Somerset House

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Ed Marshall / Time Out
Courtyard fountains - © Simon Leigh / Time Out
Fernandez and Wells Cafe © Tricia De Courcy Ling
© Ed Marshall
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Kings Barge House © Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
© Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Aldwych Free

The original Somerset House was a Tudor palace commissioned by the Duke of Somerset. In 1775 it was demolished to make way for an entirely new building, effectively the first purpose-built office block in the world. Today it houses a formidable art gallery (the wonderful Courtauld), a beautiful fountain court, a terraced café and a classy restaurant. Having replaced the Hermitage Rooms and Gilbert Collection on the river side of the building in April 2008, the new Embankment Galleries explore connections between art, architecture and design with a series of temporary exhibitions; downstairs a ceremonial Thames barge illustrates the venue’s history. In summer, children never tire of running through the choreographed fountains. Family workshops take place at weekends and holidays, and in recent years Somerset House has hosted an outdoor film screen in summer and a wonderfully atmospheric ice-rink in winter.

Venue name: Somerset House
Address: Strand
Opening hours: Daily 10am-6pm
Transport: Tube: Charing Cross/Covent Garden

Pick a date

  • Design Sun April 26th 2015 - Mon May 4th 2015
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  • Design Sun April 26th 2015 - Sun May 3rd 2015 Free
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  • Photography Sun April 26th 2015 - Sun May 10th 2015
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  • Fri May 15th 2015 - Fri June 12th 2015
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  • Photography Thu May 21st 2015 - Mon August 24th 2015
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  • Thu July 9th 2015 - Thu July 9th 2015
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  • Pop Thu July 9th 2015 - Sun July 19th 2015
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  • Blues Fri July 10th 2015 - Fri July 10th 2015
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  • Pop Sat July 11th 2015 - Sat July 11th 2015
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  • Reggae Sun July 12th 2015 - Sun July 12th 2015
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Curated London

Review for Boro

From the 17th - 19th centuries, Japan’s poor were allowed only to wear dark blue, brown and grey. Brighter colours were reserved for the wealthy ruling elite, as were luxury fabrics, like cotton. When the rich threw away their clothes, poor people gathered together the scraps and stitched them together to make bedspreads. The result (Boro) is the subject of this exhibition.

If this sounds niche to the point of obscurity, you’d be right. The exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one of the world’s most insular nations. However, from an artistic point of view, there is little to be gained. These are scraps of fabric, dyed blue and hastily quilted together to provide relief from Japan’s cold winter nights.

In an attempt to justify the exhibition, or possibly to break up the monotony, the curator has overindulged considerably with the interpretation. A whole panel is devoted to how modern artists, name-dropping eight of them, could have been influenced by Boro (‘Paul Klee would have been delighted by them’) before acknowledging this did not happen. It’s worth a quick look if you’re at Somerset House, but definitely not worth a special trip.


Saw the Sony World Photo Awards here which was fantastic. The permanent exhibition is worth a look as well.

Becky C
1 of 1 found helpful

One of London's most innovative museums, I love the amount of thought they put into offering as much diversity as possible. There really is something for everyone (and many exhibitions are free) but it's also a great place just to sit and people-watch.


Indeed Somerset house has more happening then most people visiting London would realise. It is a true hidden jem which is ironic because it is also one of the larger buildings that are open to the public. A beautiful historic hosting some very up today events. As well as the family workshops a number of events for adults have been run in the evening which have been very well recived. An evening of no presure creative play with a glass of wine in one hand accompanied by sounds from chilled DJ's is a very plesent way to pass the time.