at the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya (external link) 

The Northern Lights in Finland (external link)

The Eiffel Tower (external link)

[Read more: Explore the solar system using Google Maps]

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