SOMERSET HOUSE IS A VENUE FOR ALL SEASONS
If you fancy taking a spin on ice in what used to be Princess Elizabeth’s courtyard, just head straight to Somerset House. The multi-purpose venue with a rich history boasts of an impressive cultural calendar packed with performances, exhibitions, and talks by renowned personalities.
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Phone: 020 7845 4600
Somerset House was originally intended to be a palace. The Duke of Somerset began construction in 1547, until his execution in 1552 cut his plans short. Later, the young Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I, lived in the newly finished palace for five years. Since then, it has housed a succession of monarchs, the Admiralty, the Royal Academy of Arts and even the Inland Revenue, until the Courtald Institute of Art moved in in 1989, and Somerset House gradually became the thriving cultural hub that it is today. It’s also an extremely impressive spectacle; so make sure you at least peek into the courtyard if you’re passing by.
Somerset House is now synonymous with culture of all kinds, from fine art exhibitions to London Fashion Week, major performances by bands and performers, design installations and of course, the Courtaud Gallery itself, one of the world’s finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. It has a beautiful riverside terrace that overlooks the Thames, and its large central courtyard is used for all kinds of events, most famously a wintertime ice rink. It is also a hotbed of cutting edge creativity, with Somerset House Studios often playing host to artists of all disciplines and media. As a result, you’ll find the venue’s events listings are extremely diverse, with free artist talks, software sessions, workshops, participatory performances, immersive theatre and lots more. If this is all a little overwhelming, you can also keep it simple and take one of the twice-weekly guided tours to learn a bit about the history of this magnificent space.