National Gallery

Explore London's National Gallery and step into a world of European art that spans hundreds of years and includes many artists that you have heard of and some that you haven’t...

What Is The National Gallery?

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The National Gallery in London houses the nation’s collection of more than 2000 paintings from Western Europe that date from approximately 1250 to 1900.

These include many internationally famous painters and paintings within its collection including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Botticelli’s Venus and Mars.

With a spectacular floor area of over 46,000 metres squared, the Gallery displays an amazing amount of paintings along with special exhibitions and talks.

Alongside traditional paintings, the building also houses a number of sculptures and mosaics.

The National Gallery by day and by night

A Brief History Of The National Gallery


The National Gallery collection began with thirty eight paintings by Italian, Dutch, Flemish and British artists from the collector John Julius Angerstein in the early 19th century.

Sir George Beaumont also donated paintings in 1826 on the understanding that there needed to be suitable premises for them to be displayed. Both Beaumont’s and Angerstein’s paintings were displayed at Angerstein’s house on Pall Mall in London.

Due to the size of the house it was decided that a new building should be constructed which was opened in 1838 in its new home in Trafalgar Square. This building was extended in 1876 which added seven new exhibition rooms and the large dome.

Industrialist Henry Tate donated his own collection of paintings and also offered funding of a new building that would house paintings from British artists only. This was a separate building from the National Gallery which opened in 1897 and was known in time as the Tate Gallery.

The National Gallery collection has been extended a number of times over the years including specific trips to Europe by curators to collect new additions, alongside gifts of paintings from both famous donors, such as the former Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, and artists themselves such as Turner who donated over 1000 of his pieces.

The Northern extension was built in 1975 and then in 1985 the Sainsbury family financed the building of another wing of the Gallery which was to house the entirety of the early Renaissance collection along with special exhibitions.

The National Gallery photo montage

Key Features

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The collection is split over two floors along with special exhibitions in the Sainsbury wing which change on a regular basis. Paintings are grouped in the time periods that they are painted to allow you to walk through the history of the development and change of the style and subjects of art.

13th to 15th Century

These late medieval paintings were on the whole produced to be seen in church or private altars so are mainly religious depictions.

As time went on more paintings were produced showing history and mythological scenes. Oil painting was developed during this period. Artists featured from this period are van Eyck, Botticelli and Bellini.

16th Century

Artists from this era gained a popularity that has certainly not faded over time with Renaissance painters particularly at the forefront.

Portraits increased in popularity along with portrayals of ancient history and mythology. Artists featured from this period are Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian.

17th Century

Religious depictions of this time were given a twist depending on the artist. Paintings of history were still as popular as before.

Dutch paintings grew in popularity and these illustrated scenery, images of everyday life and still life pictures. Artists featured from this period are Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck.

18th to early 20th Century

Artists that produced the large paintings for grand churches also began to produce smaller paintings to be shown and sold for private collections.

Artists began to rebel against the traditional styles that were ‘accepted’ within the art community. Artists featured from this period are Turner, Degas, Constable, Cézanne, Monet and Van Gogh.

Fun Facts About The National Gallery

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  • The collection was moved to Wales before World War II ‘just in case’ war broke out and was brought back just before it did! The paintings then had to be taken back AGAIN only 10 days before the start of the war.
  • Mary Richardson was a suffragette who was repeatedly arrested for criminal damage and arson and in fact entered the Gallery in 1914 and attacked the painting ‘Rokeby Venus’ by the artist Velazquez.
  • The Gallery normally welcomes over 2 million visitors each year!
  • There are many events and lectures that visitors can attend at the Gallery throughout the year when booked in advance. These allow direct interaction with artists and experts and also hands on creativity.

The National Gallery Visitor Information

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Opening times/dates

The Gallery is open daily from 10am until 6pm and on Fridays until 9pm. It is closed 24th to the 26th December and the 1st January.


Tickets can be bought in advance online where time slots can be selected for entry. Walk up tickets can be purchased on the day of visiting however during busy times there may be some wait to enter the Gallery.

Tickets to the general Gallery are free for all visitors however a donation can be added upon purchase if you would like.

Certain exhibitions within the Sainsbury wing are chargeable and can be booked in the same manner as the general Gallery admission.

It takes between three and four hours to visit the Gallery fully and visit all areas.


Currently audio guides and British Sign Language (BSL) tours are not available due to the COVID 19 situation. There are BSL talks on some of the collections for the deaf or hard of hearing and also art sessions for those blind or partially sighted.


All bags are checked by security upon arrival. The maximum bag size permitted is 56 x 25 x 45cm. Oversized bags containing necessary medical equipment may be allowed in subject to extra security checks. Folding bicycles, adult scooters and other oversized objects are not permitted within the building. Charing Cross station has a left luggage service nearby should it be required.


The cost for the cloakroom is £2 per item checked (free for Gallery members). Bags of up to 56 x 25 x 45cm are accepted. Buggies, children’s scooters and large umbrellas can be checked into the cloakroom also. Opening times are daily 10am until 5.45pm and on a Friday until 8.45pm.

