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National Gallery

  • Trafalgar Sq. Map It
  • Westminster
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 08/20/2030

Fodor's Review

Anyone with even a passing interest in art will want to put this near the top of their to-do lists while visiting London, for it is truly one of the world's great art museums. More than 2,300 masterpieces are on show here, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and more. Enter through the grand portico overlooking the north side of Trafalgar Square to delve headlong into the highlights of the collection, although the Sainsbury Wing (the modern building immediately to the left), which focuses mainly on medieval art, is invariably less crowded. You could easily spend all day discovering what the National Gallery has to offer, but among the best-known highlights are: in Room 4, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (1497–1543), a portrait of two wealthy visitors from France, surrounded by objects laden with enough symbolism to fill a book—including, most beguilingly, a giant skull at the base, which only takes shape when viewed from an angle;

in Room 60, the Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck (1390–1441), in which a solemn couple holds hands, the fish-eye mirror behind them mysteriously illuminating what can't be seen from the front view; in Room 61, The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), a magnificent sculpted altarpiece commissioned in 1480; and in Room 34, Rain, Steam and Speed–The Great Western Railway by J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), which seems, in its mad whirl of rain, steam, and mist, to embody the mystical dynamism of the steam age (spot the fleeing hare). Special exhibitions, of which there are several every year, tend to be major events. Generally they're ticketed, so booking is advisable if it's a big name. The permanent collection, however, is always free. Also free are weekday lunchtime lectures and Ten Minute Talks, which illuminate the story behind a key work of art. Daily hour-long free guided tours start at the Sainsbury Wing at 11:30 and 2:30.

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  • National Gallery, London, England

    © Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodors Travel

Sight Information


Trafalgar Sq., London, Greater London, WC2N 5DN, England

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Sight Details:

  • Free; special exhibitions £7–£22; audio guide £5

Published 08/20/2030


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