National Gallery, London

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 125 Reviews

Trafalgar Square, WC2 0 20 7747 2885

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  • breughel's Profile Photo

    Paintings from 1700 to 1900.

    by breughel Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    NG - John Constable - The Hay Wain
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    What I like with the National Gallery is that the pleasure continues after the 17th c. and goes on to the 19th c. with the Impressionists.

    It is always a pleasure to view or view again the most beautiful landscape "The Hay Wain" (1821) by John Constable (room 34). The painting found no buyer in England but had great success when exhibited in France.
    Another British painter William Turner is on display in this department with the "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838" (room 34). This painting of the famous vessel "Temeraire" (ref. Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar) was voted as the "greatest painting in Britain".

    It is now time to visit the "classical' impressionists with several Monet such as "the Gare St-Lazarre" and "The Water-Lily Pond", Pissaro with "The Boulevard Montmartre at Night", and not forget the "Sunflowers" of Van Gogh.
    This mostly remarkable collection of impressionists is the cherry on the cake of the National Gallery which I consider as one of the three best painting museums in Europe with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (when the renovation works will be completed) and the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.

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    A Grotesque Old Woman by Quinten Metsys.

    by breughel Updated Jul 27, 2009

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    NG - A Grotesque Old Woman by Quinten Metsys.

    This is the most astonishing portrait of the National Gallery (room 5).
    It is not a portrait of a specific person; actually I find that the figure is more that of a man than a woman.

    There have been medical articles about this woman:

    "The deformities of Metsys's grotesque woman, far from being caused by barn door Paget's disease as implied by the article, could quite easily have been the result of several diseases such as acromegaly. The coarse, roughened, greasy skin catches the light in the painting. Her pigmentation, not explained by Paget's disease, fits in with the diagnosis of acromegaly; the large chest would comfortably accommodate the increased lung volume; the ugly face surely catches the soft tissue enlargements ofthe skin over the maxilla,"

    Was Quinten Metsys (Massys) aware of this, I doubt.

    This satire is not unusual for this painter mostly known by the famous "The Money Changer and His Wife" of le Louvre and the portrait of Erasmus at the Galleria Nazionale, Rome.

    The usual name of this Flemish painter is Quinten Metsys (sometimes written Matsys or Massys) painter born in Leuven (1465 - 1530) and member of the Antwerp school.

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    Crowds but no queues.

    by breughel Updated Jun 6, 2011

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    National Gallery - Portico and Getty entrances.
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    Since several decades this museum is my favoured paint museum in Europe not only for the richness and variety of its collections, which I have described here department by department, but for the very practical fact that there are no queues as the entry is free, as there is no security control of bags (the Londoners are more optimistic than the Parisians who check all bags), and there are three entrances. In the middle you have the Portico entrance, to the right the Getty entrance and on the left the Sainsbury Wing entrance. So no problem with in and out flux.

    My first visit here was in 1960 and it seemed to me that in a half century the number of visitors must have increased by a hundredfold. The National gallery is nearly as crowded as the British museum.

    However, there are two things that upset me in this museum:
    1° The curators have still not made the distinction between Dutch painters and Flemish painters, they stick to the term "Netherlandish" when since 1902 (Ref. my tip on Brussels, Royal Museum of Fine Arts) the term Flemish Primitives is used.
    2° The visitors who can not just look at a painting but have to show with their finger, or the museum plan, some details to the people around them. They stress the museum guards as well as me.

    From a practical point of view I must say that I rather like the "National café" at Level 0, just right of the Getry entrance. This self-service café is not bad and at reasonable prices.
    What surprised me is that there was not a single British beer to go with my sandwich. Only a German beer or an American one made in Czechia. Should I complain to the Queen?

    Opening hours: daily 10 - 18 h, Fridays until 21 h. Free.
    Photos not allowed. (Why is a question asked by many visitors used to take photos at the British Museum, Le Louvre or Orsay).

