London Attractions, Activities and Things
London Art Galleries
The National Gallery
Conveniently located in Trafalgar Square,
the National Gallery's permanent collection comprises over 2,300 paintings
from Western Europe, dating from 1250. Their subjects reflect the history,
religion and myths of the region. Paintings are organised by date, with
those from 1250-1500 being in the Salisbury Wing and most of the rest
being on level two of the main building, which has Grade 1 status.
The Gallery features numerous world-renowned artists, including
Michelangelo, Titian and Goya. Some its best-loved works are Van Gogh's
"Sunflowers", "The Hay Wain" by John Constable and Leonardo de Vinci's
"The Virgin of the Rocks".
The National Gallery's collection is one of the world's most closely
studied and thoroughly researched, resulting in a wealth of information
being available for the exhibitions. All the pictures are regularly
monitored and are displayed in a carefully controlled environment.
Special exhibitions are staged frequently plus various special events,
many of them free. Adult and school group visits can be arranged while
regular Wednesday evening sessions feature live music, talks and a bar.
Daily guided tours are available at 11.30 and 14.30 and are led by
National Gallery guides. Self-guided tours can also be undertaken by
following family trails available from the information desks, themed audio
guides or books from the bookshop.
Nourishment is provided at the National Dining Rooms and the National
Café, where reservations may be required, and at the Espresso Bar.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00. Fridays 10.00-21.00.
Closed 1 January and 24-26 December.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
Phone: 020 7747 2885 Email:
Originally the National Gallery of British
Art, the establishment was officially renamed the Tate Gallery in 1932
after sugar magnate Henry Tate, who paid for the building and endowed it
with his own collection of British art. The Tate has since expanded to
sites in Liverpool and St. Ives plus the Tate Modern collection of
international modern art.
The current Tate Britain gallery in Millbank is now the world centre for
the understanding and enjoyment of British art. It has works dating from
1500 to the contemporary art of the present day and covers the development
of art in Britain over this period. The collection includes work by
William Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds, through to the 20th Century
works of artists such as Henry Moore and Francis Bacon, and right up to
modern day works.
Blake and Constable have dedicated spaces within the gallery while the
specially built Clore Gallery houses around 300 paintings and thousands of
watercolours by Turner. The gallery is also associated with the renowned
Turner Prize, which celebrates new developments in contemporary art. The
four artists short listed for the prize present works in a show held at
Tate Britain before the winner is announced in December.
Tate Britain stages various exhibitions and numerous events, including
talks, courses and workshops. Refreshment is available through the Rex
Whistler Restaurant, which offers contemporary British cuisine, or less
formally at the Tate Britain Café.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.50 (or until 22.00 on the first Friday of
Closed 24-26 December
Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
Phone: 020 7887 8888 Email:
The gallery is housed in a converted power
station, located on the south bank of the Thames opposite St. Paul's
Cathedral and the City of London. The original turbine hall has become a
dramatic entrance area while the boiler house now forms the galleries. Two
of the gallery floors contain the Tate's collection of modern art and the
third floor is used for temporary exhibitions.
A two-storey penthouse was added to the original building, with the top
level having various event spaces and the Tate Modern Restaurant, which
has a menu based on fresh, local produce. Refreshments are also available
at Cafe 2 and the Espresso Bar.
Tate Modern was originally part of the Tate Gallery but is now a separate
building that, since 2000, has displayed the national collection of modern
art — defined as works since 1900. Paintings before this date can be found
at the National Gallery while earlier sculptures are at the Victoria &
Albert Museum. Work by modern British artists can also be found at Tate
Tate Modern concentrates on modern British art that contributes to the
history of modern art. It represents all the major movements from Fauvism
on, and has important masterpieces by Picasso and Matisse. The gallery's
collections of Surrealism include works by Dali and Magritte while its
holdings of American Abstract Expressionism have major works by Pollock.
Significant collections of Pop Art include works by Warhol and
The collections are displayed across four wings on two levels, with a
central hub of each wing focusing on a pivotal moment of art history. A
Learning Zone helps visitors get to know 20th Century art and artists.
