The National Gallery in London provides the public free access to over 2300 paintings created by famous and relatively unknown emerging artists from all over the world. Walking through the various rooms, guests are greeted with unique and engaging paintings, along with special exhibits that often include works from world-renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci.

The Gallery is accessible for all types of visitors, with art-themed activities for children during the holidays, informative audio guides, educational lectures, regular film screenings, and seating for those wanting to sit and take in the artwork for as long as they wish. Additional services are available for anyone wishing to extend their stay, with three excellent places to eat and drink, and a gift shop selling prints of the Gallery’s artwork and educational books. Depending on your priorities, the National Gallery can be somewhere you visit quickly before another attraction or where you lose three hours.

Highlights

  • Artwork – The National Gallery houses 66 rooms of artwork, each with their own theme of place, time, or artist. No matter your level of passion or experience, there’s a good chance of finding art you’ve never seen before and you’ll never forget seeing. Painters such as, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Claude Monet, are represented, as well as the less famous but equally as talented artists. Audio guides provide detailed information about paintings in the Gallery, so you can move at your own pace, looking at and learning about the inspiring artwork. Comfortable seats are provided in most of the rooms, which are great for art enthusiasts wanting to spend more time appreciating certain pieces or tired children.

  • Talks and Tours – When it comes to talks and tours, the National Gallery provides extensive options that cater to everyone’s needs. 10-minute talks are held Monday-Friday at 4pm and include small chunks of information about the Gallery, paintings and artists. Lunchtime talks are run throughout the year and last about 30 minutes, exploring one particular painting or a wider range. These two options are great for anyone with a busy schedule. There are also 60-minute guided tours that focus on the more prominent works in the Gallery; a selection of different audio guide tours that look at different areas, artists, and paintings; and very educational mini tours, which cover the Renaissance period, Impressionism, or the Life of Christ. All of these talks and tours are free.

  • Families – The National Gallery prides itself on accommodating families. Guests with young children don’t have to worry about younger audiences being bored by the artwork; there are a lot of exciting options available to keep children entertained. Activities and workshops are held during school holidays and on Sundays for children aged 1-11. Children under 5 can enjoy the Gallery through songs, play and stories, while children between 5 and 11 are able to partake in drawing and other creative workshops. There are also family tours run during school holidays that focus on entertaining and educating all ages.

Tips

  • Where to Eat – There are three possible places to eat in the Gallery, each catering to different types of meals. The Espresso Bar is a great spot to grab something light or a quick coffee. It has computers that can be used to browse the art in the Gallery, which makes it a great place to start your visit to plan out what and where you want to see. The National Café is best for lunch and afternoon tea, and the National Dining Rooms offer a fine dining atmosphere for lunch and dinner. Main meals in the National Dining Rooms cost about £18, which is a very reasonable price for London.
  • Gift Shops – The National Gallery contains three gift shops that, among other things, sell prints of the Gallery’s priceless artwork, educational books, and gifts for students. The gift shop in the Sainsbury Wing allows visitors to immediately make prints of paintings they might have seen that day. These start at £17.50 for an A4 size print.
  • Groups – Groups are more than welcome at the National Gallery. School group visits can be booked by calling 020 7747 2424 at least 4 weeks in advance. Rooms can also be booked for students to eat lunch. Adult group visits of 10-25 people can be booked by calling 020 7747 5915.
  • What’s On – Along with the permanent collection, the National Gallery also holds temporary exhibits throughout the year. A small cost is sometimes required to see these; however, fees are usually reserved for the more famous pieces of artwork. Make sure you look at the website before visiting to see what’s happening.

Transport

  • London Underground – The London Underground tube is the most cost-effective way to travel to the National Gallery. There are numerous options available. The best of these is to catch the Northern or Bakerloo line to Charing Cross Station, which is about 250 metres away. The next closest station is Piccadilly Circus, which can be reached by taking the Piccadilly or Bakerloo line. Anyone catching the District or Circle line should disembark at Embankment Station, which is about 500 metres away. Adult tickets for the tube start at £4.50, but the best option is to purchase an Oyster Card, which almost halves the cost of a ticket and can be loaded with money before traveling.
  • Hop-on Hop-off Bus – The Hop-on Hop-off Bus provides cheap and reliable transport for anyone wishing to see more than one of London’s attractions. Tickets cost $42 each and allow the rider to use the bus as many times as they want during a 24-hour time period. To reach the National Gallery, disembark at Trafalgar Square stop. The Gallery is a short walk away.
  • Bus – Catch bus line 24, 29 or 176 to Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery is a very short walk away. Bus line 3, 6, 12,13, 15, 23, 88, 139, 159 or 453 can also be caught to Cockspur Street. This stop is slightly farther away, but has a larger range of bus services.
  • Cycle – Barclay’s Cycle Hire provides numerous bikes and docking stations around London. You simply pay the £2 fee for 24-hour access and as long as you don’t have a bike for more than 30 minutes, you won’t need to pay one cent more. The nearest docking stations for the National Gallery are: Duncannon Street, St. Martin’s Street, Orange Street, and St. Martin’s Place.

History

The National Gallery gained approval for construction in 1831. Trafalgar Square was chosen as its location, because it was deemed the centre of London and so all classes of society would have access to the collection. After many years of construction, The National Gallery was opened in 1838.

Sir Charles Lock Eastlake became the first Director of the National Gallery in 1855. He helped bring in almost 200 pieces of artwork during a 10-year period. Future directors continued upon his success until 1885 when funding to the Gallery was abolished and the collection stalled.

