One of London's best small galleries, the Wallace collection is a fascinating window into the life of 18th century aristocracy

Wallace Collection

Top choice in The West End

Arguably London’s finest smaller gallery, the Wallace Collection is an enthralling glimpse into 18th-century aristocratic life. The sumptuously restored Italianate mansion houses a treasure trove of 17th- and 18th-century paintings, porcelain, artefacts and furniture collected by generations of the same family and bequeathed to the nation by the widow of Sir Richard Wallace (1818–90) on the condition it remain displayed in the same fashion.

Among the many highlights here are paintings by Rembrandt, Hals, Delacroix, Titian, Rubens, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velàzquez, Reynolds and Gainsborough in the stunning Great Gallery; look out for the Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals. Beyond the dramatic chandeliers and a sweeping staircase that is considered one of the best examples of French interior architecture anywhere, there’s also an astonishing array of armour and weapons, both medieval and Renaissance and from Europe and Asia. There are also temporary exhibitions (paid admission) and very popular themed events, sometimes involving ballroom dancing (check the website for what’s on).

Have lunch (or weekend dinner) at the excellent restaurant Wallace, which occupies the central glass-roofed courtyard.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The West End attractions

1. Marble Arch

0.37 MILES

Designed by John Nash in 1828, this huge white arch was moved here next to Speaker's Corner from its original spot in front of Buckingham Palace in 1851…

2. Madame Tussauds

0.39 MILES

Packed with waxwork likenesses of celebrities, Madame Tussauds is kitschy and pricey, but makes for a fun-filled day. There are plenty of personalities to…

3. Broadcasting House

0.41 MILES

The iconic building from which the BBC began radio broadcasting in 1932 and from where all TV and radio broadcasting in London has taken place. Since 2013…

4. Handel & Hendrix in London

0.41 MILES

George Frederick Handel lived in this 18th-century Mayfair building for 36 years until his death in 1759. This is where he composed some of his finest…

5. Tyburn Tree Memorial Plaque

0.42 MILES

A plaque on the traffic island at Marble Arch indicates the spot where the infamous Tyburn Tree, a three-legged gallows, once stood. An estimated 50,000…

6. All Souls Church

0.43 MILES

Designed by John Nash in golden-hued Bath stone as an eye-catching monument for Regent Street, All Souls features a circular columned porch and a…

7. Speakers’ Corner

0.43 MILES

Frequented by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell and William Morris, Speakers' Corner in the northeastern corner of Hyde Park is traditionally the…

8. Sherlock Holmes Museum

0.52 MILES

Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective novels have been boosted by the popularity of the Sherlock TV series, and fans of the books trek here to elbow…