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    West wing - Paintings from 1500 to 1600.

    by breughel Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    NG - Allegory with Venus and Cupid - Bronzino
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    The highlights of this 16th c. department of the National Gallery are the Italians:
    Raphael, 'The Madonna of the Pinks',
    Titian, 'Bacchus and Ariadne',
    Michelangelo, 'The Entombment',
    Leonardo da Vinci, 'The Virgin of the Rocks',
    All of the begin of the 16th c. This century continues the tradition of the large religious paintings, but portraits as well official as private get more and more importance. Mythology is also a main subject of paintings.

    Among all these classical Italian paintings one work from Bronzino surprises by its "cool" eroticism "the Allegory with Venus and Cupid" (±1545). The concept of this painting is an enigma with symbols and emblems from mythology and heraldry (pic 1).

    In total contrast with the Italians is a work from Pieter Bruegel the Elder " The Adoration of the Kings" (1564). Surprising is the person on the extreme right wearing spectacles. It is an ironic manner of Bruegel to show the inability of the assistants to see the significance of Jesus. The soldiers reflect the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands in that period. (pic 2 & 3)

    A remarkable portrait in this department is the "Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling" (1526) (pic 4) and, of course, "The Ambassadors" (room 4) from Hans Holbein the Younger.

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    North Wing - Paintings from 1600 to 1700.

    by breughel Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    NG - P. de Hooch
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    This is in my opinion the best department of the National Gallery by its diversity and quality.

    The highlights here are:
    Vermeer, "A Young Woman standing at a Virginal" (room 25),
    Van Dyck, "Equestrian Portrait of Charles I" (room 31),
    Caravaggio, "The Supper at Emmaus" ,
    Claude Le Lorrain, "Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula" (room 20) (see my comment on this painter in my Le Louvre tips),
    Velázquez, "The Rokeby Venus" (room 30),
    Rubens, "Samson and Delilah",
    Rembrandt, "Self Portrait at the Age of 34".

    Dutch, Flemish, Italian, Spanish and French schools of the 17th c. are on display in the North Wing with excellent works.
    All types of paintings are present: the large works with religious and mythological subjects and the small sized paintings introduced by the Dutch school showing landscapes, genre paintings, private portraits.
    My preferences go to the Vermeer and a Pieter de Hooch "The Courtyard of a House in Delft" (room 25).
    There is also in this North Wing a unique landscape from Rubens:
    "A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning" (room 29). Surprising a landscape by Rubens showing a "double light" effect! He had bought this manor house near Mechelen and enjoyed there the pleasures of country life.

    Landscapes of all kinds were one of the major themes of the 17th c. paintings especially in the Netherlands.
    I will come back on these landscapes of the North Wing.

    Open: Daily 10am–6pm, Fridays 10am–9pm.
    Free. No photos allowed.

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    Sainsbury wing 1260-1510.

    by breughel Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck 1434.
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    This wing which shows paintings from 1260-1510 is located in a separate building left of the main one. The collection is on the 2nd floor linked to the main building by a bridge.
    The Sainsbury Wing was opened in 1991. It is a gift (50 million £) from Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover and his brothers The Hon. Simon Sainsbury (*) and Sir Timothy Sainsbury.

    My preferred painting here is the Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck (room 56). This is one of the highlights of Flemish 15th c. school "Flemish Primitives" (see my tips on my Brussels museum pages Royal Museum of Fine Arts ).
    Flemish primitives were not the first to use oil paints but they excelled in it and Van Eyck was a master in this technique which allowed him to depict with great subtlety the effects of light on the fabrics and clothes.
    Arnolfini was an Italian merchant from the town of Lucca near Pisa. He lived in Bruges at the time that this Flemish town was an important trade centre.
    It is often taught that Arnolfoni's wife is pregnant but this is not sure; the full-skirted dress was fashionable in that time (1434) it seems.
    In the same room is a portrait of "A Woman" (photo 4) from Robert Campin (Flemish school 15th c.) also identified as the "Master of Flémalle". In my ranking of women portraits I would put this portrait on the same rank as "La Joconde".
    In the same room 56, the best of the Sainsbury wing, are also portraits from Petrus Christus another follower of Van Eyck.

    Another remarkable painting in the Sainsbury wing, room 58, is "Venus and Mars" from Sandro Botticelli (1485).

    Among my favoured paintings of this absolutely remarkable collection, mainly 15th century works is another extraordinary portrait like "The Doge Leonardo Loredan" from Giovanni Bellini (room 62).