Disabled Access

Level access to the Gallery can be found via four of the entrances - the Getty, the Sainsbury wing, the National Cafe and the Education centre. The main entrance (Portico) is not wheelchair accessible due to the age and layout of the building. Wheelchairs can be borrowed at all accessible entrances apart from at the National Cafe and booking in advance is required.

There are wheelchair spaces within the Sainsbury Theatre. Seating is available around the Galleries and there are a limited number of stools that can be borrowed. Lifts are available at a variety of points to navigate between the different levels - please contact the Gallery directly to confirm the dimensions to ensure it will accommodate your own wheelchair/mobility scooter.

Induction loops are available at the information desks, theatre and cinema. Guide and Assistance dogs are permitted within the Gallery and water can be provided for them. Free tickets to chargeable exhibitions are available for carers/escorts of disabled visitors.

Adapted toilets are available near all entrances/exits and a Changing Places facility is located in the Education Centre.

Blue badge parking is available via local parking information - three spaces are available on St Martin’s street. There is also one designated parking space on Orange Street that can be booked in advance for Gallery visitors only. Other blue badge parking can be found in other local public car parks.

Baby Info

Baby buggies are welcome within the Gallery and changing facilities are available in the toilets at the entrance and exit to the Gallery.


Toilets and baby changing facilities are available at the entrance and exit to the gallery with a Changing Places facility located in the Education Centre.


There are two places to access food at the Gallery - The Espresso Bar and the National Cafe which are both located on Level 0.

The Cafe provides casual dining in a relaxed environment with a deli-style buffet which includes light meals and hot main meals with a variety of cakes, hot and cold drinks and alcohol. It is open daily from 11am until 5.45pm apart from Fridays where it is 11am until 8.45pm.

The Espresso Bar has pre-packaged sandwiches and salads alongside hot and cold drinks. It is open daily from 10am until 5.45pm.

Consuming food within the Gallery is only allowed in indicated areas - eating and drinking is expressly forbidden in areas containing paintings.

Gift Shop

There are two shops on Level 0 and one on Level 2.


No smoking or vaping is permitted in any part of the building.


Photography for personal use is allowed within the Gallery unless it is specifically signposted in certain areas where you are not permitted.


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The National Gallery is located at Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN.

Trafalgar Square and Horseguard’s Parade sit to the south whilst Orange Street and Leicester Square sit to the north.

To the west lies St James’ Park and Green Park and further along, Buckingham Palace. To the east lies Charing Cross station and the Thames river.

How To Get There

By Underground - The nearest underground stations are Charing Cross (3minute walk, Bakerloo line), Embankment (8minute walk, Bakerloo, Circle and District and Northern lines), Leicester Square (5minute walk, Northern line) and Piccadilly Circus (9minute walk, Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines).

By Bus - local services 3, 6, 9, 94, 159, 176 and 453 stop in the vicinity of the Gallery along with certain Tour bus operators.

By Train - The nearest overground main train station is Charing Cross (approximately 6 minutes walk) which takes you out of the City and to many parts of the UK.

By River - Embankment pier is approximately a 10 minute walk away and allows access to river services that serve the Thames.

By Car - Driving in central London is not recommended due to lack of, and price of, parking and also due to the congestion charge which applies to vehicles entering this central zone. However if required the closest car park is Q-park Leicester Square.

Where To Stay

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Due to the location of the museum there are numerous options for accommodation in the central London vicinity.

From hostels and budget hotel options all the way through to five star luxury, there are many places to stay.

Other Things To Do Nearby

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Central London, by its nature as a capital city, has many attractions to see and things to do. Just a few of the many options available in the vicinity of the museum are:

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the National Gallery famous for?

The National Gallery in London is famous for housing Great Britain’s collection of European paintings from between the years of 1250 to 1900.

What is the oldest painting in the National Gallery?

The oldest painting in the National Gallery is Arezzo’s Virgin and Child Enthroned from around 1263.

How much does it cost to get into the National Gallery?

Entrance to get into the National Gallery is free for general admission however there may be a charge for special exhibitions.

How long does it take to walk around the National Gallery?

It takes between three and four hours to walk round the National Gallery to take in the complete collection of paintings.

How many paintings does the National Gallery own?

There are over 2300 paintings in the collection in the National Gallery.

Can you take photographs in the National Gallery?

Photographs can be taken within the National Gallery for personal use only unless it is signposted that you should not. This should be clearly marked around the gallery.

Can you bring water into the National Gallery?

Water can be brought into the National Gallery although it can only be consumed in clearly marked areas. It cannot be consumed in areas where there are paintings.

Can you take bags into the National Gallery?

Bags can be taken into the National Gallery however there is a maximum size of bag allowed which is 56 x 25 x 45cm. Oversized bags are not allowed in the building.

Is there a dress code for the National Gallery?

There is no dress code for the National Gallery however some areas are climate controlled so it is advisable to ensure that you bring something warm to wear.

Does the National Gallery have lockers?

No, there are no lockers in the National Gallery however there is a cloakroom where items can be left.

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