National Portrait Gallery – Review for families

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What is it?

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It’s England’s national gallery of portraits. Seriously. Find it on St Martin’s Place. The nearest tube stations are Leicester Square and Charing Cross. It’s quite close to the National Gallery and the London Transport Museum.

Best for:

9 – 12 / 12+

OK for:

Babies / Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8

Cost

Free admission, but special exhibitions do hold a (very high) charge.

What’s on offer

The gallery is home to portrait painting of numerous famous British people. I’m not sure Posh & Becks are in there, so think more along the lines of famous writers, film stars, historical figures, World War personnel, royalty and high-born people from hundreds of years ago, the Tudor and Victorian periods, all the way along to the present day.

Over the past few years, the gallery has acquired some modern paintings of today’s royals, like Prince Harry and portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Alongside the permanent collection, the National Portrait Gallery offers a variety of special events, displays and exhibits throughout the year. Though they cost extra, they’re often quite exciting and more modern than some of the permanent collections. Past displays have included portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and her people, Elizabeth Taylor, Hollywood, Fashion, Vanity Fair, and even exhibits of photographers Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz’s work.

Always check the official website to see which special exhibitions are on during your visit.

Their facilities include four accessibly toilets in numerous areas of the gallery and lifts to ever floor. They have coin-operated lockers by the cloakroom, which has limited space for buggies.

The National Portrait Gallery also boasts a café, a restaurant and a bar. They also have a gift shop.

Highlights

Any child who is remotely interested in history will probably be fascinated with the gorgeous portraits on offer at the gallery. It’s very educational and inspiration for youngsters who are interested in art, particular those who enjoy drawing people. It’s an ideal rainy ay destination and an important one to visit when Year 6 children and above begin studying history and art in the classroom.

The annual BP Portrait Awards are always very popular when they roll around – usually around July – August time. Special exhibitions, despite their extra charge and varying nature, are usually a highlight for visitors.

Most visitors enjoy mapping out the timeline of the British royal family and exploring their interesting, complex and sometimes cheeky histories. The fact the gallery is in chronological order is really useful and efficient for children who are trying to learn.

What to watch out for

  • No large bags are allowed here. This is to protect the collection of valuable art.
  • Your bags are also liable to be searched once inside the gallery.
  • There isn’t much to keep children under 9 entertained here, unless they have a strong interest in art work. You’ll have to bring your own entertainment if you want to wander around for more than half an hour.
  • It’s touch and go whether or not you’d get a space in the cloakroom with a buggy. If you’re worried, don’t bring one and use a baby carrier or sling. If you’ve got far to come, need the buggy’s storage space or have a buggy to big for the cloakroom, check out the Charing Cross tube station left luggage facilities.

MFM tips:

  • Unless you want to flash the cash, just stick to the permanent collection. In itself, it’s worth at least one visit.

What the owners say

“Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media. The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world.“

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Visit the official National Portrait Gallery website here

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