A Guide to Explore the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery is one of the best galleries and one of the most visited art museums in the world. It houses a collection of more than 2,300 paintings covering the period from the mid-13th century to 1900. This art museum is located in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its collection belongs to the public of the UK and it offers free entry to the main collection. Its collection may be small in size as compared to the collections in other European national galleries but it is quite expansive in scope as it houses most major developments in Western painting “from Giotto to Cézanne” and other important works. There was a time when this was one of those few national galleries that had all their works on permanent exhibition, but things have changed now.

It is home to one of the most valuable and comprehensive collections of paintings in the world. Its building is itself quite spectacular as visitors can linger on the terrace and enjoy excellent views of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. A monument of James II as a Roman emperor, and a bronze replica of the Washington statue in Richmond, Virginia, are situated outside the building.

The National Gallery was founded in 1824 with the purchase of 38 paintings from the Angerstein Collection and later on many more paintings were purchased due to which the gallery needed to be expanded and as such the following wings were added.

The Sainsbury Wing: It was added in 1991 and it presents paintings from 1260 to 1510 that were created by best known artists including Piero della Francesca (Baptism of Christ), Fra Angelico (Christ in Majesty), Piero di Cosimo (Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths),  Leonardo da Vinci (Madonna and Child with St Anne and John the Baptist), Giovanni Bellini (Madonna of the Meadow and Pietà), Raphael (The Crucifixion), Duccio, Pisanello, Masaccio, Giotto, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Sandro Botticelli, Paolo Uccello, Cosimo Tura, Andrea Mantegna, and Carlo Crivelli. The gallery is also home to a collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings including Hieronymus Bosch (Christ with the Crown of Thorns), Jan van Eyck (The Arnolfini Marriage), Hans Memling (Altar of Mary), Dieric Bouts (Mary with the Child), and Lucas Cranach the Elder (Portrait of a Young Woman).

London is famous for its theatres and other attractions that are located in West End and as such many visitors to the city prefer to stay at a Hotel in West End London as they can easily reach their places of interest.

The West Wing presents paintings from 1510 to 1600 including Michelangelo (The Entombment), Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, Bronzino and many others. This wing also has German and Dutch paintings that include Albrecht Dürer (The Painter’s Father), Albrecht Altdorfer (Landscape with Bridge) and others.

The North Wing presents paintings from 1600 to 1700 with masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens (Rape of the Sabine Women and The Straw Hat), Jan Vermeer (Lady at the Virginal), Jan Steen (Two Musicians on a Terrace) and many others. This wing also has Spanish paintings including Caravaggio (Boy bitten by a Lizard), Philippe de Champagne (Richelieu), Nicolas Poussin (The Finding of Moses) and many others.

The East Wing presents paintings from 1700 to 1920 including Sir Joshua Reynolds (Lady Cockburn and Children), William Hogarth (Marriage à la Mode), Thomas Gainsborough (The Morning Walk) and many others. This wing also has French paintings such as Claude Monet (The Waterlily Pond), Antoine Watteau (La Gamme d’Amour), Honoré Daumier (Don Quixote) and others.

People who are visiting London and would like to stay in the midst of all the action, particularly close to the cultural scene of the West End and the other attractions of central London, should opt for staying at The Piccadilly London West End as it also offers utterly luxurious accommodation with best facilities.

Tours of the National Gallery: Audio tours of the gallery are available including themed tours that provide excellent explorations of related art such as the Inspired Tour that takes you round paintings that have inspired poets and writers and celebrities. You can download tours from the website of the gallery and free maps are also available. Interesting audio tours for families and kids are available including Art Detectives. Free guided tours are also available.

Reaching the Gallery: Five Underground stations are located near the gallery and are just an easy walk away including Westminster (District, Circle and Jubilee lines); Embankment (Northern, Bakerloo, District and Circle lines); Piccadilly (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines); Northern and Piccadilly lines); Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo lines); and Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines). The nearest train station is Charing Cross. Numerous bus routes also serve the gallery. Embankment Pier is the nearest embarkation point for ferries and tour boats.  It is best not to drive to the gallery and park on the outskirts of the city and take a train or underground to reach it. The art gallery is open daily 10am-6pm; Friday 10am-9pm.

Nearby Attractions: The National Gallery is located in the heart of London and as such there are many attractions nearby such as Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. The National Portrait Gallery is next door and the London Eye, the Shard and the South Bank are across the River Thames.

Nearby Shopping: There are three shops in the Gallery itself where you can get everything from high quality gifts, jewellery and clothing. You can also buy prints and postcards of any of the paintings in the gallery, as well as specialist books in a shop in the Sainsbury Wing. Since the gallery is located centrally, there are many shopping options close by. Some of the shops include Davenports Magic Shop, Tenderproduct, Pan de Vie, Hardys Original Sweet Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Dover Street Market, Etsy House, Stanfords, Any Amount of Books, Godiva, SeeWoo, Loon Fung Supermarket, The Sanctuary, St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden Academy of Flowers and many more.

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