What is the difference between 参观 and 游览. I know they have a similar meaning but are distinct in some ways (i.e. you can 参观 some places and 游览 others)?
The main distinction is that 游览 implies a sense of "to leisurely journey":
- the traditional meaning of 游览 is "to go sightseeing" by leisurely moving around while looking at scenery, famous sites, etc; e.g. 我昨天去游览西湖, "I went sightseeing around the West Lake yesterday."
- a second meaning of 游览 is to specifically go on a trip to visit a place; e.g. 我要參團去游览故宮, "I am going to join a tour group to visit Palace Museum."
- 参观 on the other hand means to look at things at a specific place; e.g. 我想去參觀故宮, "I want to tour the Palace Museum."
The second meaning of 游览 may seem like it overlaps with 参观 somewhat. It does, but there's an important distinction in that 游览 implies a sense of journeying (i.e. as a part of a tour group), whereas 参观 doesn't imply that at all.
If you're going to a housewarming party, you wouldn't talk about going to 游览 their neighbour's new house. It is perfectly fine to talk about 参观 the house, however. In contrast, a tour group might advertise itself as "taking you to 游览 Hobbiton in New Zealand". Then once you've arrived, the tour guide might say "next we will 参观 Hobbiton".
If in doubt, use 参观.
参观 is to visit, look around, more formal (I would say not just for fun). 游览 is for 游客(tourist) to tour, more casual.
For some museum, you can use both 参观 and 游览. But for example, you can 参观(watch) people do something, but not 游览 them.
Yes, their meaning is similar, but still not identical.
参观 is close to
游览 is close to
And other than
游览's first word
游 impresses some amusing thing, so you can't use it for some solemn places such as memorial or museum. For example, you can say
我参观了毛主席纪念堂(Chairman Mao Memorial Hall)., but not
First let's look at 游览
[compound: 游 play + 览 see] VERB go sightseeing, tour for pleasure
每年很多人去香港游览。 Měi nián hěn duō rén qù Xiānggǎng yóulǎn. Every year many people go to Hong Kong on holiday.
游览者 yóulǎnzhě tourist
[compound: 参 call + 观 watch, see] VERB visit (a place)
这个古迹十分有名, 每天有很多人来参观。 Zhège gǔjì shífēn yǒumíng, měi tiān yǒu hěn duō rén lái cānguān. This historical site is well known. Many people come to visit it every day.
我在中国的时候, 参观了很多学校。 Wǒ zài Zhōngguó de shíhou, cānguānle hěn duō xuéxiào. I visited many schools when I was in China.
学生们去参观博物馆。 Xuéshengmen qù cānguān bówùguǎn. The students went to visit the museum.
Basically: they both mean tour but 游览 means like sight-seeing while 参观 means to tour a specific place (tour a factory, tour a museum)