This impressive neoclassical building displays one of the world’s finest collections of Western European paintings.
The National Gallery houses more than 2,300 paintings dating between the mid-13th and early 20th centuries. The museum’s collection includes selections from every important artistic style, showcasing many masterpieces of each genre. Look for notable works by artists ranging from Caravaggio and Cezanne to Gainsborough and Michelangelo.
The British government purchased 38 paintings from Russian banker John Julius Angerstein in 1824 and established the National Gallery. Begin your exploration with a free tour map. Choose a themed tour or select a few paintings from the museum’s collection that you would most like to see.
Don’t miss the popular East Wing, which features works by a number of prominent 18th-century British artists. Among the most recognizable pieces here are Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
You’ll find works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio in the gallery’s North Wing. Look for two self-portraits by Rembrandt painted at ages 34 and 63. Check out Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus, which depicts Christ blessing bread.
See works by Titian, Raphael, Correggio and Bronzino in the West Wing, which also includes Michelangelo’s unfinished but masterful The Entombment. Other interesting pieces throughout the gallery include a 17th-century peepshow/perspective box by Samuel van Hoogstraten, as well as Holbein’s The Ambassadors, which takes on proper perspective only when viewed from the side.
Be sure to explore the Sainsbury Wing, where you’ll find paintings dating between the 13th and 16th centuries. Check out Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, in which a fish-eye mirror creates an unusual perspective of a couple holding hands. You’ll also see Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ, which uses imaginative light and foreshortening techniques.
The National Gallery is located on the north side of Trafalgar Square. The gallery is open daily and admission is free, although a donation is suggested. Get here by taking the Tube to Charing Cross Station. Plan your day to include coffee, lunch or dinner at one of the gallery’s three restaurants.