The National Gallery of Art London

This is a post on how to visit the National Gallery in London. Situated in a prime location on the northern edge of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is the fourth most visited art museum in the world. It has a world-class collection of art, spanning centuries and artistic genres. Best of all, IT’S FREE!

 

 


PLAN YOUR VISIT

Museum Hours

  • Every day of the year except 1 January and 24–26 December
  • 10:00 – 18:00 Saturdays to Thursdays
  • 10:00 – 21:00 Fridays *
  • Guests are asked to prepare to leave 5 minutes before closing time.

*The late closing on Fridays is part of the “Museum Lates” a program which includes events and talks. It is a great way to spend an evening out in London! For other ideas on things to do at night, see our post What to Do In London At Night.


How do I get there?

The National Gallery is located on the northern edge of Trafalgar Square. Check out our MAP for guidance. The Gallery is a close walk from either Charing Cross or Leicester Square Stations. You can also get to Trafalgar Square by taking a bus, with routes numbers 3, 6, 9,11, 12, 23, 24, 29, 87, 88, 139, 159 and 176. Use this Google Maps link to get directions from your departure point to the Museum.


How Much Time Should I Plan to Spend There?

This depends on how much of the Gallery you wish to see. We recommend around 3 hours, but for those who have less time or just want to see the highlights, you can look at the floor plans in advance and decide where you would like to focus your time.

Better still, the Museum has some helpful guides that will help you make the most of your time no matter how limited. Here they are:

Also, tours are a great way to make the most of your visit. Check out our guide below to choose the one that’s right for you.


Is The Museum Family Friendly?

Absolutely. In fact, the National Gallery has gone out of its way to provide entertainment and activities for guests of all ages. Pick the category below that suits you best, or click here to see what’s on when you go:

The Gallery also has a number audio guides and treasure trails designed specifically for their younger visitors!


Food and Drink


Coat/Bag Check Information

When you enter, Bags, rucksacks, packages, and other personal items brought to the building may be inspected by our security staff. We recommend that you allow extra time for security checks at the entrance.

While there is a coat/bag check for a fee of £1.50 an item, bags larger than 40cm x 25cm x 25cm cannot be accommodated. Suitcases and cabin bags are not accepted.

TIP: If you have items large items with you and cannot leave them at the Museum’s bag check, look at our post Where to Store Luggage in London. There are some located near the museum, it is inexpensive and you won’t have to wait in the queue to leave/retrieve your bags!


Gift Shop

The National Gallery actually has a wonderful selection of things to purchase, including a print on demand service where you can order prints of your favorite pieces.


Taking Photographs

You may take photographs with these exceptions: no flash, no tripods, and no selfie sticks. Also, no photo-taking are permitted in special exhibitions.

 


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WHAT IS ON DISPLAY

Most Notable Works

The National Gallery holds works by some of the most well-known artists of history, and the collection of 2,300 paintings includes works collected from all over the world. Here is a brief list of some of the most notable works in the collection:

  • Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
  • Snow Scene at Argenteuil and The Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet
  • The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
  • The Fighting Temeraire by J. M. W. Turner
  • The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Marriage-a-la-mode by William Hogarth
  • The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Boy Bitten by a Lizard by Caravaggio
  • The Judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens
  • Belshazzar’s Feast by Rembrandt
  • The Entombment by Michelangelo

You can browse the entire collection before you go. You can even take a Virtual Tour by clicking here.


Special Exhibitions

These are paid exhibitions that change throughout the year. This spring the Museum is hosting Monet & Architecture from 9th of April to 29th of July. It is recommended that you book ahead as this will be a very popular exhibit.

The cost is £20.00 (including donation) or £18.00 (without donation) / Disabled Concession Ticket is £18.00 (including donation) or £16.00 (without donation).

The exhibit of more than 75 paintings by Monet, together for the very first time is being touted as a “new way of looking at Monet’s work. It shows how he used architecture to create his compositions, both in his most famous paintings and lesser-known works.”

