Visiting The National Portrait Gallery in London
Sunday May 19, 2024

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Located in the heart of London, nestled next door to theatres and around the corner from Trafalager Square, The National Portrait Gallery originally opened in 1856, and at the time, was the first of its kind in the world to be a museum entirely dedicated to exhibiting portraits.

Now many TSLL readers may remember that when the pandemic began, the National Portrait Gallery took the opportunity to give the museum its first entire refurbishing since the last one in 1896. Reopening in June 2023 after three years of remodeling to the cost of  cost £41.3 million (about $53 million), so just under a year ago, I took the opportunity during my recent trip to England to visit. In today’s post I would like to share with you more than a handful of portraits, but of course, there are so many more. With the new opening, more portraits were added as the remodel created about 20% more space. In fact, as you walk in, just past the ticket office (it’s free to visit, but donations are welcome), is the the newly uncovered Victorian terrazzo and a gallery dedicated to “History Makers Now,” a presentation of new additions to the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. This is where the first two photos – above and just below – were captured. Rest assured, the portraits are not all royalty, and in this particular room, you have many familiar faces, even Anna Wintour! Musician Ed Sheeran’s portrait is included here, tennis champion Andy Murray and other British familiar face.

Princeprincesswales

Having never visited before, I assumed the entrance on Ross Place was as it always had been (seen below), but astute frequent visitors over the years will remember that the original entrance was on St. Martins’ Place, now situated as the exit. With that said, visiting treated my current curiosities as well as my historical fascinations of people and introduced me to many that caught my attention.

Entranceportraitgallery


Let’s take a look at the portraits . . .

Portraitgalleryhallway

Familiybreakfast
Familyportraitprincesselizabethdescription


Beatrixpotter

Beatrixpotterdescription


Pankhurst

Pankhurstdescription


Princessdi

Princessdidescription


Princealbert

Princealbertdescription


Youngwinstonchurchill


Queenvictoria
Queenvictoriadescription

~Updated Sunday 11:45am (Pacific time), same day as original posting! Below are more photographs I finally found. I knew I had more somewhere. 😉

Hallway

Williamblake

~William Blake~


Marywollstencraft

Marywollstencraftdetails


Williamwordsworth

~William Wordsworth~


Kinggeorge3charlotte

~Queen Charlotte and King George III~


Johnkeats
Johnkeatsdetails

Chevalierdeon

~Chevalier d’Eon~


Queencaroline

~Queen Caroline~


Houseofparliament

~The House of Parliament~


Queenelizabeth1

~Queen Elizabeth I~


Annawintouredsherran

Granted, this is only a glimpse at all of the many paintings, but the museum felt intimate, while at the time being grand. The former descriptor far different than what I feel when I visit the National Gallery not more than a block or two away. With the Portrait Gallery’s many floors, each a simple single hallway that circles around revealing three rows of portraits as you make your way around each floor, you never feel overwhelmed or rushed, but rather encouraged to slow down and remain taking the handful of portraits that surround in as you recall the individuals depicted and remind yourself that they sat for these portraits. Looking closely at details included, the settings and background, the facial expression and point for their gaze, so much to examine and ponder.

If you have the opportunity to visit while you are in the city, even if you only have an hour, I recommend doing so. I look forward to returning to take more in as I know I sped far too quickly through the space as my feet were a bit tired, choosing to visit at the end of a full second day in the city.

And then . . . follow it up with a luxurious dinner just a handful of a blocks away, for one (or more if you have a companion, but for one, it is the restaurant to dine at and be treated exceptionally well) at . . . the next post in this week’s British Week. Look for it on the blog in 15 minutes. Click here to read.

The National Portrait Gallery

St. Martin’s Pl, London WC2H 0HE, United Kingdom
HOURS: Sunday-Thursday: 10:30-6pm; Friday-Saturday: 10:30-9pm

May 19 26 2024
Kingcharlesiii

28 thoughts on “Visiting The National Portrait Gallery in London

  1. I can’t believe it! What a special gift Shannon! As I wrote in my comment to a Cuppa Moments some months ago, the National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourite galleries in London because I adore portraits but I haven’t visited it yet since its reopening so your photos and description are so precious to me!
    ….The British Week is FABULOUS!!!

    1. Laura,

      I do remember your comment from a couple of months ago! Thank you for the reminder. I think you will especially find the remodel quite fantastic as you know what it was like before and enjoyed it so intimately. 🙂 Enjoy your next visit.

  2. Hi Shannon,

    On our last visit to London we didn’t make it to the National Portrait Gallery but thanks to your post, we will make it a priority!

    Our last visit to the UK was before Covid and we are long overdue to go again.

