National Gallery

Top choice gallery in The West End

Image by Adina Tovy Getty Images

With some 2300 European masterpieces on display, this is one of the world's great art collections, with seminal works from every important period in the history of art – from the mid-13th to the early 20th century, including masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Van Gogh and Renoir.

Many visitors flock to the East Wing (1700–1900), where works by 18th-century British artists such as Gainsborough, Constable and Turner, and seminal Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces by Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet await.

The modern Sainsbury Wing on the gallery’s western side houses paintings from 1250 to 1500. Here you will find largely religious works commissioned for private devotion (eg the Wilton Diptych) as well as more unusual masterpieces, such as Botticelli’s Venus and Mars and Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait. Leonardo Da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks, in room 20, is a stunning masterpiece.

Works from the High Renaissance (1500–1600) embellish the West Wing where Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Correggio, El Greco and Bronzino hold court; Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio grace the North Wing (1600–1700). Notable are two self-portraits of Rembrandt (age 34 and 63) and the beautiful Rokeby Venus by Velázquez in room 30.

The comprehensive audio guides (£4) are highly recommended, as are the free one-hour taster tours that leave from the information desk in the Sainsbury Wing daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm, with late tours at 7pm Friday. There are also special trails and activity sheets for children.

Don't overlook the astonishing floor mosaics in the main vestibule inside the entrance to the National Gallery.

The National Dining Rooms offers à la carte meals and afternoon teas but perhaps a better choice is the National Cafe with good set lunches and more generous opening times.

If you want to get sketching, bring your own stool and hand-held pad along and select your artwork. Occasional music performances are held in the National Gallery on Friday evenings; check the website for details.


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