The National Gallery has around 2,300 pictures, from the early Renaissance to the Impressionists (1250-1900), forming one of the greatest collections in the world. Containing work by the most important painters of the main European schools, the collection was acquired by the government from John Julius Angerstein in 1824, and moved to the present building (also home to the National Portrait Gallery) in 1838. The Sainsbury Wing, built in 1991, houses the excellent early Renaissance collection.
The gallery is divided into four areas. The Sainsbury Wing contains the Early Renaissance collection, with paintings from 1250 to 1500. The West Wing displays works from 1500 to 1600, the North Wing 1600-1700, and the East Wing 1700-1900. Although the main entrance is on Trafalgar Square, the Sainsbury Wing makes a more sensible starting point.
There is a cafe and a good restaurant and the Sainsbury Wing has an excellent art bookshop.
Guided tours and audio guides are available. And you can explore the collection on screen with ArtStart, which is situated in the Sainsbury Wing.
Open 10am-6pm Sat-Thu (10am-9pm Fri). Sainsbury Wing exhibitions are open until 9pm on Wed. Free entrance and free guided tours at 11:30am and 2:30pm daily (also 7pm Fri).
Location: Trafalgar Square WC2, 020 7747 2885, www.nationalgallery.org.uk.