London Visitor Guide

London Attractions, Activities and Things To Do!

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: Web:

Tate Britain

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 each month)
Closed 24-26 December
Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
Phone: 020 7887 8888 Email: Web:

Tate Modern

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 Britain.
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 Lichtenstein.
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: Web:

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 arts.
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:

Hayward Gallery

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 contemporary art.
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:

Whitechapel Gallery

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: Web:

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 culture.
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 also available.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00 (late night opening Thursday and Friday until 21.00)
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 Britain.
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 displayed.
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: