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.
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 hand held units with small screens showing an interactive maps. 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.
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
- Victorian and Elizabethan
- Twentieth century
- Contemporary displays
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 for the National Portrait Gallery are as follows:
Saturday - Wednesday: 10:00 - 18:00
Thursday - Friday: 10:00 - 21:00
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.
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).
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 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.
Saturday - Wednesday: 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday - Friday: 10:00 - 20:00
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. For the full menu see the official website (link below).
Afternoon tea is a popular option at the National Portrait Gallery. However the restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bar menu. It is worth checking their official website) see below for set meal options that are available. They also offer meal options for occasions such as Valentines.
Monday - Sunday: 10:00 - 11:30
Monday - Sunday: 11:45 - 15:00
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
National Portrait Gallery
Saint Martin's Place
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7306 0055
Tube: Leicester Square (Black Line / Northern Line, Blue Line / Piccadilly Line)
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.