The National Gallery, London. Great Art and Not So Crowded

Whistlejacket by George Stubs
‘Whistlejacket’ by George Stubs

Guest post and photos by Jamie Rhein

The gift shop is only one draw of The National Gallery

I headed to The National Gallery in London for a pair of Van Gogh socks with sunflowers on them. I saw a picture of them in one of the tourist magazines I thumbed through during a recent London stay. The socks were just one of the many treasures I found in The National Gallery of London gift shop. Although, the socks may have been the primary draw, The National Gallery is splendid for its art exhibits and well worth the visit.

Several Masterpieces are on Display to Savor

Within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, the gallery is a perfect next stop after watching the Changing of the Guard. The museum is filled with European art treasures including paintings by: Vermeer, Cezanne, Seurat, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, and, of course, Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers.’

Van Gogh's painting of a chair

Another favorite of mine is Van Gogh’s painting of his chair.

What I appreciated is the space in which guests can move about. At least there was room to move the day my friend and I visited. We didn’t need to peer around folks in order to see the art. I read recently how The Louvre is teeming with humanity to the point that viewing masterpieces like the ‘Mona Lisa’ is frustrating.

The National Gallery’s building is also gorgeous. Of particular interest are the mosaic tile floors depicting scenes of Greek gods and the domed ceiling with its ornate details.

The dome at The National Gallery in London

Children’s Art is a Must-see Pleasure

Along with a mission to treat museum goers to old European favorites, the museum educates people about interpreting art. My favorite exhibit was of the art of school children from around Great Britain. Every year, children at various schools are presented with the same work of art to be inspired. Through inspiration, children create their own art. Several student projects were on display.

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children's art at The National Gallery in London

The variety of how teachers approached the painting ‘An Experiment in A Bird in the Air Pump, 1768’ was wonderful to see. Most of the children’s art focused on birds in a joyful mix of colors and imagination. Interpretive signage explained the assignments that children were given. Also, Joseph Wright of Derby’s actual painting was on display.

Become Part of the Art

My friend and I also participated in the exhibit ourselves by snapping pictures of each other standing between outstretched bird wings. # take one picture invites people to become part of the art.


During our visit, we only did what was free. The National Gallery also includes special exhibits that provide in depth looks at art. Currently, one of them, “Leonardo, Experience a Masterpiece” provides an up close examination of Leonardo da Vinci’s work, ‘Virgin of the Rocks.’ There are four separate rooms with a different focus. The use of light and dark is one of the studies.

Check out the Exhibitions page to see what’s up now and what’s coming.

Looking at people looking at paintings

I particularly enjoyed watching people look at art. Each painting seemed to attract different fans. The National Gallery seems to give people the time and space to savor the art experience. Lingering is welcome.

Because we were on a time crunch, we didn’t take any of the guided tours. Every day there is a special event. Before you go, check out the events page.

Grab lunch at The National Gallery in London

Grab a Bite to Eat

We did have time to grab a bite to eat. The food in the museum’s restaurant is delicious and affordable. I had a quiche, salad and a drink for around $10 US dollars.

Of course, the gift shop is simply fabulous. I picked up several pairs of socks, a T-shirt with a Van Gogh motif, London souvenirs and post cards. The prices are reasonable and the quality is excellent.