FREE Sunday art workshops at the National Gallery in London

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milestone - artwork

I’m going to share a secret. The National Gallery in London does FREE art workshops every Sunday aimed at the entire family to enjoy and learn about art together.

The workshops, run by professional artists, focus on an area in the gallery. After a short discussion, you are given insider tips and high quality art supplies and then set loose to create your own masterpiece.


Did I mention it was FREE?

If you live near London, or are visiting with kids, you have to check it out.

As many of you know, my husband is Scottish. So when I told him about my credit crunch weekend idea, he was totally on board. We don’t live far from London so all we had to do was get up early and out of the house by 9 am.

There’s no traffic on a Sunday morning, so we zoomed down the M4, passed Harrods, gawked at Piccadilly Circus and hubby dropped us off right in front of the National Gallery just as the doors opened at 10. We even avoided the £8 congestion charge because it was the weekend.

We headed over to the education center to book ourselves in (they have space 100). It’s good to note that it is easier to get to the education center by entering on Orange Street, rather than through the grand entrance on Trafalgar Square.

There’s lots of room in the Education Centre Foyer, so we had a snack and let the kids run around. The Gallery also has “Magic Carpet Story Telling” sessions for under 5’s, and it turned out there was room in the next session. Bonus. We joined in and our magic carpet took us to Paris just before the turn of the century to admire Renior’s Umbrellas. My daughters were taken with the little girl in the painting with a hoop.

The best part of visiting different areas of the Gallery is that you get to walk through the building and enjoy the paintings on the way. Oh look, there’s Rembrandt’s Self Portrait and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Is that a real Michaelengelo?

When we returned to the education centre through the galleries for our 11 am class (is that Monet’s Water Lily Pond) the children were given an intro to the museum (it contains 2,300 paintings that are very old!) and pointers on appropriate behaviour (do not touch the paintings please).

Our workshop (there are four running until the end of the year) was titled “Into the Blue” and was led by artist Aliki Braine who was at ease with the children and really made the session come to life.  What child could not love an artist whose specialty is photography and stickers! 

We took a short walk (is that a room full of Leonardo da Vinci?) to the 13th to 15th century paintings to take a look at “The Flight into Egypt” by Workshop of the Masters 1518. Aliki asked the children to “jump into the painting” and examine it closely for details, and finally had them focus on the mountain range in the background.

We were then given thick watercolor paper and pencils and tips on how to sketch a mountain range, and we all had a go! We made our way to the education centre’s state-of-the-art studio and were instructed how to finish the project, with brand new water colour paints, glitter beads and gold and silver paint pens.

My three girls were in heaven.

So was daddy.

We splurged at the museum shop and bought the girls postcards of the Renior for 60 pence each.

The café was full, so we had cappuccinos and split banana splits at the restaurant.

We then walked out of the National Gallery grand entrance, admired Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, peeked at Parliament and Big Ben and made the short walk through Leicester Square to the China Town Car Park.

As we drove home it was starting to get dark, and London sparkled with Christmas lights.

A perfect day in a world class museum with activites for the kids, and it only cost about 20 quid plus petrol.

What credit crunch?

*Sessions are held every Sunday at 11 and 2 and last 2 hours. The afternoons fill up faster.  The National Gallery also offers “Seeing Things” trails through the museum (three different reading levels) and audio tours for kids.

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  1. 20/11/2008 / 18:34

    This post made me seriously homesick for London. I spent a month there when my son was one and we had a great time. One of my favorite things was the free One o’Clock Clubs at the local parks (we especially liked the one at Coram’s Fields).
    Thanks for a great post!

  2. Victoria
    18/11/2008 / 13:46

    You can also go to the National Gallery any day of the week and design your own self-guided tour for children (ie, paintings with monsters or cats), which is also free. We live in London and love visiting museums at weekends as loads of them have free activities for children such as art and storytelling.
    For Chinese New Year we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum where the children made dragon masks, we watched a noodle making and Tai Chi demos and finished it off with watching an amazing dragon dance all around the museum.
    Last epiphany we attended the ‘good bye to Christmas’ celebration at the Geffrye museum in Shoreditch. They teach you about what epiphany means and how it’s been celebrated through the centuries. The children can make crowns then everyone is served cake and mulled wine while they have a huge bonfire in their garden with all the branches they’ve used to decorate the museum and everyone sings their last carols to the accompanyment of a brass band.
    I love London museums!

  3. 18/11/2008 / 07:11

    ohhh I’m so envious. I wanna go!! I love living vicariously through you. I heard (via NPR) about an artist who was putting 100’s of his paintings around London and letting people keep them. Promotion or some such…did you hear of it? Great idea but lots of work for him.