National Portrait Gallery
With some 2300 European paintings on display, this is one of the richest art galleries in the world. There are seminal paintings from...
The ‘royal parish church’ is a delightful fusion of classical and baroque styles that was completed by James Gibbs in 1726 and serves as...
In many ways Trafalgar Sq is is the centre of London, where rallies and marches take place, tens of thousands of revellers usher in the...
The London Coliseum is home to the English National Opera (ENO), celebrated for making opera modern and more relevant, as all...
This stunningly located restaurant above the excellent National Portrait Gallery – with views over Trafalgar Square and Westminster – is...
National Portrait Gallery information
Lonely Planet review
What makes the National Portrait Gallery, the only such museum in Europe, so compelling is its familiarity; in many cases you’ll have heard of the subject (royals, scientists, politicians, celebrities) or the artist (Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, Sam Taylor-Wood).
The collection is organised chronologically (starting with the early Tudors on the 2nd floor), and then by theme. A highlight is the famous ‘Chandos portrait’ of William Shakespeare, the first artwork the gallery acquired (in 1856); believed to be the only one to have been painted during the playwright’s lifetime. Other highlights include the ‘Ditchley’ portrait of Queen Elizabeth I displaying her might by standing on a map of England, and a touching sketch of novelist Jane Austen by her sister.
The 1st-floor portraits illustrate the rise and fall of the British Empire through the Victorian era and the 20th century. Don’t miss the high-kitsch statue of Victoria and Albert in Anglo-Saxon dress in room 21. The ground floor is dedicated to modern figures, using a variety of media (sculpture, photography, video etc). Among the most popular are the iconic Blur portraits by Julian Opie; Sam Taylor-Wood’s David , a video-portrait of David Beckham asleep after football training; and Stuart Pearson Wright’s slightly distorted JK Rowling . The excellent audioguide (£3) highlights 200 portraits and allows you to hear the voices of some of the subjects. The Portrait restaurant has superb views towards Westminster and does wonderful food.