National Portrait Gallery

Art, Galleries Leicester Square Free
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(18user reviews)
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National Portrait Gallery
© National Portrait Gallery, London

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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Pick a date

  • Until Sunday September 24 2017
  • Thursday July 27 2017 - Friday December 21 2018 Free
  • Latin and world Friday July 28 2017
  • Dance and electronic Thursday August 3 2017
  • Music venues Friday August 4 2017
  • Rock and indie Friday August 11 2017
  • Pop Thursday August 17 2017
  • Acoustic Friday August 18 2017
  • Friday August 25 2017
  • Thursday October 26 2017 - Sunday February 11 2018

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Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:15
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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I love the central location of the National Portrait Gallery, the sweeping staircases and the very thoughtful manner they have been able to meet old and new both in regard to content but also the building itself. It's seemless. Everything has been thought of and there is something here to capture everybody's imagination and interest, no matter what your age.

I like I can take it in stages to come and go to my hearts content, previously I discoversed portrait's of the royal family through the ages and pime ministers.

I enjoy the variety but also find it just as interesting watching the reaction to the people who are looking at the art as much as the art itself. Wonderfully absorbing place, go soak it up.


I'm not overly enthralled by art of many kinds but I do enjoy portraits in certain styles, and was specifically captivated by the Tudor rooms and portraits at this gallery. I kind of love how strange their faces are portrayed, and as you walk through the ages from there, seeing how depictions of beauty change.

The more modern portraits are cool - its fun when we can see an artists impression and relate it back to what you know that person does actually look like. Its definitely worth a visit, and a cool free thing to do when you have an hour to kill or want an injection of culture!


A lovely gallery in central London located right behind the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery is definitely a must when you come to London! 

I visited the Gallery as part of the Friday lates that they host. This week's late included live music from a Brazilian and an Italian artist, playing the clarinet and guitar together. It was such a lovely mix, that I would have never thought could go together but they did! They played some really relaxing and happy tunes, which was a great way to start off the late. 

My friend and I proceeded to explore the rest of the gallery, enjoying the paintings and photographs that they had. I liked this variation in mediums to showcase artists' work, from paintings to photographs to digital displays. They had a lovely range of paintings in different sizes too, which I liked. Overall, it was a really nice visit and easy to see the whole gallery in about an hour!

Lise M

The National Portrait Gallery is one of the unmissable when you're visiting London. Located next to the National Gallery, this small gem has an amazing collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people from The Tudors to the modern times. Every section is organised chronologically which makes very easy to follow and associate portraits to key historical moments. The visit is about 1h/1h30 unless you have tickets for one of temporary exhibitions. Definitely a must see!

Giles C

London's best kept secret. It's not packed out with eminent Victorians (though it does have a few). You're greeted by photographs and paintings of people in the news today. There's even a video of David Beckham sleeping! I love the annual portrait and photographic competitions. Never agree with the judges but always find things that I love

Jane G.

Sometimes the best things in life ARE free! How amazing to see such famous paintings. Tudors, Stuart's, Victorian, along side modern. Whether you have hours or just a little time, it's well worth stopping in! Staff were extremely friendly and engaged with enthusiasm when I asked a question.

Dave C

I adore the permanent collection here, and especially the 20th/21st century collection - it's like stepping into an edition of Hello curated by intellectuals and created by the best artists around.


I went after work on a late night Thursday opening  - there was a live progressive house DJ which reverberated around the 19 century galleries - I had a skip in my walk!  I really loved the Tudor section because of the infamous King Henry 8th and his many wife's - I felt that I intimately got acquainted with them all.  It was also fascinating to see and learn more about the various different 19 / 20th century scientists, traders, explorers and romantics - all people that shaped the western world we live in today.   I will be visiting again as two hours was not enough!  

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.