Washington DC has an extraordinarily large number of world-class museums and galleries, and the National Gallery of Art is among the very best. It houses one of the finest collections of paintings and sculptures in the world. On permanent display are works by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, Manet, Monet, Rodin, Degas, and many, many more. It’d take many hours to see everything, but even on a short visit you’re going to see something pretty extraordinary.
Although the gallery sits on a prime spot on the National Mall alongside the Smithsonian museums (and opposite the National Air and Space Museum) it is not actually a part of the Smithsonian Institution system. It is, however, publicly funded, established by an act of Congress in 1938, with Andrew Mellon providing his personal collection to get things started.
The gallery is housed in two impressive but architecturally distinct buildings and an adjacent sculpture garden; all make for beautiful spaces for showcasing art. The classical art is housed in the older of the two buildings, the West Building, and features wood-paneled galleries, marble hallways, a magnificent atrium, and indoor gardens.
The modern art is housed in the East Building across the street. While it’s possible to move between them at ground level by crossing the street, a better way to use the underground walkway featuring an eye-level waterfall and a moving walkway with an animated light display. But wandering among through either building makes for quite an oasis from the bustle outside.
Photos of the National Gallery of Art
The most convenient metro stops are Archives/Navy Memorial (Yellow and Green lines; 0.2 miles); Judiciary Square (Red line; 0.5 miles), and Smithsonian (Blue and Orange lines; 0.7 miles).
Admission is always free, but some special exhibitions require passes. There are a couple of eateries within the complex.
Your bags will be searched when you enter the building and you’ll be asked to put any large bags or backpacks in the coat check.
Cameras are allowed.
Flash use is restricted in several places, as is typical in many art galleries.
Tripods are not allowed.
Many of the main spaces are quite well-lit, often with natural light, although there are also areas with low lighting.