Even though most of my time in London saw me shuttling between Bloomsbury and Central Camden, I've visited the beautiful Somerset house at the Strand on many occasions. It is a huge pale-washed Neoclassical building and a great delight to just relax by the side with a book or some doodles. It overlooks the River Thames and the Waterloo Bridge, and many Brits perched themselves on chairs facing the sun for some much needed summer sunshine.
Aesthetics aside, the Somerset House serves as an Arts and Cultural centre of London. They provide contemporary art programmes and host art exhibitions which range from paintings to graphic design to photography, as well as workshops and guided tours around the different wings - check them out here. It is also the home base for London Fashion Week. In winter, the fountain area doubles up as an ice skating rink (R's friends saw Emma Watson at this very ice skating spot!).
My favourite place within the premises would definitely have to be the fountains in the Edwond J. Safra Fountain Court. Located in the heart of the building and facing the Strand entrance, it's a grand sight to behold. The fountain jets are constantly in play throughout the day, and there's just something about the sound of water that is musically therapeutic to the ears. In the warm(ish) summer, they are a huge attraction with the kids.
Brought my family there when they came over as well.
Al-fresco coffee and tea.
The in-house Rizzoli Bookshops offers a spectrum of artsy collaterals and subject books, ranging from fashion to architecture and interior design. They also have stationery from local British local designers (albeit the hefty prices) and programme booklets for exhibitions. Worthwhile to pop by anc check them out, got really tempted to purchase a few merchandise many a times.
Landmark: The Fields of Photography exhibition.
My doodle notebook.
The security guards are very friendly. I was sitting precariously on the railings (was very careful but would plunge about 2 storeys down if I were to fall back), and the guard came over to tell me to be careful and we struck up a conversation about acute mental disorders and the psychology. We spent some time talking before we split ways, and he insisted to help me take a picture with the grand building.
Ah, the beauty of conversations with strangers.
It's definitely a place to just relax - perfect for a book and cuppa tea on a cool summer day. Will be back for Winter ice skating, hopefully soon - ciao!
Strand, London WC2R 1LA