The Guildhall Art Gallery presents a rotating selection of artworks drawn from the City of London’s several-thousand-piece collection. The exhibits here are arranged in the “salon style,” with paintings hung quite close to one another, up and down the walls of each room. The Guildhall Art Gallery is best known for its world-class collection of British paintings dating to the Victorian period. The basement of the attraction is also home to London’s Roman Amphitheatre, an archaeological treasure uncovered during construction in the late twentieth century.
Money Saving Tip! Guildhall Art Gallery is included on the London Pass and GoCity London Pass. If you are sightseeing in London, then you can save a lot of money with the pass.
History of Guildhall Art Gallery
The Guildhall Art Gallery was established in 1885. Inspired by the success of similar projects in places like Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester, the City of London arranged to build a small museum to showcase its burgeoning collection of artworks. Guided by the leadership of its first director, Alfred Temple, the Guildhall Art Gallery began organizing regular public exhibitions while continuing to grow its holdings.
The original home of the Guildhall Art Gallery was destroyed in 1941 during a German World War II bombing offensive. Significant portions of the Guildhall Art Gallery’s collection had been removed for safekeeping; however, the attack still managed to ruin over 160 paintings and nearly two-dozen sculptures. Over the next four decades, the City of London’s collection would be shown here and there, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that plans to rebuild the Guildhall Art Gallery were enacted. It was during this construction project that the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre were uncovered. This brand-new Guildhall Art Gallery would open to the public in 1999; the Roman Amphitheatre would follow suit in 2002. The interior layout of Guildhall Art Gallery was reimagined again in 2014.
Guildhall Art Gallery Highlights
The Guildhall Art Gallery’s permanent collection contains some 4,500 artworks, a small selection of which are on display throughout the museum at any given point in time. Though the Guildhall Art Gallery regularly rotates which artworks are showcased—meaning your experience could be quite different depending on when you visit the attraction—standouts of the collection include Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata, John Collier’s Clytemnestra, and William Logsdail’s Ninth of November, 1888.
Visitors to the Guildhall Art Gallery won’t want to miss seeing the ancient Roman ruins that were uncovered here by archaeologists during the construction of the museum’s new building in 1988. Consisting of a small stretch of a short circular wall that once formed the base of what is believed to be the city’s sole Roman Amphitheatre, these historic remains are preserved today in the midst of an interactive exhibit that shares fascinating insights into the history of Roman life in ancient London.
Throughout the year, the Guildhall Art Gallery stages numerous temporary exhibitions on a range of themes. The nature of these temporary exhibitions will vary depending on when you visit the museum, but for context recent shows include Wren at Work, a recreation of Sir Christopher Wren’s seventeenth-century office at St. Paul’s Cathedral; and Treasures of Gold and Silver Wire, which brings together under one banner such historical curiosities as Queen Elizabeth I’s only surviving dress, a suit worn to court by Charles Dickens, and the robe worn by David Tennant when he played Richard II in a Royal Shakespeare Company production.
More to See and Do at Guildhall Art Gallery
The Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre are two of London’s oft-overlooked attractions. For more information on what to expect as you go about planning your visit, keep reading below.
*The Shop at Guildhall Art Gallery is open the same hours as the museum itself. It stocks a nice selection of art books, cards, and assorted gifts. Most notably, it sells prints of some of the gallery’s most popular paintings, as well as a host of items featuring the Roman Amphitheatre. The Shop at Guildhall Art Gallery also sells a variety of London-themed gifts and souvenirs.
*Admission to the Guildhall Art Gallery is free, but when in doubt it’s still never a bad idea to book your general admission ticket in advance. This will guarantee your spot in a given time slot while saving you time on arrival (no waiting in a ticket line). Walk-ins are very welcome, though.
*Guided tours of the Guildhall Art Gallery are available Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 12:15pm and 1:15pm. These guided tours are completely free, and you don’t need to make a reservation in advance. They’re a great way to learn more about what’s on display at the museum, and they usually last only 30 to 45 minutes.
*The Guildhall Art Gallery frequently hosts special activities designed for families. To learn more about any noteworthy events that might be taking place here when you’re planning to visit, be certain to check out the museum’s official website in advance of your trip.
*Guildhall Art Gallery is located in London’s historic Moorgate district. Nearby popular attractions that could easily be combined with a stop at this fine museum include St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, London Bridge, and The View from The Shard.
Why Guildhall Art Gallery Should Be on Your Must-See List
Guildhall Art Gallery has a reputation as a hidden treasure of the London art world: despite its prominent location in one of the city’s lively business districts, this delightful museum is frequently skipped over by visitors in a rush to see attractions with bigger names and higher profiles. As a result, afficionados of Victorian art will relish the chance to behold one of London’s finest collections of late nineteenth-century British painting in a peaceful setting. Likewise, fans of Roman history will love the opportunity to stand face to face with London’s Roman Amphitheatre.