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From corgis to stallions, animals have always been important companions to kings, queens, knights, and saints. On this 2-hour National Gallery for Families Tour, we'll take an adventurous visit to London's National Gallery to meet tamed dragons, alluring cats, and trustworthy dogs. We'll learn about these beloved animals' relationships with their owners as well as the painter depicting them, and how the stories of history's greatest personalities are often linked to that of their pets—making some drawings of our own along the way.
Note: Families, we also offer a National Gallery for Families Tour focusing on the gods, goddesses, and other characters to be found in the Gallery.
During the walk, we may encounter the famous rhinoceros Miss Clara, a celebrity of the 18th century that toured Europe and was painted by Pietro Longhi in 1751 in Venice, or the incredible Whistlejacket that George Stubbs depicted in 1762 for the Marquess of Rockingham. Regardless, this fun and interactive history of animals also tells their story as companions to the greatest figures of British history. Using the National Gallery as our canvas, we'll weave a narrative that takes us from the the spaniels of the Tudor court, to Winston Churchill's dog Rufus II, to Queen Elizabeth II's famous Welsh Corgis.
Looking for this tour for adults? Try our National Gallery Tour.
Meanwhile, we'll have fun throughout the walk with a range of fun activities for kids and parents. Maybe we'll pick our favorite animals and draw a coat of arms. Or, perhaps we'll draw ourselves with our pets, thinking about what the different symbols in portraits mean. We might even use our imaginations to come up with a fantasy beast, then draw it! No matter what, we'll walk away from this tour with a better understanding of what it takes to draw animals—and what the animals mean.
By the end of the tour, both kids and their lucky parents will have developed a deeper appreciation for the many fascinating characters and stories to be found throughout the National Gallery. Children and adults will come away with a better understanding of British history, and the importance of painting both through history and today. We'll learn about the important role that pets have played throughout history and how they were represented in art. Additionally, we'll explore why some people wanted unusual animals in their paintings, ranging from a phoenix or dragon, to an owl or monkey.
Is this walk appropriate for small children?
Yes, we designed this walk with young children in mind. Thanks to our approach and activities they will learn about art through the familiar subject of pets.
What kind of activities will you be doing?
Depending on the children's learning styles we may do drawings, act painting scenes, ask them to describe a scene. Each docent is equipped with tools and techniques.
Is the gallery accessible?
Yes, the gallery is fully accessible to wheelchairs. Four entrances have level access: the Getty, Sainsbury Wing, National Café and Pigott Education Centre entrances.
Embark on a 2.5-hour, family-friendly Tower of London tour, specially designed to draw out the tower’s murky history in a creative and imaginative way. Set out on a cruise along the Thames River, envisioning the smugglers, pirates, and mutineers that once sailed its waters as you listen to the onboard guide's commentary. Then, be among the first of the day's groups to visit the Tower of London. Explore with your guide and learn about its history, which is brought vividly to life through engaging tales that keep the youngsters of your group in mind.
Make your way to Embankment Pier on the Thames River to begin your family-friendly tour. Here, hop aboard a boat for a cruise down the river, or as your guide will describe it, “a ship to sail the high seas like the mariners of the past would have done.”
Take in views of the city as your guide regales you and your family with tales of the smugglers, pirates, and mutineers that once sailed these same waters and the fate that befell them when caught. Envision the scallywags who were once marched across London Bridge by a man with a silver oar – the symbol of the power of the Admiralty – en route to their punishment.
Once the Tower of London comes into view along the riverbanks, it’s time to disembark. Admire views of both the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge — one of the most recognizable bridges in the world — and imagine the events that have taken place at these sites. Any young ones will be hard at play, completing the specially designed activity materials provided by the guide.
Next it’s one to the Tower of London, a notorious former prison and execution ground where even members of the British Royal Family came to a fateful end. An early morning arrival means that you'll be among the tower's first explorers of the day.
Enter the grounds and let history come alive as your guide bares the tower’s secrets. See the guardians known as “Beefeaters,” and learn about their proud traditions; find out the former use of the ominously named Traitor’s Gate; and hear the legend of the ravens that stalk the grounds.
Marvel, too, at the spectacular Crown Jewels, see the medieval palace where royalty once lived and the towers where prisoners were once held, and march along the ramparts, enjoying spectacular river views as you go.
Your tour concludes inside the Tower of London, leaving you free to spend the rest of your day as you wish.
Harrods of London installed a novelty in 1898: the world's first true escalator (to be fair, an inclined moving belt with metal bars for traction did make its debut two years earlier on Coney Island). The oddness of a moving staircase so unnerved many shoppers that employees were stationed near it with smelling salts and cognac to help revive those overcome with fear.