We design and implement a quantum laboratory to experimentally observe and study dynamical processes of quantum field theories. Our approach encodes the field theory as an Ising model, which is then solved by a quantum annealer. As a proof-of-concept, we encode a scalar field theory and measure the probability for it to tunnel from the false to the true vacuum for various tunnelling times, vacuum displacements and potential profiles. The results are in accord with those predicted theoretically, showing that a quantum annealer is a genuine quantum system that can be used as a quantum laboratory. This is the first time it has been possible to experimentally measure instanton processes in a freely chosen quantum field theory. This novel and flexible method to study the dynamics of quantum systems can be applied to any field theory of interest. Experimental measurements of the dynamical behaviour of field theories are independent of theoretical calculations and can be used to infer their properties without being limited by the availability of suitable perturbative or nonperturbative computational methods. In the near future, measurements in such a quantum laboratory could therefore be used to improve theoretical and computational methods conceptually and may enable the measurement and detailed study of previously unobserved quantum phenomena.