The National Art Collections Fund was created in the early 20th century to stop artwork being sold to America. The National Gallery was able to use this fund to start collecting again. It did so until World War II.

In 1940 the National Gallery’s entire collection was evacuated to a slate quarry in North Wales. They were returned to the Gallery in 1945. Since then, adding to the collection has become increasingly difficult with prices rising beyond the National Gallery’s means. Despite financial difficulties, it will reportedly never start charging for entry, with the idea that its collection should be available for everyone to see.

The National Gallery still contains an impressive collection of famous artwork and often showcases new pieces from emerging artists.

13 Reviews

  1. Jillibeankc6
    Jillibeankc6 45 Comments
     -  02 May 2018

    Could Spend Days Here

    We rode the bus to the National Gallery. It was an amazing visit. The admittance is free, and there is a wealth of paintings of different type and age inside. We especially enjoyed the large impressionist exhibit. Backpacks and large purse-type bags are not allowed, so be prepared to rent a locker to store them or just don’t bring them when you visit.

  2. cointoss
    cointoss 22 Comments
     -  05 Mar 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    One of the largest collection of fine art for free?! If you love paintings and architecture, this is a must. Otherwise its still a nice place to walk around and hide away from the heat in a hot summer day.

  3. bailey
    bailey
    United States 43 Comments
     -  04 Jan 2018

    It was good

    The collection at the National Gallery is amazing, however, the crowds take away from the enjoyment. The day we went was absolutely packed so we felt rushed. There were also several rooms closed off, including the Da Vinci and Van Gogh rooms. I would recommend going early in the day to beat the crowds.

  4. Kyra_Kiwa
    Kyra_Kiwa 44 Comments
     -  02 Jan 2018

    Fantastic attraction

    Visiting The National Gallery is any art lover's dream come true. The gallery contains wonderful collections of the very greatest artists of the past several hundred years. To be able to see the works of Degas, Monet, Van Gough, Cezanne and many more of the impressionists' was a great experience. You could easily spend the whole day there and still not see everything. There is a lovely little café that serves excellent food and drinks. Highly recommend a visit when in London. It's a once in a lifetime experience.

  5. dewimayangsari
    dewimayangsari
    Indonesia 20 Comments
     -  28 Nov 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    This is a special place for art lovers! With free entrance (as most of places in London are), we could enjoy excellent exhibition, wonderful paintings from various times and places. Its architecture is also amazing, as well as the outside view (Trafalgar Square).

  6. dzammit
    dzammit
    Canada 54 Comments
     -  03 Aug 2017

    Excellent

    I know this museum is huge and you can spend a full day here, but I only really wanted to see Van Gohn and Monets’ work so we were in and out in an hour. This worked well for us as the museum entrance is free. We reviewed the galleries map prior to arriving so we knew exactly where to go and when we were finished we purchased items in the gift shop and surprisingly it had very reasonable prices!

  7. Uswa Shamail
    Uswa Shamail 9 Comments
     -  16 Jul 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Best thing about it? There is no entrance fee. On the downside, it takes almost 6-7 hours to completely go through all the halls and paintings so you need dedicate one half of the day to exploring the place. but seeing all those wonderful paintings and just the magical feel of the place (if you love art and architecture) will definitely make this place worth a visit!

  8. AlanStock
    AlanStock 41 Comments
     -  05 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Britains best art gallery alongside the Tate Modern. Amazing pieces of art from all the ages and has a number of famous classics from artists like Da Vinci, Van Goh etc. It’s very large and you can allow at least a few hours to a day to see everything. There’s modern art here too but the Tate is really the place to head if that’s your bag. This is all about the old classics and is a wonderful collection of art from Britain and the rest of Europe. Free to enter and quiet inside. A great getaway from the madness of Trafalgar Square and its surroundings as well.

  9. tsomer
    tsomer 10 Comments
     -  03 Jun 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    Great place for exploring amazing artwork. Many famous paintings are in the gallery. You can even sit down, relax and enjoy all the beautiful paintings.. It’s fun to see people sketching the paintings on the piece of paper. And there is no entrance fee.

  10. Avatar
    Sarah 10 Comments
     -  23 Apr 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    The National Gallery is truly spectacular. It houses some of the greatest collections of paintings in the world. The building is enormous so make sure to dedicate at least half a day to see everything.

  11. ajamoppical
    ajamoppical 9 Comments
     -  14 Mar 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    If you love art, this is the place to be. The immense building houses probably thousands of artwork from hundreds of years ago. We went with a tour guide so we couldn’t walk freely inside to see, but nevertheless, they are amazing artwork and preserved wonderfully. Since you can’t take pictures of the artwork, there’s a giftshop near the entrace where you can buy copies of some of the more famous paintings, as well as postcards and keychains, perfect for souvenirs

  12. Avatar
    rao111 9 Comments
     -  20 Feb 2017

    Excellent

    The National Gallery shows impressive art in a beautiful space. It neither has the immensity of the Louvre or Hermitage, nor the splendor of collections of the Vatican; it is, however, a lovely space that like Madrid’s El Prado boasts some real treasures – including one of my favorites of Botticelli (Venus and Mars), and another favorite of Caravaggio (Salome with John the Baptist’s Head).

  13. Avatar
    Celina Tolbert 17 Comments
     -  21 Jan 2017

    Fantastic attraction

    When I visited, they had a cute exhibit of school kid’s artwork. A big collection of artwork for all tastes!

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