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 10.00-18.00, Friday & Saturday 10.00-22.00
Closed 24-26 December
Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
Phone: 020 7887 8888 Email:
Courtauld Institute of Art
Located in Somerset House, an 18th Century
palace on the north bank of the Thames next to Waterloo Bridge, the
Institute was the first academic centre of its kind in Britain when it was
founded in 1932. It was established to provide students with a world-class
collection of art to study at first hand and it remains one of the world's
leading institutions for the study of art history and conservation.
Facilities for students are exceptional and include outstanding libraries
and the Courtauld Gallery, which is open to the public. The Gallery is one
of the finest small museums in the world, with its collection stretching
from the early Renaissance into the 20th Century. It is particularly
renowned for its unrivalled collection of Impressionist and
Post-Impressionist painting, while it also holds an outstanding collection
of drawings and prints plus fine examples of sculpture and decorative
The Gallery's collection has been built up from a series of bequests,
resulting in a collection of great depth and quality. Drawings and prints
include works by Michelangelo, Canaletto, van Gogh and Picasso. Various
sculptures and decorative artworks are also available.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Gallery stages a number of
small scale, temporary exhibitions. Group bookings are possible and a
number of talks, around fifteen minutes in length, are given by the
Institute's students and researchers on works in the collection. A café
and shop are available.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00
The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN
Phone: 020 7872 0220 Web:
Part of the Southbank Centre along with the
Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the
Saison Poetry Library, The Hayward is located on the Thames riverside
between the Golden Jubilee and Waterloo Bridges. It was opened in 1968 and
is regarded as one of London's most important spaces for displaying
The Hayward is at the centre of visual arts at the Southbank Centre. It
puts on major exhibitions and commissions new artworks in the gallery. It
also organises projects, installations and talks across the site.
Since the Gallery stages a constantly changing series of exhibitions, it
is necessary to check the art that is currently on site. In addition, the
main galleries may be closed between exhibitions.
The Gallery has various areas that are put to different uses. The Hayward
Projects Space is designed to accommodate a regularly changing programme
of single installations and small exhibitions of works by emerging
artists. The Waterloo Sunset Pavilion was conceived as a "drop-in centre
for children and old people and a space for viewing cartoons". The Neon
Tower, at the top of the lift shaft, has multi-coloured neon strips that
are activated by changes in the strength and direction of the wind. Some
of the spaces are available for hire.
The Hayward manages the Arts Council Collection, with over 7,500 works of
art. This is available for exhibitions and displays at home and abroad as
well as for long-term loan to public buildings.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00 (late nights Friday until 22.00)
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Phone: 08703 800 400 Web:
Formed in 1901 to bring great art to the
people of East London, the Whitechapel Gallery is set in one of the
world's most vibrant contemporary art quarters. It is now internationally
acclaimed for its exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and its
pioneering education and public events programmes. The Gallery has
premiered international artists such as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock
and has provided a showcase for Britain's most significant artists,
including Lucian Freud and Mark Wallinger.
The Whitechapel has a constantly changing series of exhibitions and runs
talks and events, with modern art themes, plus films, live music and
poetry readings. It also has an education programme and space for hire.
Always at the forefront of ensuring accessibility for visitors with
visual, hearing and mobility impairments, the Whitechapel offers a number
of aids to its visitors. These include large print copies of leaflets and
exhibition labels, audio tapes, members trained in visual description,
talks in sign language and full wheelchair access.
The Whitechapel is undergoing a period of expansion into the former
library building next door that will transform it into the Whitechapel
Laboratory. Due to open fully in Spring 2009, this will double the gallery
space, treble the training and education space, provide a Research Room
and Archive Research Room, have an Archive Collection Gallery, expanded
bookshop and street level restaurant.
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11.00-18.00 (Thursday – talks until 21.00,
Friday – music until 23.00)
Whitechapel, 80-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX
Phone: 020 7522 7888 Email:
National Portrait Gallery
Established in 1856, the National Portrait
Gallery houses original portraits of people who have importance in British
history. The overriding criteria, which remain true today, were that the
gallery was to be about history rather than art and that the status of a
portrait's subject was more important than the quality of the work of art.
