A visitor’s guide to the Royal Academy of Arts

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If you’re an art lover, then London offers a seemingly endless list of galleries and museums to choose from – and one destination you should certainly consider adding to your list is the Royal Academy of Arts (RA).

This unique institution has a lot in common with museums and other galleries, but it also has a bigger role – to promote the appreciation and understanding of art, as well as artists and their practice.

Royal Academy Art

The RA is an artist-led organisation, and its artists represent many different perspectives. However, they all share a deep commitment to art and a strong belief in the contribution that artists make to the world.

To achieve its objectives, the RA hosts a variety of exhibitions, as well as educational events, debates, talks and workshops. It’s also the home of Britain’s first art school. The RA Schools have trained some of the UK’s finest artists, from 18th-century painter William Blake to 2013 Turner Prize nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Collection

The RA’s collection began when the Royal Academy was founded in 1786, and it now contains hundreds of paintings, sculptures and plaster casts, as well as thousands of prints and drawings. The collection’s focus is on British art and artists from the 18th century to present day. Many of these works are on display around the building.

Also, the RA hosts a varied selection of exhibitions throughout the year in the Tennant Gallery, the Fine Rooms and the Print Room. These focus on the rich history of the RA, its collection and the work of academicians past and present.

Location

The RA’s address is Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD.

Burlington House is an ornate 17th-century mansion that’s tucked away just off of Piccadilly in Mayfair. Once an airy suburb on the edge of town, the capital has expanded around this slice of history and the building is now in the heart of modern-day London.

This historic property has been the home of the Royal Academy of Arts since 1867 and the RA purchased Burlington Gardens in 2001 – the plan is to link the two buildings by 2018.

Getting there

The closest Tube stations to the RA are Piccadilly Circus (on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines) and Green Park (on the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines). Oxford Circus and Bond Street (both on the Central line) are also within easy walking distance.

If you’re planning on cycling to the RA, there is a bicycle rack in the courtyard, and the nearest cycle hire stations are on Sackville Street. Folding bikes are not allowed in the cloakrooms or the galleries.

Bus is another option for travelling to the RA, and a number of services run through the local area. Piccadilly Circus Stop E on Regent’s Street is one of the closest bus stops, and it serves the 3, 12, 88, N3, N18, N109 and N136 routes. Meanwhile, Piccadilly Circus Stop B is another option. It’s located on Piccadilly and serves the 14, 19, 22, 38, N19, N22, N38 and N97.

If you’re considering driving to the RA, please note this isn’t an ideal choice, as there isn’t much local parking, and it also means driving in the Congestion Charge zone. If you must drive, the closest public car park is on Old Burlington Street.

Opening times

The RA is open from 10 am to 6 pm, seven days a week. Last admission to the galleries is half an hour before closing time, and that’s when the ticket office closes too. The RA shops close 15 minutes after the exhibitions.

The academy also regularly hosts late openings. These are usually in relation to one of the special exhibits, and more information can be found on the RA’s website.

Facilities

The RA offers a number of facilities to help ensure you enjoy your visit.

    • Cloakroom – The cloakroom his happy to accept coats, umbrellas and small bags, but space is limited so suitcases, large backpacks and other bulky items cannot be accepted.
    • Refreshments – There are two restaurants at the RA. The Grand Cafe has a sumptuous decor and delicious food in a relaxing environment. The menu changes seasonally, and it’s ideal for a quick bite or a long lunch. The Keeper’s House is tucked in the corner of the courtyard and includes a restaurant, bar, lounge and secret garden.
    • The Royal Academy Shop – This retail space offers an eclectic selection of books, stationery and gifts inspired by the work of the RA’s artists.

Accommodation

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during a trip to London, the Park Grand London Kensington is an ideal choice. It’s located less than three miles from the RA, and thanks to our proximity to Earl’s Court Tube station (it’s just two minutes away), you can travel between the academy and the hotel in less than half an hour via the Piccadilly line.

The Park Grand London Kensington is a stylish hotel with plenty of home comforts. Every room is equipped with a flat screen television and a tea-and-coffee station. We’ve worked hard to create a relaxing atmosphere with high-quality furnishings, and our friendly staff are always on-hand to help you with whatever you need.

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