    (*)Simon Sainsbury who died in 2006 bequeathed 5 impressionist paintings (Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Rousseau) to the National Gallery and 13 to the Tate Gallery for an estimated value of 100 million £.

    Open: Daily 10am–6pm, Fridays 10am–9pm. Free.
    No photos allowed. My illustrations are from the web.

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    NEW: Leonardo da Vinci in Sainsbury Wing.

    by breughel Updated Nov 13, 2011

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    From 9 November 2011 to 5 February 2012 there is a special exhibition: " Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan".

    According to the National Gallery: "Painter at the Court of Milan’ is the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held. This unprecedented exhibition – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – brings together sensational international loans never before seen in the UK."

    For me the best of the about 90 works (paintings, designs, sketches and studies) is the "Lady with an Ermine" which unfortunately I could not see in Krakow.
    I prefer this portrait to "La Joconde - Mona Lisa" which remains in Paris.

    Open daily 10am–6pm (last admission 5pm)
    Late nights including Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm (last admission 9pm)
    Sundays until 7pm (last admission 6pm)

    Tickets: Timed-ticket entry
    Full price £16.00
    Senior (60+)/concession £14.00
    Students/Job seekers/12-18s £8.00

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    North Wing - Landscapes 1600 - 1700.

    by breughel Updated Oct 19, 2013

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    NG - M. Hobbema - The Avenue at Middelharnis
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    Landscapes were one of the major themes of the 17th c. paintings especially in the Netherlands.
    Indeed the Dutch Golden century produced thousands of landscapes of all kinds:
    River views and seaside landscapes, "green" landscapes often with a cottage under some threes, winter landscapes usually with skaters on a frozen river or pond, town landscapes and these interiors of churches which were a Dutch speciality.
    These thousand of landscapes were painted not on order but to be sold to anybody who wanted to decorate his interior. Many Dutch families owed such small sized paintings for decoration. These paintings are most often of good quality but do not necessarily show much originality. Shall I say that a cottage and trees from Jacob van Ruisdael, is not very different from other cottages in a wood by the same Van Ruisdael.
    The National Gallery has a large number of these Dutch paintings which are quite agreeable to look at especially for the visitor feeling saturated with religious and mythological scenes.

    Outstanding among these landscapes is a painting from Meindert Hobbema which by its originality and some symbolism stands out in this field of art.
    "Het Laantje van Middelharnis - The Avenue at Middelharnis" (1689) is remarkable by the perspective effect given by the upward-pointing trees receding from the foreground to the village and church in the distance (room 21).
    Unfortunately, his other works have not the majesty of the above painting and are a repetition of subjects like trees around a pool and water-mils.

    Another highlight of the landscapes in this North Wing (room 21) is the "River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants" (1659) by Aelbert Cuyp. This is the most beautiful landscape of this Dutch painter very appreciated by British collectors. In his masterly handling of the sunlight Aelbert Cuyp approaches Claude le Lorrain (ref. my tip on Le Louvre).

    No amateur of paintings and more generally arts should omit to visit the National Gallery and its remarkable collections of the North wing.

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    Best of, if you are short in time.

    by breughel Updated Apr 2, 2014

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    Constable
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    I'm sad to see that one of the five best painting museums in EU is only on position 25 among the things to do in London according to VT!
    "De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum".

    ============================

    To visit the 70 rooms of the National Gallery needs a whole day. Even a museum freak like me gets tired after a few hours, not only the attention but also the legs.
    Last year I visited again the NG and noted what were for me the highlights of the museum so as to propose a "best of" for a 2 - 3 hours visit. Of course my highlights result of my own taste. It should be said that I am less enthusiast about religious and mythological subjects, maybe because I have seen too many!

    My visit follows the chronological order so that I enter by the Sainsbury wing, level 2 with the 13th to 15th c. paintings (rooms 51 - 66).
    Best rooms are nr 56 with the Flemish Primitives van Eyck "the Arnolfini portrait", van der Weyden, Campin ("Portrait of a Woman" which I rank as good as "La Joconde") and Petrus Christus; room nr 58 with a Botticelli ("Venus and Mars") and nr 62 with the famous portrait of Doge Leonardo Loridan (for details see my review here "Sainsbury wing 1260-1510".

