The Wallace Collection ★☆☆
An historic London townhouse filled with 18C antiques and French and Old Master paintings—all for free
The 1776-88 Hertford House on Manchester Square—originally built for the 4th Duke of Manchester—contains the collections of 18C French paintings, Old Masters works, fine porcelains, and antique armor amassed by the Seymour family, the Marquesses of Hertford, over five generations.
The collection was donated to the public in 1900 by the widow of the final Seymour heir, Sir Richard Wallace, illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess who became famous for the help and resources he provided to the poor of Paris during and after the Siege of Paris in early 1870s (many of the green Wallace Fountains he donated to provide drinking water still dot the Parisian street scene; there is on in the garden here)
These 35 galleries—many with the artwork still displayed against sumptuous wall hangings beneath crystal chandeliers befitting a formerly private collection—is particularly strong in 18C French rococo works by François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and Jean-Marc Nattier.
These hang alongside works by older masters like Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Guido Reni, Andrea del Sarto, Diego Velázquez, Jan Steen, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, and Rembrandt van Rinj—including one of Rembrandt's famous self-protraits, and another of his son Titus.
There is also a fine collection of armor and arms, French furnishings, and a decorative arts that includes Limoges enamels and Meissen and Sèvres procelains.
The museum is worth a good 90–110 minutes, but I'd also plan to have lunch here, so figure on 3 hours total.