Tourist Information Guide

London's National Portrait Gallery

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Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery
Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is a prestigious gallery just off Trafalgar Square in the very heart of London. It was founded in 1856 and it holds one of the largest collections of portraits in the world. Throughout the year it is home to exhibitions covering all forms portrait art. Whether you would like to see the permanent exhibitions or one of the temporary ones, there is something for art lovers at the National Portrait Gallery. You will find photos by Annie Leibovitz, portraits of the likes of Twiggy, David Hockney and Gerhard Richter.

This page will provide you with a visitor's guide to the gallery. We'll cover what to expect at the galley along with details on both permanent and temporary exhibitions. We've also included practical details on how to get there, parking, ticket prices and opening times. There is also information on places to eat in the gallery and places to stay in its vicinity.

What to expect at the National Portrait Gallery and what makes it special

National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery sits behind the National Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square. On arrival, the exterior looks deceptively small. However, as you enter, you will soon realise that it holds a vast art collection. If you have any queries about the best way in which to tackle the gallery, you can speak to the staff at the information desk who are willing to give you advice. If there is a particular picture that you'd like to see, this is also a good place to find out where it is located.

As the gallery is so big it is a good idea to have a think about what you would like to prioritise. Below you will find a list of how the gallery is split up, into different periods. Choose the periods that most appeal to you and you can head straight for those rooms.

Audio Guides at the Portrait Gallery

Audio guides to the gallery are obtained at the entrance. They are small handheld units with small screens showing an interactive map. There are five different themed tours, lining together royalty, writers, celebrities and scientists. Alternatively, there is the 'highlights tour', offering you the opportunity to see the gallery's famous portraits without spending the whole day there.

The audio guides are available in the following languages:

For more information on the audio guides see the Official National Portrait Gallery Website audio guides page.

Shop at the National Portrait Gallery

There are two shops located inside the National Portrait Gallery - a bookshop and a gift shop.

The bookshop is located in the basement of the building and it offers books on British history, biography, art, costume and, of course, photography.

The gift shop is on the ground floor of the building and it sells everything from jewellery to stationery and posters. It also offers a device called the Portrait Printer. This allows you to choose from over fifty thousand portraits and get one printed.

Permanent collections

There are a vast collection of portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, covering everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to Damon Albarn from Blur. For your ease and to create a sense of logic, the portraits in the permanent collections have been split by room into the following categories:

  • Tudor and Elizabethan
  • Stuart and Civil War
  • Georgian
  • Regency
  • Victorian and Elizabethan
  • Twentieth century
  • Contemporary displays

How to get to the Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery sits between Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square. The nearest tube stop is Leicester Square. On leaving Leicester Square tube station. Head left down Charing Cross Road. You arrive at Saint Martin's Place in less than two minutes. Here you will find the entrance door to the gallery on your right.

Opening times

Opening times for the National Portrait Gallery are as follows:

Month Day Time
January - December Monday - Thursday 10:30 - 18:00
Friday - Saturday 10:30 - 21:00
Sunday 10:30 - 18:00


For the Operating hours of the eateries in the National Portrait Gallery see the information below on places to eat in the National Portrait Gallery.

Ticket prices for the exhibitions

In general, entrance to the National Portrait Gallery is free. However if you wish to see a particular exhibition that is not part of the permanent collection you will need to buy a ticket. For details of the prices for the different collections it is best to check the official National Portrait Gallery website (see link below).

Places to eat in and around the gallery

There are two options of places to eat in the National Portrait Gallery. There is a café where you can grab something quick and affordable. Alternatively there is a restaurant on the top floor of the gallery overlooking the city.

Portrait Cafe

Portrait Café sits on the ground floor of the gallery. It has been designed by famous architects Dixon Jones and it offers a modern and bright space I which to enjoy light meals. The focus on the food in the café is on British ingredients.

Opening times:

Month Day Time
January - December Monday - Thursday 08:00 - 17:30
Friday 08:00 - 19:00
Saturday 09:00 - 19:00
Sunday 09:00 - 17:30


Portrait Restaurant

The Portrait Restaurant sits on the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery, 92 feet above ground level. It is a pleasing place to sit if you want to get a perfect view of Nelson at the top of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. You can also gain views of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. The food at the Portrait Restaurant is modern British, with options including smoked haddock and devilled kidneys.

Afternoon tea is a popular option at the National Portrait Gallery. However the restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bar menu. They also offer meal options for occasions such as Valentines.

Operating hours:

Monday - Sunday: 10:00 - 11:30

Monday - Sunday: 11:45 - 15:00

Afternoon Tea:
Monday - Sunday: 15:30 - 16:30

Dinner (full a la carte):
Thursday - Saturday: 18:30 - 20:00

Pre theatre dinner: Thursday - Saturday: 17:30 - 18:30

Address and contact details

National Portrait Gallery
Saint Martin's Place

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7306 0055

Website: Official National Portrait Gallery Website

Nearest tube stop

Tube Tube: Leicester Square (Black Line / Northern Line, Blue Line / Piccadilly Line)

Parking in the area

There are no car parking facilities at the National Portrait Gallery. However, there are five public parking spaces for people holding the orange/ blue badge. These are located at Saint Martin's Street, opposite the Sainsbury Wing of the gallery.

There is a public car park on the corner of Whitcomb Street and Orange Street. The car park sits about 195 meters from the Orange Street entrance to the National Portrait Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery is one of London's interesting, innovative and extensive art collections. It is a fascinating place to spend an afternoon meandering through the rooms and seeing how many of the faces that you recognize staring out at you. If you have the time and the funds, it is worth fitting in a trip to the Portrait Restaurant - it offers views over London that not everybody knows about. On arrival at the gallery, take the time to talk to a member of staff at the information desk or pick up an audio guide (see above). This will help you to make sense of the large amount of art that is available to see. Depending on how much time you have to look around, you can come up with a plan that best suits you.

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