TIP: This is one of the TOP things to do this spring in London. But if it is not your cup of tea, see our post Things To Do in London in May for some other ideas.

 


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TOURS

To really make the most of your time and to get a lot out of the museum, you may wish to take a tour. There are many excellently tailored tour options for you to choose from.

Guided Tour with Free Tours by Foot

Whether you’re an art expert or a complete novice our walk through the gallery will keep you entertained and gripped by the stories these incredible paintings have to tell. Our 2-hour tour is offered several days a week and is free to take! You get to decide what, if anything, the tour was worth when it’s done. A name-your-own-price tour is a tour for any budget. See more details about the tour here.

 


Guided Tours offered through the Museum

  • 10 Minute Talks – Running every weekday at 4:00 pm these are FREE  short talks focused on a single work of art.
  • Guided Tours – These are FREE 1-hour tours run twice a day at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm Note the tours are only for groups of 4 or fewer. Larger groups should contact the Gallery ahead of time.

 

Audio Guide Tours offered through the Museum

A great way to tour the Gallery on your own time. There’s a range of audio guides to select:

General Audio Tours

  • Collection Tour – Guests can create their own tours by choosing works at random from over 1,2000 works.
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.00 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)
  • Essential Audio Tour – A tour featuring 80 highlights from the Gallery.
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.50 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)

Thematic Audio Tours

  • Manet to Picasso – An in-depth tour focusing on 18th to 20th-century art.
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.50 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12) 
  • The Life of Christ – Moments of Christ’s life as depicted by artists through the ages. 
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.50 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)
  • Art in the Making – Interviews with curators and conservation staff detailing the creation and curation of incredible works of art. 
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.50 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)
  • Be Inspired – Interviewees from across a broad range of spectrums speak on the pieces that have inspired their own artwork. 
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.50 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)

Family-Friendly Audio Tours 

  • Teach Your Grown-Ups About Art – An interactive tour where adults are encouraged to take off their headphones and let the younger visitors tell them the information they’re receiving from their own guide! 
    • Cost: £4.00 for Adults – or £1.00 as an add-on from the Collection Tour / £3.50 Concessions / £10 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)
  • Art Detectives – Following in the footsteps of detectives, this guide helps families uncover clues hidden in the Gallery’s masterpieces.
    • Cost: £5.00 Adult / £4.00 Concessions / £10.00 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)
  • A Right Royal Tour – A focus on art depicting Kings and Queens, aimed at young visitors but fun for all ages! 
    • Cost: £4.00 for Adults – or £1.00 as an add-on from the Collection Tour / £3.50 Concessions / £10 Family (2 adults and 2 children under 12)

Accessible Tours 

The National Gallery also provides British Sign Language Tours and Audio Tours for the blind and partially-sighted.


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REVIEWS AND TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT

So what do visitors say about the National Gallery? Here are some tips and common complaints we have found:

The museum can get quite crowded in the afternoon, so consider going before lunch, if possible. It’s frequently mentioned that the Gallery also attracts a LOT of crowds if the weather is rainy, as many people see this as a free way to escape the rain so consider coming on a day when the weather is dry.

Many guests comment that the museum may be boring for children, so definitely take the time to get your hands on one of the children’s activity guides or tours to keep them entertained! 

The gallery is large so many visitors have noted that it’s nearly impossible to see it all in one day and to efficiently navigate their way through so consider taking a guided tour to make the most of your time and hit all the ‘highlights’ and expect to spend a good few hours here.

The Gallery is focused on classical art so modern art lovers should look elsewhere (perhaps one of the largest modern art museums in the world, The Tate Modern!)

TIP: Consider coupling your visit to the National Gallery with our Royal Westminster Tour. The tour finishes just a short walk away from Trafalgar Square and gives you all the history of this wonderful area before you visit the museum!

 


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