Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N DN


Time: From 10.00am

Time Information:

Phone: 0207 747 2885

Entry Price: Free

300m from Charing Cross

150m from Charing Cross

In the 18th century, it became a trend for European countries to move the art gallery collected by their royal family and put it on permanent display in a national art gallery. Amongst these, the Italian collection went to the Uffizi and the French to the Louvre. As our own royal collection stayed with the sovereign, there were calls at the time to create a national gallery like the ones of other nations.

The collection started when the British Government bought 38 paintings from the estate of banker John Julius Angerstein in April 1824 with the collection put on display at Angerstein’s house at 100 Pall Mall. Being our national art gallery, it soon drew unfavourable comparisons to the great European galleries and a move became inevitable. It moved briefly to 105 Pall Mall due to subsidence at 100, but further plans were soon discussed.

Parliament agreed to build a new gallery in Trafalgar Square as this was the most central point of London and so accessible to all classes of society. It was designed by William Wilkins, built on the former site of the King’s Mews and opened in 1838. The building was the third to house the National Gallery but the internal design had flaws and through redesign over the years, only the front facade seen from Trafalgar Square remains from this time. New wings and extensions have been added, most notably in 1876, 1907, 1975, and lastly in 1991 with the addition of the Sainsbury Wing.

During World War II the paintings were removed for safety. Overseas destinations were considered before Prime Minister declared that “not a single picture shall leave these shores”. They were removed to the Manod quarry in north Wales where the positive effect of fresh air was noted which resulted in the installation of air conditioning in the Gallery when the paintings returned.

The Gallery now houses over 2,300 paintings and gives free entry to all.

Located on the north side of Trafalgar Square, the gallery is near to some of the best landmarks in central London.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.