Center of London. The peak of the city hustle and bustle: crowds of tourists, excited couples visiting, lucky locals to have their day off wandering around the city, even businessmen passing in a hurry for a meeting at a fancy restaurant. This is only the background scene before your eyes while standing at the heart of London town – the Trafalgar Square. Out of every building and monument around that attracts your eye, you can get a little dizzy trying to grasp them all, as well as the whole feeling of the emblematic London spot. That’s why I’m here to make an easy transition for you; let is concentrate on only one of the unforgettable venues placed at the Trafalgar Square that is not only an eye candy, but also a cultural landmark that needs to be investigated from the inside, too: The National Gallery.
London’s National Gallery’s Best Features
The National Gallery is, unsurprisingly, one of the most visited museum all over the world, ranking side by side to The Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, this was not always the case. As various galleries exhibiting masterpieces from all kinds of periods and countries, it was time for Great Britain to build its great art metropolis, too. So in 1824 the British government purchased about 40 paintings, rather than deciding to display the royal collection to the public eye, and started out a small gallery. In the following years the directors of The National Gallery and many private donеrs concerned with Britain’s cultural heritage started rapidly enlarging the existing collection. Today it is still not as large as many of the other national gallery collections, numbering around 2 300 pieces, but the variety and value of them is definitely not worth underestimating – the pieces included span across centuries, periods and movements, so that you can easily go through a thorough art history lesson only while viewing what is in The National Gallery.
What is on display
Some of the most notable treasures of London’s National Gallery are The Sunflowers by Van Gogh, The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Da Vinci’s The Virgin of The Rocks, Cezanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses, Rembrandt’s self-portraits, as well as works by Pisanello, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Canaletto, Monet, Renoir and Degas! For those who would want to prepare with a quick peek at all of the paintings, Here is a catalog including them, apart from the loan exhibitions and sometimes the latest additions.
And for those who would want to educate themselves further before their actual visit of The National Gallery, you can browse through the gallery’s website where a section with the latest arrivals to the collection, with dates, is available Here.
Aside from the permanent collection of London’s National Gallery, there are occasional loan exhibits which are never disappointing, so I would highly recommend that you check them out before heading to the gallery and decide which one(s) you would like to visit – hopefully they match with the dates of your London visit! Here you can see what is on in The National Gallery London, as well as the exhibits that are soon to be part of it.
Chances are very very slim, but if you still haven’t made up your mind on whether to visit the National Gallery of London or not, my last resort of convincing you would be an impressive Virtual Tour covering 18 rooms at the gallery with the possibility to closely view a sample of the artworks on display and get a demo version of what awaits in this British emblem!
Entry and Open Hours
Now that I have your attention and prompted curiosity about all these famous pieces that you have the chance to view with your own eyes in London’s National Gallery, it’s time to share with you some very fortunate information. As The National Gallery is one of Britain’s exempt charities and actually a property of the public of the UK, the entry for everyone to its exhibits is completely free of charge! You can view the permanent collection, as well as some special collection on display, for free; a reasonable entrance is applied only on visit to some of the major loan exhibitions that The National Gallery hosts, but the money is worth it, trust me! If you wish, you can also pay a small fee for a guided or audio tour for you and your family which is available in various languages!
The opening hours of the gallery are also of great convenience to the visitor – London’s National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 until 18:00, though you shouldn’t wait for the last minute to enter it because I promise you that a proper journey through its dimensions will take at least an hour – being rushed at such a place is quite unpleasant. For visitors that are coming to London for the weekend there are extra perks – The National Gallery is open up until 21:00 each Friday, so you can even begin your night in the cozy inspiring environment of the gallery during the late hours and then proceed to one of the stylish restaurants that resemble galleries themselves near Trafalgar Square!
Now, if you think that this is all I have to say about the features of the magnificent National Gallery, you should think twice. On top of the free entrance to a collection of the world’s timeless treasures, London’s National Gallery has made further steps to create an interaction between art and people. For locals, or even visitors that are staying for a little more than a few days cramped with hurrying around to see all that London can offer, there are great events hosted by the National Gallery. Aside from the daily free tours which will tell you compelling stories about the origins of many of the works displayed, the venue organizes creative sessions which encourage amateurs – from housewives to programmers – to find the artists in themselves and discover the fulfillment of expressing yourself through drawing. You can see the dates Here. But keep in mind that you should probably get to the gallery well in time, because you can’t book a place for these events – entrance is based on first-come, first-serve philosophy.
Here you can also browse for other types of events that don’t need your participation as a painter – family events on Sundays and during the holidays or charming musical performances at the gallery.
There are also events that cost a small entry fee for the memorable experience of an introductory History of Art lecture or a workshop that will surely improve the drawing skills of those who seek to become the next Rembrandt, for example! Here you can see the events hosted by the gallery and make sure to book a place before they are all full!
Even if you don’t have the time (or courage, when it comes do drawing workshops) to participate in these insightful events at London’s National Gallery, I sincerely hope that you will devote an hour or two to dive in the rich experience that the collections exhibited offer. After you visit you can share with us what impressed you most and whether you found an unexpected difference between the paintings on you lap-top display and live!