The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 to collect pictures of royal and political figures.
Today its collection of paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs and sculpture records the development of Britain from the late 14th century to the present day through portraits of its most prominent characters.
For a chronological tour start on the top floor and work downwards. Highlights of the collection include a cartoon of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein, the only surviving portrait of William Shakespeare taken from life, and works by such artists as Van Dyck, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Sargent.
The 20th century is represented in both paintings and photographs, musicians, such as Mike Jagger and Elton John, and fashion designers, like Mary Quant, mix with politicians and the Royal Family.
In 2000 the Tudor Gallery and Balcony Gallery was opened to provide space for the oldest and newest elements of the collection.
A new rooftop restaurant, with a great view over London, was added at the same time.
The National Gallery also has regular special exhibitions, admission charged.
The shop has a range of books on art and literature, along with prints, posters and cards featuring works from the main collection.
Admission free, charge for exhibitions.