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A 15-minute train ride from Victoria and an 8-minute walk lands you in a pretty village-like enclave of South London, and something about the leafy stroll acclimates one to contemplation and appreciation. In just a few rooms, the Gallery keeps one of the world’s most vital collections of Old Master paintings of the 1600s and 1700s. Magnanimous donors made it England’s first public gallery (opened 1817), designed with a surplus of light by Sir John Soane (who left us his own cramped museum). A visit is almost indescribably serene, the better to stare into the Cheshire Cat face of one of its star masterpieces, Rembrandt’s A Girl at a Window—how did he capture her bemusedly frank expression? A handheld video tour unspools fascinating backstories of 10 works you might otherwise pass by, such as the portrait of young Venetia Stanley, which exists because she was discovered dead in bed and her distraught husband summoned Van Dyck to capture her beautiful corpse. Twist ending: Her beloved might have poisoned her. At the airy cafe, grab tea with Devon clotted cream for £6.