Somerset House

Art , Galleries Temple Free
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(15 user reviews)
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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

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: Temple/Charing Cross/Covent Garden
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  • Exhibitions Sunday June 5 2016 - Sunday June 12 2016
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  • Contemporary art Thursday June 30 2016 - Monday August 29 2016
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  • Rock and indie Friday July 8 2016
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  • Pop Saturday July 9 2016
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  • Funk, soul and disco Sunday July 10 2016
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  • Rock and indie Monday July 11 2016
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  • Tuesday July 12 2016
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  • Rock and indie Wednesday July 13 2016
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  • Jazz Thursday July 14 2016
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  • Pop Friday July 15 2016 - Wednesday November 9 2016
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  • Show more

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:1
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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.

Mei M

Somerset House is a fantastic museum in Central London, that surprisingly not everyone has heard of. Apart from being a wonderful building, it usually hosts amazing exhibition (I've seen one dedicated to Egon Schiele, really well done). I know they also organise concerts there, and looks like a great surrounding for music.

Even if you're not a fan of museums, you can still step into the courtyard and have a coffee there, on a sunny day it's such a pleasant break from the chaos of the Strand! 

Another amazing thing to be done there over Christmas is ice skating! Somerset House is the best place to do it, so beautiful, and the DJs are amazing - last time they played really cool stuff like Bjork and Radiohead. I was so surprised. 

I think this is one of those places in London where tradition and innovation melt perfectly, which is something so peculiar of this city!

moderatorStaff Writer

Well worth a trip at Christmas time to go skating, also normally plays host to a number of bands in the summer making for a uniquely intimate and historic venue.

Alana R

The perfect combination of old and new, historical and present, timeless yet dynamic. Somerset house encumbers all this and more. From summertime gigs, to winter wonderland of ice skating and. Ever-changing exhibitions, it's the place where I take a minute and breathe in the world around me. I discovered it in my first week in London, nearly a year ago, and said yes to go to a gig there, mostly because of the feeling it gives me. Halfway through listening to Angus and Julia Stone, I realized I'm in London for this. I'm in London to discover more about the world and more about me.


Somerset House is my favourite place in Central. Even just standing in the empty courtyard gives me a thrill. Maybe it's the architecture, maybe it's the vibe, maybe it's the history - whatever it is, I keep on coming back. There are lots of great exhibitions that pop up here: I've seen one on The Jam, the annual Secret 7' vinyl exhibit, and another on Blondie and the NY Punk scene of the 70s there amongst others. Lots of great stuff happens on an annual basis, too, with ice skating in the winter and concerts in the summer. Fabulous and some of the exhibits and events are free!

Rellie Loves

I recommend coming here for the Summer Series in July. I came here last year and the atmosphere was honestly incredible! Live music in the open-air courtyard in one of London's historic buildings is something you don't often get to experience. If you're into films, then the open-air cinema may be one to get involved with this summer! You can also catch contemporary art, fashion and design exhibitions here throughout the year, some of which are free so check the website. If you enjoy arts, culture and photography then definitely make a trip here.

Yi G

It is a stunning piece of architecture, especially so at dusk when it is lit. The Courtauld Institute of Art, part of the Somerset House, has one of the world's most respected collection of modern art. They also put on blockbuster exhibitions all year along.

Sarah (kukkiiandkoppee)

The historic building itself is a beautiful sight and there's so much going on that I never get bored photographing the building and it's people. The exhibitions are changing and some are free. I came here for the Tintin exhibition - although small it was delightful collection of works.

Victoria B

Beautiful Building! The setting by the Thames is particularly picturesque. Hosts a range of exhibitions, concerts and film screenings - always something worth visiting going on.


Somerset House is a place where you can easily spend pretty much a whole day. Start at the Courtauld Gallery right before you enter the beautiful courtyard. There are a few absolute masterpieces here and usually a great temporary exhibition, too. 

Afterwards you could head inside the main wing for a lunch or coffee break at Tom's Kitchen, which has a great selection of fresh food, coffees and drinks. 

Resume your cultural visit after lunch by visiting one of the temporary, often very contemporary and experimental exhibitions at Somerset House. Most often, there are exhibitions associated with fashion and photography which are amazing. 

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.


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.