Portraits range from the 16th Century until the present date, with the
first portrait, of William Shakespeare, being acquired in 1856 and the
oldest dated portrait being of Henry VII with a date of 1505.
There are over 50,000 portraits in the collection, with those currently
displayed being arranged by gallery. The Tudor Galleries cover the 16h
Century and earlier while there are separate 17th and 18th Century
Galleries. The Wheldon Galleries show portraits for the late 18th and
early 19th Centuries and there are also Victorian, 20th Century and
Contemporary Portrait Galleries, the latter including some photographic
portraits. The collection of contemporary portraits is continually being
built up through the commissioning of around six portraits each year of
people who have made an important contribution to British history and
In addition to its portrait exhibitions, the Gallery has a programme of
daytime and evening lectures and events. An audio guide provides over 350
commentaries about portraits on display. Refreshments are available from
the Portrait Café in the vaulted basement or in the rooftop Portrait
Restaurant, which has stunning views over London. A gift and book shop is
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00 (late night opening Thursday and Friday
Closed 24-26 December
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE
Phone: 020 7306 0055 Fax: 020 7306 0056 Web:
Royal Academy of Arts
The Academy stages a series of exhibitions
in its Main Galleries and Sackler Wing of Galleries. These focus on the
works of particular artists or may be collections from specific countries
or that are drawn from museums and galleries in other countries. The
displayed art is therefore changing frequently.
The permanent collection focuses on British art and artists, mainly from
the 18th Century until the present day, and includes paintings,
sculptures, drawings, prints, books, archives, historic photographs and
plaster casts. It has major works by Reynolds, Turner, Gainsborough,
Constable and many others.
The Royal Academy has held an annual Summer Exhibition since 1768. This is
the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world and draws
together a wide range of new work by established and unknown living
artists. It provides a unique showcase for art of all styles and media,
including paintings, sculpture, prints and architectural models, with most
works being offered for sale.
The Academy's framing department offers its services to professionals and
the general public, with all work carried out to conservation standards.
The department can give expert advice on conservation and restoration, and
can restore works on paper and canvas.
The Research Library and Archive, which is open to the public by
appointment, is the oldest institutional fine arts library in the UK. It
has a significant collection of books and other materials, including
prints, drawings and photographs relating to British art and the history
of the Academy.
The Academy has a shop, a Royal Academy Restaurant and a Gallery Café.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00 (Friday until 22.00)
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
Phone: 020 7300 8000 Web:
Victoria and Albert South Kensington
Although classified as a museum, the V&A
South Kensington has a range of galleries that house an impressive
collection of art, including over 2,000 British and European oil
paintings. The various works are on display in different rooms that focus
on particular styles and artists.
The Paintings Galleries are a series of rooms that were built in the 1850s
to house the V&A's paintings, with over 200 oil paintings and watercolours
on display. Landscapes by Constable are shown alongside those by Turner
and their contemporaries.
Thirty of Constable's oil sketches were donated to the V&A by Isobel
Constable and are displayed in the same room as Thomas Gainsborough's 'showbox".
This device is used to view a number of the artist's landscapes that were
painted in oils on glass.
Several portrait miniatures are displayed. This unique art form was
designed to be viewed closely, with the portraits being presented as
tokens of loyalty, friendship or love. The Prints and Drawings Room has a
changing display of prints and drawings.
The Constantine Ionides" collection comprises over eighty paintings,
including Renaissance portraits by Botticelli and Tintoretto, and
pre-Raphaelite works by Burne-Jones and Rossetti. A collection of Raphael
Cartoons features what were designs to guide weavers of tapestries for the
Sistine Chapel, but which are now among the greatest artistic treasures in
The Sheepshanks collection features some of the 233 paintings given to the
V&A by John Sheepshanks to start the paintings collection in 1857. The V&A
has also acquired thousands of watercolours, drawings and illustrations
since its foundation and a selection, which are rotated regularly, are
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.45 (Friday until 22.00)
Closed 24-26 December
V & A South Kensington, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
Phone: 020 7942 2000 Web: