National Portrait Gallery

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  • Galleries
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© National Portrait Gallery, London
Leicester Square Free

Portraits don't have to be stuffy. The National Portrait Gallery has everything from oil paintings of stiff-backed royals to photos of soccer stars and gloriously unflattering political caricatures. The portraits of musicians, scientists, artists, philanthropists and celebrities are arranged in chronological order from the top to the bottom of the building. At the top of the escalator up from the main foyer are the earliest works, portraits of Tudor and Stuart royals and notables. On the same floor, the eighteenth-century collection features Georgian writers and artists, with one room devoted to the influential Kit-Cat Club of Whig (leftish) intellectuals, Congreve and Dryden among them. More famous names here include Wren and Swift. The Duveen Extension contains Regency greats, military men such as Wellington and Nelson, as well as Byron, Wordsworth and other Romantics. The first floor is devoted to the Victorians (Dickens, Brunel, Darwin) and, in the Duveen Extension, the twentieth century. One of the NPG's most popular highlights is the annual BP Portrait Award where the best entrants for the prestigious prize are exhibited.

Venue name: National Portrait Gallery
Address: St Martin's Place
Opening hours: Mon-Wed, Sat, Sun 10am-6pm; Thu, Fri 10am-9pm
Transport: Tube: Charing Cross
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  • Painting Until Monday January 4 2016 Free
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  • Until Sunday January 10 2016
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  • Photography Until Sunday February 21 2016
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  • Thursday February 11 2016 - Sunday May 22 2016
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Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:1
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Luisa G

Enjoyable few hours in London. There are a variety of portraits, not all typical 'old-fashioned' ones - there are even some of Kate Middleton and the newer generation.

London Aficionado

A magnificent collection of art, covering a whole range of periods and styles, the National Portrait Gallery has its unique place in London’s art galleries. There is something so personal about a portrait. It’s an art form that connects like no other. I recently went to see this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition and it’s always an uplifting experience. It’s very reassuring to know that, even in this age of digital imagery, there are still artists out there who can paint in the traditional medium, demonstrating outstanding ability and talent. 

The gallery opens late every Thursday and Friday evening until 9:00pm (known as The Late Shift) and, as well as providing an opportunity to view the current exhibition on show, also hosts live music performances and talks. There’s also a bar if you fancy relaxing with a drink and one of my favourite Late Shift offerings are the drop-in drawing sessions, where free drawing materials are provided for you to try your hand at drawing one of the many paintings or sculptures scattered around the various galleries. There are always scores of people spread out on fold-up chairs or on the floor, engrossed in their chosen subject. It’s a lovely, quiet and relaxing alternative to a loud and noisy pub on a Thursday or Friday evening and a great opportunity to get the creative artistic juices flowing. Perfect for the upcoming colder and darker evenings.

Chesca R

In the middle of London's tourist hubbub is this beautiful oasis of calm. I work close by and pop in if I need some quiet and head space. I keep discovering new favourites. Every year, without fail, I visit the portrait artist of the year exhibition, normally more than once. I do not possess any artist talent so I am always in awe of the level of incredible talent of my fellow humans. The portraits of the Compton cricket club are my current favourites but I am sure that will change on my next visit. 

Alexandra L

Like a sanctuary of calm, the National Portrait Gallery sits handsomely among the pigeons, tourists and floating Yoda's of Trafalgar Square. Boasting world class galleries, it's the perfect place to duck into and transport yourself to different corners of both the globe & history through breathtaking pieces of art and, until October 18th, it's also the home of an exhibition depicting the many faces and characters of the altogether lovely Audrey Hepburn. 

Ethereal & elegant, the 70+ photos beautifully illustrate her life both public, as the chic, gamine yet playful silver screen heroine of films such as 'Funny Face' and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and private, as a mother, wife and philanthropist, and while stills of her draped in the iconic fashions of the 50's & 60's made me long for both her wardrobe and her cheekbones, it was the last few photos of her, make-up free and natural during a UNICEF trip to Sudan that stayed with me long after we had left.

Get there as early as you can because whilst the images are nicely laid throughout several large rooms, the ticket-holders only queue was building up by the time we left. Arriving, as we did, in the first time slot of 10.30am means that you'll be able to take your time viewing the photos without the head bobbing and tiptoe weaving that can sometimes be the case in exhibits like this. 

Moments after stepping back into the outside world, you'll be carried away into the frenetic pace of London life so if you've ever been swept up in the doe eyed gaze of Ms. Audrey or have an interest in photography or simply enjoy spending an hour in a different world, the National Portrait Gallery should find itself top of your summer 2015 London hit-list.


One of my favorite places in London. The National Portrait Gallery is a must see for all art lovers.

I particularly enjoy the BP Portrait Competition. Some of the best contemporary painters take part and the quality of the work submitted is superb!

James Curran

A must on any trip to London, the National Portrait Gallery houses an incredible collection of portraits. Every time I visit I find something new and intriguing amongst the thousands of paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs of subjects from Anne Boleyn to Rio Ferdinand. It is free to enter but I would definitely the café as the food is excellent and great value for the city centre.