    Have an amazing day, Shannon. Your posts are always such a bright light but even more so when things are challenging. So happy I found your blog and podcasts many years ago now. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  3. Last summer, our grown family traveled together to Cornwall then on through Wales splitting up for the last few days so each couple to do their own thing. Before flying out of Heathrow to our various destinations, we’d planned to share a final day in London agreeing to reunite that morning at The National Portrait Gallery. It was my first visit to the gallery and I enjoyed it so much, I could have gazed and wandered for hours. I’m always attracted to portraits of Diana and was grateful for the two they have displayed there.
    It was a highlight of my trip to share the last day with my family in this beautiful gallery, gifting me with scenes and fond memories to treasure.

    1. I am so tickled you enjoyed your visit to the museum and what a great idea to disperse from each other to ensure everyone was able to do what they wanted without having to go all together if that was not a wish. Thank you for this idea!

  4. Shannon,
    Thank-you for sharing this fascinating museum! I am adding it to my must see list when my husband I I travel to London.
    Cheerio!

    1. So tickled! I have updated since you may have read it early on Sunday. I found more photos in my camera roll that I couldn’t find previously. Thank you for stopping by as this week of celebrating all things British began!

  5. So many beautiful portraits.
    Definitely on my bucket list the next time I visit London!

  6. What beautiful treasures–the courageous Dame Pankhurst, the rather roguish portrait of Beatrix Potter, the very poignant and sweet family portrait of King George VI, the regal portrait of Prince Albert, the absolutely stunning portrait of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and so many more. Thank you for sharing, Shannon, such a joy . xx

  7. What a fabulous collection. I didn’t make it there and have always regretted it but your post gives me a glimpse of the variety exhibited there. I am another who studies portraits, it’s the expressions that haunt me a bit. To imagine what those eyes have seen during their lives to that point in time. How does one sit for something so grand or stand as in Prince Albert? Little bits of how they lived in the backgrounds are also intriguing. And the clothing! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Lucy, I love studying portraits as well for all the clues of the subject’s life–the moment of history, the social nuances evinced by the fabrics used, objects included etc–such a wealth of information can be gleaned , it’s just fascinating. I’ve always loved that portrait of Prince Albert, so imperious, dashing and commanding. No wonder Victoria fell head over heels in love! Hope your Spring is going splendidly. Much love. xx

    2. To haunt or inspire? It’s all a perspective to entertain. Grateful to be able to bear witness to at least the portrait since we cannot be in the presence of them. As they often, but not always have a say, in the presentation of the portrait, there is so much to analyze. I have to remind myself however, after seeing the most recent portrait of the King, that while the King choosing to sit (or stand as the case was) for the portrait, the artist has most control, and their voice is something to analyze as well – the silence piece in the portrait so to speak. They too are cementing themselves in history as much as their client. 🙂

  8. Shannon, what a lovely taster for one of my favourite galleries. When I lived in London I would often pop in for a mooch. X

    1. What a lovely place to pop into. I think I remember you sharing this in our A Cuppa Moments conversation a couple of months ago. To have such museums at one’s fingertips, how special. 🙂 Tickle you incorporated it into your everyday routine.

  9. As one who has never visited London but would certainly love to do so, this post is beautiful introduction to a must-see stop on anyone’s itinerary. I do enjoy these posts and appreciate Shannon sharing her experiences as well as the comments from the community. Thank you so much! Happy British Week!!

    1. Denise,

      Thank you for your comment. The engagement and all that is shared by TSLL Community is a priceless piece that makes these weeks such a joy. Very grateful for all that is shared and tickled you are enjoying what you discover. Enjoy the rest of the week. 🙂

  10. I’m excited to return and see the new additions to the National Portrait Gallery! I was traveling alone a few years ago and recall enjoying each and every portrait. I agree Shannon, nicely organized, for a slow walk and enjoyment. Not to miss when in London.

    1. Nicole,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. The museum really is well organized and allows for everyone to be spread out and gradually move along without feeling as though too many people are in a space. A very intimate place.

  11. This gallery is a new experience, and I enjoyed it very much. When I look at a portrait, I imagine the spirit of the subject, which is great fun to me! Thank you!

  12. Thank you, Shannon, this brings so many lovely memories to me! The National Gallery was always part of my visits to London with my students. Great times! 🙂

    It is a wonderful museum, quite unique and so well organized that it always provides a very intimate experience – one is not rushed by throngs of people pushing forward (Louvre, anyone…?). My students always commented how it was possible to actually perceived the details of the painting, because there was enough time to pause and really look, and not being pushed forward by the next group.

    I haven’t been since the refurbishing, so now I am super curious. 🙂

  13. Oh I cannot wait to visit! I haven’t been since the refurbishment and I’ve been told the bar there is also rather lovely for a post visit refreshment, it’s on the list for this summer 🙂

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