The National Portrait Gallery, located just around the corner for the National Gallery, is my favorite museum in London. It is the perfect size, kept interesting with six yearly exhibitions, and offers a great restaurant and unique gift shops. The National Portrait Gallery originally paved the way for the art world’s portrait exhibitions, opening in 1856 as the world’s first portrait museum. I definitely recommend a visit to this little piece of history.
The gallery holds portraits of famous, influential and historical figures, brought to life in many mediums. The works range from 16th century paintings of notable men and women of Britain’s history all the way up to present day figures, making the experience great for all types of art lovers. The mix of British war heroes and pop culture stars keeps each room unique, fresh, and interesting.
The building itself follows that same formula. The gallery rooms are traditional with ornate moulding, rich wall colors, and decorative frames. The central areas of the National Portrait Gallery, however, are much more modern. The long staircase and escalator are a focal point of the main lobby, and bring you up to a bookshop loft or the open second and third art levels. This sharp area of the building is a work of art itself with unique, clean lines and architecture.
The book store is pretty great. I’ve purchased travel, art, kids, and fashion books for birthday and Christmas gifts. There is enough variety at reasonable prices to make it a great spot for a keepsake. If you’re not looking for books, you can head to the main gift shop, located near the entrance. There you will find a little bit of everything–clothing, accessories, prints, pencils, umbrellas, coasters–and much, much more.
Between the amazing temporary and permanent collections, the beautiful building to explore, the noteworthy shops, and the amazing top floor restaurant (which I will detail in a later post), you can really make a day of London’s National Portrait Gallery. It’s the pretty little sister to the National Gallery, right there in Trafalgar Square. Head to one of the most grand areas of London and find your way to one of the city’s best museums!
National Portrait Gallery
St. Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE