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Peak times at the National Gallery
The National Gallery is a British institution, and very rarely quiet. There is little queueing thanks to a lack of admission fee. However, It can get very busy inside, as the gallery receives more than 5 million visitors every year.
The quietest time overall is usually first thing in the morning: come at the opening and head to the most popular paintings if you want to get up close to see the works of art before crowds arrive.
Fridays late opening is also a good option: the Gallery remains open until 21:00.
The busiest time is from 15:00 to 18:00.
There are lots of school visits during the day (usually in the morning).
Rooms 45 and 46, where several of the best-known Impressionists and Van Goghs hang, are particularly busy.
For popular exhibitions, a timed entrance ticket booking may be necessary, plan your visit beforehand, sometimes you need to book a week in advance!
Avoid the first and last two weeks of popular exhibitions, the Gallery is always overcrowded.
As always, English school holidays have a direct impact on crowds. If you’re visiting during the summer holidays, be prepared for a longer wait.
Prefer a sunny day for your visit. When it starts raining, crowds from the Trafalgar Square often move to the Gallery, more likely to hide from the rain than to admire the Gallery’s collection.
The gallery is open on Bank and Public holidays, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year.
The Gallery has three entrances facing Trafalgar Square: the Portico Entrance in the center (under the Dome), the Getty Entrance (to the right) and the Sainsbury Entrance (in the smaller building to the left of the main entrance).
The oldest, mostly religious paintings in the collection (Early Renaissance) are in the Sainsbury wing, along with temporary exhibitions. Therefore, to start the visit in chronological order, it is best to take the Sainsbury entrance.
Avoid visiting the National Gallery during the busy month of August - just to compare, September sees twice less visitors!
Coming mid-week is a good way to avoid crowds: Tuesday and Wednesday tend to be the quietest days of the week. Saturday and Sunday are, not surprisingly, the busiest ones.
Photo credits to Garry Knight via Flickr
Tips for a few days in London
This page will give you many tips to avoid crowds in London as well as crowd schedules for top tourist attractions in order to plan your visits.
Most popular (and crowded) parts of the National Gallery
Sheltering the highlights of the National Gallery’s collection, some rooms tend to be more crowded than others. Most of all rooms 43 (Manet, Monet and the Impressionists’ paintings), 45 (Van Gogh and Cézanne’s paintings) and 46 (Degas and Art around 1900).
Among other works that attract crowds of visitors these are to be mentioned:
Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (room 56)
Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks (room 57)
Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars (room 58)
Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks (room 60)
Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus (room 32)
Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews (room 35)
Jan Gossaert’s Adoration of the Kings (room 14)
Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (room 2)
Try to see these more popular rooms when there are less visitors, at the beginning of your visit, if you come in the morning, or at the end of your visit, if you come in the afternoon.
Entrance to the museum is free but donations may be given.
Free guided tours are available every day:
- Monday–Friday: 11.30am and 2.30pm, Friday: 7pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 11.30am, 2.30pm.
Meeting point: at Sainsbury Wing Information Desk
Audio Guide desks are located at the Sainsbury Wing Level 2 and the Portico Entrance. Adult price is £4 Choose among the Collection tour (comments on more than 1,000 paintings), the Essential Audio Tour (exploring 80 highlight paintings), themed tours, such as Sounds of the Gallery, Life of Christ and Be Inspired, or audio tours for families.
Photo credits to Adib Wahab via Flickr
By Tube: Leicester Square (200 m), Charing Cross (250 m), Embankment or Piccadilly (about 500 m)
By bus: lines 3, 6, 9, 12,13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 87, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176, 453
By river: Embankment Pier
Photo credits to Matthew Black via Flickr