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The National Gallery: a real national treasure
National Gallery (London)
Member Name: MarieHHH
National Gallery (London)
Advantages: huge range of classical art, free entry, oasis of calm in London
Disadvantages: not many interactive things
What is it?
The National Gallery is the home to a classical collection of art owned by the British public. It was founded in 1824 with an initial collection of 24 paintings. The collection now contains over 2300 works of art and those on display are housed in a magnificent building whose interior floorspace is equilivent to approximately 6 football pitches.
Where is it?
The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square, and its grand façade makes it easy to find. The nearest tube stops are Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo lines), Leicester Square (Northern and Picadilly lines) and Embankment (Northern, Bakerloo, District and Circle lines.)
When can I visit and how much does it cost to visit?
The National Gallery is open 10am to 6pm every day except Friday, when its open until 9pm. Entry to all the permanent exhibitions is free, although donations to help with its running are encouraged.
What is visiting like?
After you enter into the grand front entrance from Trafalgar Square, I would strongly recommend you pick up a free map from the reception desk on your right as the gallery can be quite difficult to navigate. Armed with this, you can plan your visit to take in whichever period of art takes your fancy; one of the gallery's great strengths is the huge range of eras and schools of classical art it has on display at any time.
The galleries themselves are spacious, light and have lots of seats that you can relax on, either to admire a particular painting at length or to give you feet a rest after all the walking. There are staff members in each room who, in addition to reminding people not to take photographs, are very helpful. I found the atmosphere calm without being library-like oppressive, which was a nice contrast to the chaos of London outside.
There are, obviously, lots of famous paintings in the gallery, and the friend I visited with most recently sounded like a crass name-dropper as he called his girlfriend to recount what he'd seen afterwards: "Yeah, there were a couple of Van Gogh's, but personally it was the Monet's that did it for me... no, I've never been a fan of Turner... Rembrandt neither, all a bit too dark..." Religious-based art seemed over-represented to me, but that might be simply because a lot of early Spainish and Italian art was inspired by bibilical scenes. Almost all the pictures have little bits of informative writing on the walls next to them which give useful little insights for the less art-aware such as myself. An audio guide can be hired for £3, but since I went with a friend I didn't take advantage of this.
You could easily spend hours in the galleries, and one of the definite plus points is that there is enough space that even on a Saturday you can go round at your own pace without feeling you are getting in other people's way.
In addition to the galleries there is the usual gift shop and restaurant, neither of which I visited so I feel unable to comment. There are also temporary exhibitions that you can pay to visit, but to be honest unless you have a particular interest in the particular artist being exhibited there is more than enough to see in the main gallery for free.
My only criticism of the gallery would be that signposting could definitely be improved, and without a map finding your way to different rooms is fiendishly difficult.
Overall the galleries are clean, well-laid out and made to be accessible to the less art-literate as well as interesting for those with realms of knowledge. Definitely well worth a visit, if only to briefly escape from the bustle of London for a while. And free entry! How can you possibly go wrong?
Summary: Definitely worth a visit
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