Fronting the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge in Pimlico, the Tate looks like a smaller and more graceful relation of the British Museum. The most prestigious gallery in Britain, it houses the national collections, covering British art from the 16th century to the present day, as well as an array of international works. The Tate's collection of 20th- and 21st-century art is housed as Tate Modern, but the collection at Tate Britain is still much too large to be displayed all at once, so the works on view change from time to time.
The older works include some of the best of Gainsborough, Reynolds, Stubbs, Blake, and Constable. William Hogarth is well represented, particularly by his satirical O the Roast Beef of Old England (also known as The Gate of Calais). You'll find the illustrations of William Blake, the incomparable mystical poet, including such works as The Book of Job, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost. The collection of works by J. M. W. Turner is the Tate's largest by a single artist -- Turner himself willed most of his paintings and watercolors to the nation.
Also on display are pieces by many major 19th- and 20th-century painters, including Paul Nash, Matisse, Dalí, Modigliani, Munch, Bonnard, and Picasso. Truly remarkable are the several enormous abstract canvases by Mark Rothko, the group of paintings and sculptures by Giacometti, and the paintings by one of England's best-known modern artists, Francis Bacon.
After you've seen the grand art, don't hasten away. Drop in to the Tate Gallery Shop for some of the best art books and postcards in London. The gallery sells whimsical T-shirts with art masterpieces on them. Those ubiquitous Tate Gallery canvas bags seen all over London are sold here, as are the town's best art posters. Invite your friends for tea at the Coffee Shop, with its excellent cakes and pastries, or lunch at the Tate Gallery Restaurant. You'll get to enjoy good food, Rex Whistler art, and the best and most reasonably priced wine list in London.
Use the Tate-to-Tate boat service between the Tate Modern on the Southbank and the Tate Britain. It's runs every approximately every 40 minutes, saves time and an alternative way to see London.