National Gallery

Free

From Canaletto to Constable, the National Gallery holds more than 2,300 works of art including some of the great masterpieces of European art such as Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Monet’s Waterlilies, Renoir’s Boating on the Seine and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

The National Gallery is one of the most visited museums in the world and in London only the British Museum receives more visitors.

What to see at the National Gallery

The National Gallery is home to a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th century to the early 20th century. By world standards, it is a relatively small collection but it is of a very high standard and a large portion of the gallery’s collection is on display to the public.

Paintings from the 13th to the 15th century include works by Bellini, Botticelli, Duccio, Dürer, van Eyck, Lippi, Mantegna, Memling and Uccello. Painting from this era mainly had religious themes although portraits and themes from ancient history became more popular in the 15th century. Highlights from this era include Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars.

The 16th century saw the rise of the Renaissance and the gallery’s artworks from this period include works by Bronzino, Bruegel, Cranach, Holbein, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian and Veronese. The museum’s highlights from the 16th century include Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.

Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–1523) by Titian
Bacchus and Ariadne (1520–1523) by Titian

The gallery’s collection from the 17th century includes works by Caravaggio, Claude, Cuyp, Van Dyck, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velàzquez and Vermeer. Highlights from this period include Rubens Samson and Delilah, Claude’s Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula and Velàzquez’s The Toilet of Venus.

The collection spanning from the 18th to the early 20th century includes works by Canaletto, Cézanne, Constable, Degas, Van Gogh, Goya, Ingres, Monet and Turner. The gallery’s highlights from this period include Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, which is possibly the most famous painting by an English artist.

The Fighting Temeraire (1839) by Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Fighting Temeraire (1839) by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Temporary exhibitions at the National Gallery

In addition to its permanent collection, the National Gallery also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Some of these temporary exhibitions may incur an additional entry fee.

Current and planned exhibitions include:

The Last Caravaggio
The Last Caravaggio exhibition (until 21 July 2024) focuses on Caravaggio’s last painting, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. In London for the first time in 20 years, the painting will be exhibited alongside the National Gallery’s Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (c 1609–10).

Discover Degas & Miss La La
Centred on Degas’ Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, this exhibition (6 June–1 September 2024) unveils newfound insights into the painting and its subject. The radical Impressionist masterpiece captures the circus artist Miss La La, revealing her extraordinary aerial skill. Degas, in 1879, skillfully depicted her perilous performance, suspended from a rope clenched between her teeth. Presenting rare drawings and unpublished photographic portraits, the exhibition delves into Miss La La’s story, shedding light on this little-known masterpiece.

Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers
This exhibition (14 September 2024–19 January 2025) is a unique opportunity to experience Vincent Van Gogh’s most renowned paintings. Rarely seen paintings, sourced globally, are paired with extraordinary drawings, providing a comprehensive view of his revolutionary two-year period in the south of France. The exhibit focuses on his Arles and Saint-Rémy phase, exploring how he transformed his style with poetic colour and texture, influenced by poets, writers, and artists. Notable works include Starry Night over the Rhône (1888) and The Yellow House (1888), offering an up-close encounter with iconic pieces like Sunflowers (1888) and Van Gogh’s Chair (1889).

Discover Constable & The Hay Wain
This exhibition (17 October 2024–2 February 2025) lets you explore the origins and iconic status of John Constable’s The Hay Wain. Examining paintings such as George Morland’s Storm and William Mulready’s Farrier’s Shop, the exhibit delves into how Constable’s contemporaries depicted rural scenes. The display includes Constable’s sketches created two decades before the final piece, offering a glimpse into his artistic process. Originally deemed radical, The Hay Wain now represents a traditional English countryside image, influencing reinterpretations in response to evolving climate concerns. The narrative unfolds through works by artists admired by Constable and those responding to his masterpiece, showcasing England’s landscape in the early 19th century.

Parmigianino: The Vision of Saint Jerome
The Parmigianino exhibition (5 December 2024–9 March 2025) highlights the artistic process of Parmigianino, a visionary Renaissance artist, and delves into the creation of his masterpiece, The Madonna and Child with Saints, also known as The Vision of Saint Jerome. After a decade of conservation, the artwork returns to public display alongside selected drawings, from velvety chalk studies to pen and ink sketches, offering an insight into Parmigianino’s creative process.

Visiting the National Gallery

The National Gallery is located at the northern side of Trafalgar Square. It is only a two-minute walk to Charing Cross tube station and less than five minutes to Leicester Square tube station.

The National Gallery has a central location at the northern end of Trafalgar Square. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media Pty Ltd)
The National Gallery has a central location at the northern end of Trafalgar Square. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media)

Admission to the gallery is free although audio tours cost £5.

There are 60-minute guided tours of the collection’s highlights every day at 11.30am and 2.30pm.

There is a lot to see here and most visitors spend between two and three hours visiting the gallery.

We may earn a small commission if you buy your tickets after clicking this link.

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Amenities
  • Wheelchair access
  • Audio tour (paid)
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Gift shop

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