Image by Adina Tovy Getty Images
With more than 2300 European masterpieces in its collection, this is one of the world's great galleries, with seminal works from the 13th to the mid-20th century, including masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Renoir. Many visitors flock to the eastern rooms on the main floor (1700–1930), where works by British artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and JMW Turner, and Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces by Van Gogh, Renoir and Claude Monet await.
The modern Sainsbury Wing on the gallery’s western side houses the oldest paintings, from 1200 to 1500, in rooms 51 to 66. Here you will find largely religious works commissioned for private devotion (such as the Wilton Diptych in the alcove of room 51), as well as more unusual masterpieces, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Venus & Mars (room 58) and Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait (room 63). Leonardo da Vinci's stunning Virgin of the Rocks (room 66) is a stroke of genius.
Works from the High Renaissance (1500–1600) embellish rooms 2 to 14, where Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Correggio, El Greco and Bronzino hold court; Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio grace rooms 15 to 32 (1600–1700). Notable are two self-portraits of Rembrandt (at age 34 and 63, in room 22) and the beautiful Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez in room 30.
Before you leave, don't miss the astonishing floor mosaics in the main vestibule.
The comprehensive audio guides (£5) are highly recommended, as are the free one-hour tours that leave from the Sainsbury Wing foyer at 2pm Monday to Friday. There are also special trails and activity sheets for children.