London

The Ultimate Guide to visiting the national gallery

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4.7 Stars out of 5 based on 38912 Reviewsarrow

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Everyday: 10:00AM to 6:00PM

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Time Needed: 4 hours

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Fridays: 10:00AM to 9:00PM

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Price: Free

With the likes of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Monet, and Van Gogh lining its walls, it’s no wonder why millions of art lovers flock to the National Gallery in London each year.

Not only is the National Gallery one of the most famous art museums in the world, it also contains some of the biggest and most diverse painting collections on the planet, with artwork from the French Impressionists, the Italian Renaissance, the late medieval period and much more.

Located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery’s location was chosen specifically because the historic square is considered by many to be the “heart” of central London. Originally, however, the National Gallery was located in a small Pall Mall townhouse which was owned by John Julius Angerstein (whose 38 paintings were the first to be added to the gallery), but due to the collections’ massive expansion, it was eventually moved to Trafalgar Square in 1838.

Not just limited to artwork, today the National Gallery hosts numerous temporary exhibits throughout the year, as well as family workshops for children, and even regular concerts.

 

London National Gallery Artwork
National Gallery Artwork
National Gallery Interior
National Gallery exterior
Entrance Nationa Gallery
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National Gallery Highlights

Some of the many world-famous works of art you can expect to see at the National Gallery include:

  • “The Virgin of the Rocks” (Leonardo da Vinci, around 1491/2-9 and 1506-8)
  • “A Young Woman standing at a Virginal” (1670-2, Johannes Vermeer)
  • “The Arnolfini Portrait” (Jan van Eyck, 1434)
  • “The Toilet of Venus” (‘The Rokeby Venus’) (Diego Velázquez, 1647-51)
  • “The Fighting Temeraire” (Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1839)
  • “Sunflowers” (Vincent van Gogh,1888)
  • “Venus and Mars” (Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485)
  • “Bacchus and Ariadne” (Titian, 1520-3)
  • “Bathers at La Grenouillère” (1869, Claude Monet)
  • “The Supper at Emmaus” (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1601)
  • “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” (Anthony van Dyck, circa 1637-8)
  • “Samson and Delilah” (Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1609-10)
  • “Self Portrait at the Age of 34” (Rembrandt, 1640)
  • “The Baptism of Christ” (Piero della Francesca, 1450s)
  • “The Madonna of the Pinks” (‘La Madonna dei Garofani’) (Raphael, circa 1506-7)

 

Special Tips

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If you want to purchase an audio tour, it's cheaper if you combine one tour with the Collection audio tour package.

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If you like podcasts, then make sure you download the National Gallery podcast for more background information about the art that is currently displayed, as well as tours you can listen to during your visit.

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Perhaps it may go without saying, but reserve at least half an hour before or after your visit to the museum to check out Trafalgar Square; (and make sure you snap some photos of Nelson's Column, one of the most iconic landmarks in London!)

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There is a National Gallery Membership which costs £50, so members can get free entry into exhibitions for 12 months, and also take part in Members'-only events and special offers.

Getting There

getting there

Address

London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom (See map).

getting there

By Tube

The nearest station is Charing Cross (which is a one-minute walk away) and Leicester Square (which is a three-minute walk away).

getting there

By Train

The nearest station is Charing Cross, which is a three-minute walk away.

getting there

By Bus

You can reach the National Gallery via routes 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 24, 87, 91, 139, and 176, all of which stop at Trafalgar Square.

Visiting National Gallery

Recommended visiting time is around three to four hours, but you may need and/or want to reserve the entire day for exploring the galleries in their entirety.

Photography throughout the National Gallery is usually allowed, but for personal and non-commercial purposes only. Photography in the exhibitions as well as the use of flash photography, tripods and selfie sticks are strictly prohibited.

Be aware that you won’t be allowed to carry any bags on your backs while visiting the gallery, but you can leave your personal items in the cloakroom for a small fee.

If you’re worried about missing any important artwork and/or you’re short on time, The National Gallery provides a variety of audio tours which focus on a specific topic or theme:

  • The Collection Tour (where you can create your own personalized audio tour and walk around the museum at your own pace).
  • The Essential Audio Tour (which covers some of the most famous paintings in the collection).
  • The Sounds of the Gallery (where you can listen to sounds like the ringing of church bells or the River Thames and ignite all your senses when looking at a painting).
  • The Manet to Picasso Tour (which focuses on artwork from the 19th century).
  • The Art in the Making Tour (which covers various modern scientific techniques which were used to create the artwork in the collection).
  • The Be Inspired Tour (where interviewees talk about artwork that has inspired them to write, sculpt, paint or even cook).
  • The Life of Christ audio tour (which covers artwork depicting Jesus Christ’s birth, life and death).

If you want to purchase an audio tour, visit one of the Audio Guide desks which are located at the Sainsbury Wing Level 2 and the Portico Entrance.

You can also download and print out different “trails” from the museum’s official website which lead you to the various collections in the museum; however, you will need to print off the documents at home or at a nearby internet cafe as the Information Desks will be unable to print them for you.


Ticket Costs

The National Gallery is free to enter, and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except on January 1st, December 24th, December 25th and December 26th). The National Gallery stays open later on Fridays (until 9 p.m.)

The National Gallery hosts ten-minute talks by art experts which take place from Monday to Friday at 4 p.m. The talks last ten minutes and cover specific topics, artwork, themes and artists, depending on when you visit; (for more information check out the National Gallery’s official website).

There are also free daily guided tours which take place at:

  • 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Monday to Friday)
  • 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)

The Cloakroom is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and costs:

  • £1 (for coats and small bags)
  • £4 for large bags (max. 66 cm x 43 cm).

The National Gallery audio tours cost:

  • £4 for adults
  • £3.50 for seniors and students
  • £2 for groups of ten or more people
  • £10 for families (consisting of two adults and up to three children under the ages of 12)

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