Planning your visit

Advice for School Groups & Colleges at the Gallery

We welcome school and college group visits to the National Portrait Gallery.  Please read these guidelines before booking in order to plan a successful visit to the Gallery for you and your pupils.

Advance booking is essential for all groups, for both taught sessions and self-directed visits.  We require a minimum of two weeks notice to book a visit and recommend that you book at least one month in advance for taught sessions.  Entry to the Gallery cannot be guaranteed for groups that arrive without booking and you will not be able to take advantage of group discounts on exhibition tickets.

To make a booking: Please telephone the Learning Department on 020 7312 2483 with the following information:

  • Preferred date and time of your visit and a range of possible alternatives
  • The number of pupils and accompanying adults (a ratio of at least 1:10 is required)
  • The session and/or gallery rooms you require and the topics you are studying
  • The age range and ability of your pupils and any with special educational needs.
  • You will need to speak to a member of the booking team before your booking can be confirmed.
  • We regret that we cannot take provisional bookings

Cancellation fee:  Our taught sessions are free, but once your booking has been confirmed verbally and/or in writing we reserve the right to charge a fee for non-attendance or cancellation.

Getting here: The Gallery is located opposite the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, north of Trafalgar Square.  The nearest Underground stations are Leicester Square and Charing Cross and there is a mainline station at Charing Cross.  Parking is not available at the Gallery however If you are travelling by coach there is a lay-by just outside the Gallery for drop-off and pick-up only.

Group Entrance: Enter via the main entrance in St Martin’s Place.  Accessible entrance to the Gallery is either via our Gallery Shop on St Martin’s Place or the entrance on Orange Street, please check which is more appropriate when booking.

Timing: If you are having a taught session please allow plenty of time on arriving at the Gallery for your group to use the cloakroom and toilet facilities in order to start your session on time. Unfortunately if you are late it may not be possible to extend your session.

Exhibitions visits: Please plan your travel and arrival at the Gallery to ensure that you can pay for and collect your tickets at your booked time. One group leader should pay for and collect the group’s exhibition tickets, currently from the Membership and Ticket Collection Desk. Entry to the exhibition cannot be guaranteed if you miss the time you have been booked to visit the exhibition, please call us on 020 7312 2483 if you are running late. Please call us as soon as possible if you cannot visit the Gallery on your booked day so we can release tickets to other visitors.

Admission charges: admission to the Gallery is free.  Some temporary exhibitions have an admission charge. Pre-booked groups are entitled to a reduced group ticket rate. Please check when booking.

Signing-in: To ease over-crowding in the entrance and Main Hall, large groups are asked to wait outside the Gallery or outside the Ondaatje Wing Lecture Theatre on Level -2 while one group leader signs in; please have your copy of your confirmation letter with you. Please sign in at the Welcome point just outside the Main Hall or at the Membership and Ticketing Desk in the Main Hall.

Groups receiving a guided visit: A Learning Intern or your Learning Freelancer will meet you on arrival at the Main Entrance. Alternatively please go to the Welcome point or Membership and Ticket Collection Desk where the Learning Freelancer will be contacted. Group leaders will be given a badge to wear while in the Gallery so that they are easily identifiable. Once signed in please proceed to the schools cloakroom to deposit all bags or to the designated Gallery room. 

Groups visiting on a self guided basis: A range of learning resources are available to support your visit

Cloakroom:  If you would like to deposit your bags and coats, please ask staff at the Information Desk about access to the schools cloakroom.  It is advisable to reduce the amount of personal belongings you bring on your visit.  Valuables should not be left in the cloakroom and all belongings are left at the owner’s risk. We regret that the cloakroom cannot be used as a space for eating packed lunches.

Lunchroom: we regret that there are currently no facilities for eating packed lunches at the Gallery. Groups usually eat in Trafalgar Square or St James’ Park, which are very close by

Visiting the Gallery Shop: Please divide your group into groups of 10 or less to ease access to the shop and to ensure you are able to look around comfortably.

Group leaders are responsible for the behaviour of their pupils throughout the visit.  We reserve the right to ask groups who do not respect these guidelines to leave the Gallery.  When in the Gallery please ensure that your group:

  • Are supervised at all times
  • Are divided into small supervised groups (maximum permitted per room is 30 people at a time)
  • Only use the gallery rooms you have booked (please check your confirmation letter) and avoid visiting any rooms as a group where teaching is taking place.
  • Do not eat or drink (including chewing gum) anywhere in the Gallery
  • Do not use mobile telephones
  • A limited use of photography, without flash, is allowed in the Gallery, please observe Gallery notices
  • Take care – do not run, get too close or touch the artworks
  • Use the lifts and escalators responsibly
  • Only use dry art materials (excluding charcoal and chalk) and do not lean on the walls or plinths whilst drawing
  • Are quiet – please be aware that loud voices echo and disturb others
  • Do not use stools or materials that have been put out for other groups
  • Are prepared to move if requested to do so by a member of the warding staff
  • Behave at all times with consideration towards other people visiting the Gallery