The National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC houses an impressive collection of nearly 20,000 works of art, including all of the official portraits of the US presidents and other notable historical figures. The gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, has permanent and visiting exhibitions that enrich any visit to the US capital.
The National Portrait Gallery is housed in what was originally the nation’s patent office, which today is a registered historic landmark. Its rooms are lined with portraits of myriad famous faces, from scientists to statesmen and first ladies to film stars. Don’t miss the gallery’s expansive indoor courtyard with lush plants and undulating glass ceiling.
A number of small- and large-group Washington DC tours include visits to the gallery, and hop-on hop-off buses stop in front. The Smithsonian also offers a variety of tours highlighting different aspects of the collection designed to accommodate different time constraints.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Portrait Gallery is a must-see for art and history aficionados visiting DC.
- As with all Smithsonian museums, admission is free.
- The Courtyard Café offers casual dining, coffee, and free Wi-Fi.
- The gallery is accessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchairs can be borrowed from the site for no charge.
How to Get There
The National Portrait Gallery is located in Washington DC’s Penn Quarter and is easily reachable by bus, by metro, or on foot. The nearest Metrorail station is Gallery Place–Chinatown, on the red, yellow, and green lines. While many city tours include a visit to the gallery, driving is not advised, as parking in the area is very limited.
When to Get There
The National Portrait Gallery is open from 11:30am to 7pm every day of the year except for Christmas. The gallery offers extensive seasonal and educational events; check the website for details. Washington DC is busiest in summer and can have extreme weather year-round; check the forecast and plan accordingly.
National Portrait Gallery for Kids
The National Portrait Gallery offers a variety of educational events and programs especially for kids and teens. Explore!, located on the gallery’s first floor, is a space designed for children 18 months to 8 years old (children must be accompanied by an adult). The gallery offers story time for young children at 11:45am Tuesday to Sunday, and the Young Portrait Explorers program is geared toward children up to age 5; class size is limited to 25 and you must preregister online to participate. Other activities include Portrait Discovery Kits and Open Studio Fridays.