    By the bridge one reaches the 16th c. paintings department (rooms 1 - 14 in the main building). They are mainly Italians of which I liked in room 8 "the Allegory with Venus and Cupid" from Bronzino. In room 4 are the remarkable portraits the "Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling" and "The Ambassadors" from Hans Holbein the Younger (for details see my review "West wing - Paintings from 1500 to 1600").

    Here starts the 17th c. paintings department (rooms 15 - 37).
    This is in my opinion the best department of the National Gallery by its diversity and quality. There are many highlights.
    Here you will find Vermeer ("A Young Woman standing at a Virginal"), De Hoogh ("The Courtyard of a House in Delft"), Rembrandt, Cuyp ("River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants"), Rubens, Van Dijck, Claude Lorrain ("Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula"), Velazquez ("The Rokeby Venus"), etc.
    Rooms 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 31 are absolute must sees.
    (for details see my two reviews "North Wing - Paintings from 1600 to 1700" and "North Wing - Landscapes 1600 - 1700").

    The last department is that of the 18th - 20th c. paintings (rooms 33 - 46) and attracts many visitors because of the Impressionists.
    Best rooms are nr 34 with Constable ("The Hay Wain") and Turner ("The Fighting Temeraire); nr 38 with Canaletto and Guardi, to end with the Impressionists in rooms 43 - 46 ( for details see my review "Paintings from 1700 to 1900").

    Photos from the web. Photos not allowed in the NG. I don't understand this policy because all these works of art are in the public domain.

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    Impressive Building & Art: National Gallery

    by deecat Updated May 11, 2005

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    National Gallery

    The National Gallery is a wonderful place with an interesting history. It started with 38 major paintings, a small start for a national collection. Many wealthy benefactors contributed money and works of art, which has resulted in a huge, impressive collection today.

    Other paintings were purchased by public subscription or by government grant. It's grown so large that a new addition was added in the early 1990s (not without controversy!) In this new wing called, The Sainsbury Wing, is where the changing exhibits are kept.

    I have to tell you that this place is quite overwhelming, seeing so many pieces of art done by the great masters of Western art such as Leonardo, Goya, Monet, VAn Gogh, Picasso, and Raphael (which is just the beginning of a endless number of greats!)

    The paintings hang chronologically, which is a nice way to organize such a vast collection. The lower floor contains lesser painting of all periods.

    Open:
    10-6 daily
    10-8 Wednesday

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    excellent art&exhibitions at the National Gallery

    by angiebabe Updated Aug 26, 2007

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    Nat Gallery&StMartins-in-the-Fields from Traf Sqr
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    The National Gallery is London's foremost or leading art museum with over 2,300 paintings, most on permanent display.

    Apparently in 1824 King George IV persuaded the government to purchase 38 major paintings which became the core of a national collection of European art that now ranges from the 13th century to the 19th century Impressionists and Landscape. Particularly notable are the Dutch, Italian Renaissance and 17th century Spanish paintings (namely Velazquez's only remaining female nude!).

    Special exhibitions are also held here - often particularly prestigious with works from the greats of the artworld!! - for example at present, until 16th September, is the Dutch Portraits:The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals which is the first international survey of 17th century Dutch portraiture and follows the Golden Age experienced by the Dutch Republic after its independence from Spain.

    As with several excellent exbitions held here in the past I enjoyed seeing the paintings in this exhibition and learning more about European art and the linking between the art and museums Ive been to seen around Europe in the years that I have been living over in this hemisphere. With my Art Fund membership I am able to get a concession, generally about 50% discount from the usual price making it £5.

    Opening times to the Gallery are daily 10am til 6pm with Wednesdays having a late evening until 9pm. Last admissions are 45 minutes before closing time.
    There are often also free lunchtime talks, evening lectures and short courses available at the National Art Gallery.

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    Spending half a day at the National Gallery.

    by Regina1965 Updated Nov 24, 2012

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    The National Gallery.
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    On a rainy day in London I went to visit the National Gallery, which is right by Trafalgar square. It is big and I spent 3 hours in there and could easily have spent 2 more hours in there.

