National Portrait Gallery

Address: St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE, United Kingdom
Telephone: 020 7306 055

- Free


A lively and switched-on art gallery full of familiar faces.

Opened in 1896 to exhibit portraits of famous British men and women, this most welcoming of galleries has a deservedly popular reputation. There is plenty to see across its three levels where celebrities from the 16th century onwards are exhibited in chronological steps starting at the top with the early Tudors. It's interesting how some people don't look how you thought they would  - such as the visionary writer William Blake (level 2, room 18) - and to note the way modern artists now hold such wide and stimulating views on how a portrait can be created. While it's easy to get waylaid by the formal busts and stiff-faced paintings on the upper floors, make sure you save some time for the Contemporaries galleries at ground level, where you can see who's recently made it into this elite club. Forget Madame Tussauds - the NPG doesn't cost a penny to enter and it's just as much fun.

Value for money

Price advice

Admission is free, charges apply to some special exhibitions. Audioguides cost £3.

Expert tips

On the third floor, the Portrait Restaurant (020 7312 2490) has enjoyable roof-top views towards Trafalgar Square.

Take advantage of the gallery's late opening on Thursday and Friday when you can enjoy talks, tours and live music.

Recommended for

  • Couples
  • Culture vultures
  • Families with teenagers
  • Mature travellers
  • Singles
  • Celebrity spotting
  • Art
  • Design and architecture