Tate Britain Guide, London, England

Tate Britain exterior, London, England

Tate Britain, on the banks of the Thames south of Parliament Square. Entry Free.

Tate Britain, London’s Best Free Art Gallery

Some think the best art gallery in London is the National Gallery but we amateur art-loverts beg to differ. Our vote goes to this relaxed, free and fascinating gallery, Tate Britain. Note that this is NOT the same as the upstart sibling Tate Modern that we think is one of the worst galleries.

Bugbog spent July visiting many large London galleries and museums and thought the Tate Britain was the most enjoyable.

TB is spacious, relaxed and houses an astonishing variety of British artistic styles from 1500 AD to the present – old, new, traditional, deranged, paintings, sculptures, books and installations, often by recent big-name artists or old masters.

Furthermore, since the Tate is south of Parliament Square and most tourists travel on from the Parliament/Big Ben/Westminster Abbey sector to visit either west (Buckingham Palace), north (Trafalgar Square and the city centre) or east (South Bank, London Eye), very few head upriver where the Tate sits, so it’s blissfully uncrowded.

There are obviously must-sees at the National Gallery and Tate Modern building is worth a visit but for pure chill-out art entertainment we put Tate Britain at number one.

Here are a few Tate Britain displays

Tate Britain gallery of painting and sculptures, London Travel, England

A typically calm space and eclectic collection.

18th century art gallery, Tate Britain, London, England

A more traditional layout. This room contains The Lady of Shalott, a masterpiece by John William Waterhouse, though we prefer tragic Ophelia, below.

Tate Britain, picture of ophelia drowning, London, England

A drowning Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais in 1851.

From the Tate display caption:
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Ophelia falls into a stream while picking flowers. Despairing over her father’s murder by Hamlet, her lover, she allows herself to die. The flowers she holds are symbolic: the poppy means death, daisies innocence and pansies love in vain. This painting was regarded in its day as one of the most accurate and elaborate studies of nature ever made.

Tate Britain, picture of norham castle sunrise, London, England

The Tate’s #1 painting, Norham Castle, Sunrise by JMW Turner, 1845.

Tate Britain has the largest collection of Turner’s works in the world, 300 paintings and 30, 000 sketches, but one sensational, luminous room was enough for us.

Tate Britain, an ancient book, London, England

The Prose Life of St Cuthbert, 1200 AD. Artist Unknown.

Tate Britain, a detailed watercolour, London, England

A very detailed watercolour of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland by Nicholas Hilliard in 1590.

The Nativity. A watercolour feminist work in Tate Britain, London, England

The Nativity. A watercolour feminist work by Dorothy Webster Hawksley in 1924.

This nativity scene is peopled almost entirely by females – including rather bizarrely Pandora in her box at the bottom of the picture and the artist herself in grey drawing the scene – apart from the necessary three Kings, Joseph and an ageing shepherd (? ).

A modern art room in Tate Britain, London, England

A mixed modern room.

Francis Bacon in Tate Britain, London, England

A famous triptych from Francis Bacon: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.

The rock drill in Tate Britain, London, England

The Rock Drill, originally by Jacob Epstein in 1915 but reconstructed by Ken Cook and Ann Christopher in 1974.

The strangest art form we stumbled across during our time at the Tate Britain was a labyrinthine series of small rooms with no notice, no guide and no information on the entry door or anywhere for that matter, just a grinning guard telling us to go ahead. It’s an adventure!

The rooms all had two doors (i. e. you come in one and the adventurous leave through the other) and were small, claustrophobic and primitively dressed. Certainly a giggle but – rather like Tracey Emin’s art – we didn’t get the message or see the point. Come to think of it, maybe this was a secretive new installation by Tracey, the queen of nonsense?

Getting there

Tate Britain Opening Hours: 10. 00 to 18. 00 daily, except 24-26 December.
Address: Millbank
London SW1P 4RG
Tel: +44 (0)20 7887 8888

Free to Enter though special exhibitions usually cost extra.

the dining room in Tate Britain, London, England

Tate Britain dining room, apparently serving fine food.

Tate Britain is slightly off the tourist track, about a kilometre (3/4 of a mile, 20 minutes pleasant walk along the embankment) south of Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey, on the bank of the Thames.

– Boat. A private ferry runs from Tate Britain to Tate Modern (on the Thames of course) every 40 minutes. But it’s pricey.

– Tube. The nearest Underground station is Pimlico, 600m away. Westminster is 750m.

– Buses. The best bus is 87 stopping on Millbank, though 88 and C10 stop on the road behind the Tate, John Islip Street.

– Cycles. There are docking spaces for Barclays Cycles (aka Boris Bikes) at both Millbank and Atterbury St entrances to the Tate.

– Car. Not recommended though there is limited street pay parking nearby, free after 18. 30 and at weekends. Taxis, no problem of course.