My Sunday continued with a visit to Somerset House which was built between 1776 and 1786 on the site of the Duke of Somerset's Tudor palace. It is a stately building set around a granite-paved courtyard. Reminiscent of a European piazza, the courtyard glistens with fountains which are illuminated at night. The fountains get playful twice every hour. Go ahead and walk through them if you want. During the summer, you may catch a concert and in the winter the area is turned into an outdoor ice skating rink.
Walking through the courtyard is like walking in another time (with the view currently marred by the construction cranes in the north). This site has been used in films including “Sense & Sensibility”, “Bride & Prejudice”, “Sleepy Hollow” and “Goldeneye”. Pictured below is the entryway to Somerset House from the Strand.Besides the grand courtyard, there are three galleries that now occupy what used to be offices of state: The Courtauld Gallery, Hermitage Rooms and Gilbert Collection. Admission is required for all of these three attractions and no photography is allowed. The Hermitage focuses on an ever changing display from the St Petersburg museum of the same name. Think Faberge eggs. The Gilbert Collection focuses on the decorative arts especially known for a collection of glittering examples of gilt snuff boxes and micromosaics. A grand staircase in Somserset House pictured below.The south wing of Somerset House includes a restaurant, deli/café and a terrace that runs along the Thames river where you can glimpse St. Paul’s Cathedral to the east and Westminister to the west. Entry to the courtyard and terrace is free. More information at www.somerset-house.org.uk