    There are so many beautiful painting in here, from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, France and England. One section of the museum, the most crowded one, has paintings by Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrand, Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and the big masters. I happened to visit that the last of all, after spending 2,5 hours walking through endless galleries with beautiful paintings, I discovered that I had one more hall to visit - and by then I had become tired.

    So I went down-stairs to one of the entrances, a back entrance, but there are at least 4 entrances to the National Gallery. I sat down there to rest. Photos are forbidden in the Gallery, and the use of mobile phones. But seeing I was down-stairs where the cloak-rooms were and the exit, I made a phone call. Then I took 1 photo of the Information desk without a flash, not even imagining that it would not be allowed. But, no, a guard yelled at me and came running towards me telling me in an angry voice that photos are forbidden. I hate this, I am not the one to attract attention to myself and this put a damper on the rest of my visit. Everybody had been so friendly and the security guards were just sitting in the galleries talking to one another, and I felt welcome, and had been thinking about how different this National Gallery was rom the National Gallery in Canada. There one felt like a criminal as there were guards all over following your every step. I couldn´t wait to get out of there. And then this screwed up guard had to yell at me down-stairs by the entrance. There is no reason not to be allowed to take a photo of an Information desk. And inside the gallery I saw people take photos with their mobile phones. And in the National Portrait gallery people were even taking photos with their cameras with their flash on, and nobody said anything. I add the forbidden photo here, was this enough of a reason to be yelled at??

    But even though this had to happen I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the National Gallery and would say that it is a must visit while visiting London. Some of the paintings are absolutely breath-taking, I just sat there and couldn´t take my eyes of them. There is also a section of altar-pieces, fantastic work of art. On their web-site one can have a look at many of the paintings.

    Entrance fee: free (but adviced donation is GBP 4)

    Opening hours: 10:00-18:00 every day, Fridays: 10:00-21:00.

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  • The National Gallery

    by Mariajoy Updated Jan 2, 2006

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    The National Gallery
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    So, if you are in Trafalgar Square and you've taken the obligatory tourist photos of your friend sitting on a lion and a pigeon sitting on your head and you are wondering what to do next, then go to that magnificent domed building behind the Allison Lapper Statue (yes the pregnant lady with no arms) and that's the National Gallery. Here you will find (amongst others) the Impressionists... (the other stuff is ok too but the Impressionists gallery is the best imho :)) You will find Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir and Seurat...(as well as Turners, Constables and the odd Picasso) and it's FREE!! Where else in the world will you find the work of the greatest artists who ever lived.. and NOT have to pay to view it? This is what makes London so great!!! And even if you think you are not interested in art... don't be such a philistine and GO ANYWAY!! Educate yourself! That's what travel is about!

    The National Gallery says "These pictures belong to the public" - but don't try taking one home ;-)

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    The National Gallery

    by sue_stone Written Aug 24, 2006

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    The National Gallery

    London's National Gallery is home to one of the most impressive collections of European painting in the world. Its prominent position on Trafalgar Square's northern side makes it easily accessible to all, and its free entry adds to its popularity.

    The Gallery's permanent collection consists of art works dating from the 13th to 20th Centuries. The paintings are hung in a continuous time-line, and the collection includes works from all the major schools of painting, and houses masterpieces by great artists such as Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne.

    When we visited the gallery we barely scratched the surface….there is so much to see, and to be honest I don't have a huge amount of patience for gallery viewings. Will go back again one day though to see some more.

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  • Trafalgar Square and Free National Gallery

    by bthon Updated Nov 20, 2004

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    Nelson Monument

    Trafalgar square alone would be worth visiting; add the free National Gallery and it should definently be on the must see list. The gallery rotates its enormous collection, but one will always find Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, da Vinci, and Renoir.
    My favorite room is in the 1700-1900 east wing which contains Monet's Water lily pond, Renior's Boating on the Siene, and van Gogh's Sunflowers. The museum is free except for their special exhibits, though they ask for a small donation in any case.
    The gallery is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily with additional hours on Wednesday staying open until 9 pm. The square in front of the national gallery displays the nelson monument and is a meeting point for many protests and rallies. When there isnt a rally, it is a good place to enjoy the afternoon and numerous fountains.

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