Attraction Reviews,  Things to Do

National Gallery Review: Masterpiece or Missable?

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If you love art, you’re in for a real treat when visiting London: there is no shortage of incredible museums that focus on different arts, styles, and mediums.

Take, for example, the Tate Modern, which – as its name suggests – focuses on modern art. Or, there’s the V&A Museum, which is perfect for visitors with an interest in textiles and fashion. There are also smaller and lesser-known galleries – like The Wallace Collection – which culture connoisseurs will seek out… But what about The National Gallery? With a name like that, it’s surely got to be worth visiting, right?

National Gallery Review Hero

During my many London explorations, I’ve been to The National Gallery, and thought it might be helpful for future travelers – like you – to read a review of my first-hand experience. The National Gallery is indeed worthy of its title and – I think – an essential stop for those who appreciate art. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s dive into the basics of visiting, then I’ll share my experience at The National Gallery, and then you can decide for yourself if The National Gallery is worth visiting.

Basics of Visiting The National Gallery

If you’re thinking of the heart of London, it doesn’t get more centrally located than The National Gallery. Here are the essentials you need to know to plan your visit.

Location & Transport

The National Gallery enjoys an amazing location, at the heart of London’s iconic Trafalgar Square. This means that the transport links are very convenient, with Charing Cross Station just a stone’s throw from the gallery, and Leicester Square Station also an easy stroll. 

Hours, Admission & Tickets

  • Entry to The National Gallery is free to all. 
  • It is open daily from 10am–6pm except on Fridays when it stays open until 9pm. 
  • It is closed from  24th–26th of December and 1st January.

Food Options & Facilities

If you’re a museum-goer, you know how walking through the halls can get you quite hungry – and that the museum’s restaurants aren’t always the best. Lucky for us, there are a variety of food and drink options at The National Gallery, with something to suit all tastes and budgets. 

When I visited, I grabbed coffee and cake at the Espresso Bar by Muriel’s, the charming on-site cafe. There was a lovely choice of light bites and refreshments on the menu, and the prices were typical of central London.

You may choose to make your visit to the gallery a really special occasion and enjoy champagne and oysters at the on-site cocktail bar, Ochre. Recent reviewers rave about this spot!

I hope to return and have lunch at Muriel’s Kitchen which is an informal restaurant at the gallery. As I walked past I caught a glimpse of the homely lunchtime meals being served here and they looked and smelled delicious!

There are accessible restroom facilities at the entrance to the gallery and also very handy cloakrooms where you can leave your coats and bags for £2 per item. 

Gift Shop & Souvenirs

The National Gallery gift shop is one of my absolute favorites. Packed full of art-inspired gifts and souvenirs, browsing around here was like a day out in itself! The gift shop also has a website in case you can’t purchase onsite.

My Experience at The National Gallery

Photo courtesy of nationalgallery via Instagram

The entrance to The National Gallery is suitably impressive, with its tall columns and grand dome roof. I went on a weekday so it wasn’t too busy. However, I was told it can get quite crowded at peak times at the weekend, so be prepared if that’s how your visit fits into your London itinerary.

The artwork is displayed in many various halls and rooms, each one as grand as the next, with many featuring high ceilings and polished wooden floors. The gallery has an almost regal atmosphere and we really felt as if we were in the presence of greatness as we browsed the breathtaking art pieces. 

The collection is separated by both artist and the year they were completed, with the art on display spanning from the 13th century through to the 20th. There are more than 2,000 pieces to study and enjoy. The National Gallery is smaller than other European galleries but I was pleased to find all the major artistic movements in Western art were represented.

Each painting has an informative plaque to accompany it, which details the artist and any relevant or fascinating information about the painting itself. I was excited to see some very famous pieces of art on display including our personal favorite, Sunflowers by Van Gogh. I also really enjoyed seeing Portrait of a Man by Jan van Eyck, as well as some stunning pieces by Rembrandt, and Monet. 2024 sees the arrival of Liotard and the Lavergne Family Breakfast exhibition. 

Photos courtesy of National Gallery via Facebook

All in all, is The National Gallery worth it? Well, it will depend on your interests. The fact that you can enter the gallery for free is astounding really. Even if you are not a particularly big art enthusiast most people will enjoy browsing the exhibition for a couple of hours. Serious art fans could probably spend days here admiring each individual piece! The opportunity to enjoy the art, eat at a lovely restaurant, and buy cute souvenirs at the gift shop, make the London National Gallery well worth a visit.

Hopefully, my London National Gallery Review has been useful and has helped you to decide whether it is worth adding this superb attraction to your London Itinerary. Have any other questions about visiting The National Gallery? Let me know in the comments!

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Vikki grew up in south east London and enjoyed all aspects of the city for many years before she left to travel the world. She still has family in the city and brings her kids back to enjoy all the wonders of London whenever she can.

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