People gathering at exhibition at National Portrait Gallery.

  • The National Portrait Gallery is closed due to essential building works. They plan to reopen in the spring of 2023.
  • The National Portrait Gallery is home to stunning paintings of iconic British people throughout history.
  • Keep an eye out for the amazing temporary exhibitions that cover a wide range of interesting themes.
  • Organisers of the BP Portrait Award, the National Portrait Gallery houses many gorgeous pieces by modern British artists. 
  • Get in touch with your creative side and take part in one of the workshops on offer from the National Portrait Gallery.

Having first opened in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery was the first portrait gallery ever established. With a catalogue of over 215,000 pieces, many of which date as far back to the 16th century, this museum has the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. From royal portraits of the Tudors to sketches of Sir Ian McKellen, this art gallery is filled with portraits of important British people who have shaped the world as we know it. Also famous for hosting the annual BP Portrait Award competition, this location is one of the best art museums in London to spend a few hours with the family.

Take a step back in time through the art from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The free exhibition allows the public to see personal portraits of influential figures such as the Tudor family, William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi and more. Track the development of style and skill throughout time as the collection has artwork that spans from the Elizabethan Era right up to modern day. The kids will love putting faces to the people from their history books and imagining the personalities as shown from their expression in the paintings. The sheer skill and beauty the artists that exhibit here possess is enough to impress any visitor, regardless of how experienced they are in the world of art.

It’s not just regal oil paintings on show at the National Portrait Gallery; sketches, sculpture, photography and paintings using contemporary mediums are all exhibited across the museum. Have a look online to see the full extent of their collection, many of these precious pieces have been uploaded on the website for increased public access.

Alongside the impressive collection, the National Portrait Gallery holds temporary exhibitions. With themes ranging from the birth of modern photography to portraits of stars like Audrey Hepburn and Micheal Jackson, there is always something fresh and exciting happening here. Famous artists that have had their work shown in this gallery include Cindy Sherman, Lucian Freud, Picasso, Cezanne and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to see some of this amazing art as it travels to the capital city.

The BP Portrait Award is the most honourable and recognisable prize a portrait artist could achieve in Britain. The National Portrait Gallery holds this annual competition and showcases talent from all across the world. The yearly exhibition is comprised of the very best entries, showing the winners and the runner ups in this tight competition. This is a brilliant exhibition to bring the kids to, expose them to unique voices and different perspectives of life from around the world through the art of portraiture. 

If you want to dive deeper into the world of portraiture, why not attend one of the amazing educational events that the National Portrait Gallery hosts regularly. With subjects ranging from talks analysing the works of old masters like Constable, to hands-on workshops that teach the basics of portraiture. There are lots of online resources on the Gallery’s website to encourage your children’s creativity from home. Check out the free downloadable Playful Portraits book to get your children to learn about key figures in history through making art. 

What to know before you go

  • The National Portrait Gallery is currently undergoing a £35.5 million pound refurbishment. While improvements to the building are being made, the museum will be closed to the public.
  • The National Portrait Gallery opening hours are typically 10am to 6pm, with the exception of staying open until 9pm on Fridays.
  • Admission to the museum is free; however, there may be a charge for certain National Portrait Gallery exhibitions.
  • The Portrait Café, located inside the museum, is open from 10am to 5pm for some light refreshments. 
  • For a taste of fine dining, you can book a table in the Portrait Restaurant, open from 10am to 4.30pm during the week and staying open late on Friday and Saturday evenings,  to enjoy a dinner in the ambience of the art.
  • The entire museum is wheelchair and buggy friendly, with lifts on every floor and a step-free entrance located via the Shop on St Martin’s Place. There is also a wheelchair renting service available on site.
  • Hearing loops, audio guides, magnifiers and large print pamphlets are available from the information desk for visitors who may need them.
  • Assistance dogs are welcome in the gallery.

How to get there

  • The National Portrait Gallery is located at St Martin’s Place, Charing Cross, London WC2H 0HE, just outside Trafalgar Square.
  • The closest rail station is Charing Cross, a short walk away from the gallery.
  • If you are taking the Tube, the closest stations are Charing Cross, Leicester Square and Embankment, all less than 500 metres from the gallery.
  • Buses 6, 9, 24, 159 and 176 stop nearby.
  • Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.
  • There is no designated car park at the museum. Visitors are advised to park in the public car park on Whitcomb Street and Orange Street.

Images © National Portrait Gallery.


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