The northern edge of Trafalgar Square is home to London’s National Gallery. Bathed in soft blue light at night, it is no wonder that this is the most famous and acclaimed museum in all of England. The inside is just as enticing as the gentle exterior. Home to over 2300 pieces dating as far back as the thirteenth century, the National Gallery UK is also the country’s largest museum, and should be a part of anyone’s London itinerary. Throughout the years, it has grown in stature so that now it is almost in the same tier as the Louvre or Prado.
Since its inception in 1855, the collection at the National Gallery London has only grown in stature. Expanded to seventeen pristine rooms, the pieces inside the Gallery read like a laundry list of the world’s most important artists throughout history – you’ll find work by Renaissance artists like Raphael, Michelangelo and Botticelli, all the way to impressionist painters like Cezanne, Renoir and Monet. And these aren’t just throwaway pieces – these are career defining paintings, like Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Funded mainly by rich and/or well-known art collectors such as J. Paul Getty (whose eponymous museum in Los Angeles is one of America’s best), the National Gallery London continues to grow by leaps and bounds – if it could grow during the lean years of World War II, the future appears to be no problem for this museum.
The early Italian Renaissance painters were the favored style of one of the museum’s former directors, thus they are heavily featured in the National Gallery UK – nowhere outside of Italy will you find a greater collection of this artistic period. In fact, along with the rest of the museum’s Renaissance works, these popular paintings now have their very own wing in the National Gallery London. Called the Sainsbury Wing, you’ll find exhibitions on certain artists, styles, or motifs that are so endearingly in-depth you may never look at art the same way again. Here you’ll find one of Da Vinci’s most famous works, the black chalk cartoon called “Virgin and Child,” which gained most of its fame from actually being attacked at gunpoint.
Open everyday from 10am – 6pm, except Wednesdays, when the museum extends its hours until 9pm. With its entrance opening out onto Trafalgar Square, it’s hard to miss the National Gallery UK – and other tourist attractions like St. Martin’s Church, St. James Park and Buckingham Palace in such close proximity, an afternoon could easily be spent taking in these great sights – and the free admission price is another of the Gallery’s selling points (since the art here “belongs to everyone,” the museum is free to the public). Even if you had to spend 20 pounds to get in, there would really be no reason to miss the finest collection of art in London, a virtual who’s who of the art world over the past 700 years.