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Somerset House

by Harvey James

Imagine for the last five years you’ve been building a palace in Central London that overlooks the Thames. It’s finally near completion and you’re getting excited. You can start thinking about the interiors, leaving the kids in the East Wing, and interviewing a flurry of butlers. Then… you go and get decapitated for planning to overthrow the government.

Urgh. So annoying.

This is the (somewhat abridged) story of Lord Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and how his London palace became public property.

Somerset House is one of the finest buildings in London; its sublime proportions and 18th Century neoclassical architecture are only outdone by its tranquility. Standing at its centre, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the eye of London’s daily bustling storm.

In the North Wing, The Courtauld Gallery houses paintings by 19th/20th Century masters including Cézanne, Manet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. The West Wing and The East Wing host ever-changing gallery spaces, frequently exhibiting the works of resident artists supported by the Somerset House Studios programme.

If your batteries need recharging, there are two charming cafe spaces that serve delicious tinctures of brain resuscitation (aka tea and coffee). Over in The New Wing (lost yet?) sits one of London’s finest restaurants, Spring, where you’ll find seasonal dishes rustled up by lauded chef Skye Gyngell. Finally, head to the South Wing, if not purely to say you were inside the Seaman’s Hall, but also because you might fancy getting high-class pissed at the Terrace Bar, complete with Thames-infused panorama.

So what’s on at Somerset House now? Well, towards the end of May, the London Original Print Fair’s swinging by, and later in the year the Summer Series will see the courtyard transformed into an intimate festival gig space, with artists like Tems and Arlo Parks performing across eleven nights. Later in the year, the courtyard also plays host to one of London’s most perennially popular ice skating rinks, complete with DJs, hot chocolate trucks and pop up fondue restaurants…

…making it totally acceptable to go just for the après-skate.


NOTE: Somerset House is open daily, except for Christmas Day. Many exhibitions are free to visit, but some are ticketed. You can find out more, and book ahead, HERE.

Somerset House | Strand, London WC2R 1LA

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Somerset House

Strand, Covent Garden, WC2R 1LA
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020 7845 4600

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