National Gallery

National Gallery
National Gallery map
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square WC2N 5DN
Work 0207 747 2885

Opening times and price

Opening hours:
10 AM to 6 PM (Sat-Thu); 10 AM to 9 PM (Fri)
Visiting hours are subject to change
Ticket cost:
Adults free entry
Time required:
A typical visit to National Gallery lasts 2 hours (approx)

Getting to National Gallery

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The nearest train station to National Gallery is Charing Cross
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Photo: David Noah / Wikipedia Inside the National Gallery Photo: Richard George / Wikipedia The Sainsbury Wing
The National Gallery is #19 in our London Bucket List

Craig’s London blog> Read Craig’s review of the National Gallery  Check out my London blog for a full review of the gallery

National Gallery Good for kids? Value for money? free Worth a visit? 203

The National Gallery is No.1 in our list of London’s best galleries, and No.7 in our list of the best things to do for free.

The National Gallery is London’s premier art gallery, with over 2,000 works from 1260 onwards. Some of the artists on display include Botticelli, Cézanne, Constable, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner and Van Gogh.

History of the National Gallery

The National Gallery was built in 1837 at the northern end of Trafalgar Square to accommodate a small collection paintings. The Government invested £57,000 in thirty-eight works by Raphael, Rembrandt and Rubens.

Despite the small amount of work on display, the building was soon cramped by the Royal Academy of Arts. This was moved to Piccadilly in 1868, and the works were given room to breathe.

The gallery is split into four different sections: the Sainsbury Wing deals with 1260 to 1510; the West Wing has 1510 to 1600; the North Wing has 1600 to 1700, and the East Wing has everything from 1700 to 1900.

The Sainsbury Wing (1260-1510)

The Sainsbury Wing is the newest part of the gallery – but displays the oldest paintings. Here you can see works from 1260 to 1510, which encompasses the Renaissance and artists like Titian, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. One of his best pieces is Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. This was painted in 1508, and hangs in a specially darkened room.

Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars depicts the God and Goddess lying on the grass with three mischievous little kids hovering by a fence.

Another famous sight is Jan Van Eyck’s Marriage of the Arnolfini. At the back of the scene hangs a mirror – expertly rendered to display the room in convex.

The West Wing (1510-1600)

The West Wing contains mainly French, Italian and Dutch paintings from the High Renaissance. Artists include Michelangelo, Correggio and El Greco.

Be sure to see Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors. This life-size portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve contains a cleverly-intended illusion: at the front of the scene lies what seems to be a distorted disk, but if you move to the sides (footprints on the floor show you where to stand) then it reveals itself to be a human skull!

The North Wing (1600-1700)

The North Wing contains some of the most famous names in art: Rubens; Rembrandt; Van Dyck and Vermeer.

Italians from the 16th and 17th-centuries take primacy, but pride of place goes to Velázquez’s The Toilet of Venus. This painting caused uproar at the height of the Spanish Inquisition because Venus was shown sitting in the nude.

The East Wing (1700-1900)

The East Wing is the most popular part of the National Gallery – because it contains the famous British painters. John Constable’s The Hay Wain occupies Room 34, and J W Turner’s The Fighting Téméraire hangs nearby. This masterpiece of light and sky depicts an old decrepit warship being towed to a ship-breaking yard.

Other famous paintings not to be missed are Seurat’s The Bathers at Asnières, and a trio of Vincent Van Gogh masterpieces: Sunflowers; Chair and A Wheatfield, with Cypresses. You can also find works by Gauguin, Cézanne, Monet and Renoir.

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  • DaveG – “I've probably been to every gallery in London at least 10 times but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to the national. It's just so peaceful and nice inside you can get away from the traffic outisde and sit down on a nice leather couch and take in the pieces in front of you without being bothered by anyone. It's quiet like a library inside and everyone is respectful of the art. I tend to give the famous names like van gogh and picasso a miss these days, and settle down in front of the epic religious paintings, showing scenes from the bible. I’m not religious, but there is so much going on in those paintings it's like watching a story on the television. These kinds of works you just dont see anymore these days, and that is the art world's loss.”
  • PWalker – “This is the best gallery I have ever been to, and I absolutely love it. I have been loads of times already and I never tire of it, such is the breadth of masterpieces on display. There is every kind of art here, from devotional religious pieces ato landscapes, seascapes, and some amazoing portraits. When you look at the list of artists on display here, you cannot help but be wowed. I would write you a list, but it will be quicker if I just tell you that every famous artist from the last half-century is here! . If you are an art lover, then this should be your first stop, your second stop, and your third and fourth stop too.”

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Check out our complete list of art exhibitions in London where you can find exhibitions today, tomorrow and at the weekend. We also have a list of art exhibitions in November, December and January

If you enjoy this then try: Courtauld Gallery (walk it in 12 mins or catch a train from Charing Cross to Temple); National Portrait Gallery (you can walk there in less than 1 min); Royal Academy of Arts (you can walk it 10 mins); Tate Britain (walk it in 26 mins or catch a train from Charing Cross to Pimlico) and Wallace Collection (walk it in 26 mins or catch a train from Charing Cross to Bond Street).

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