Somerset House is an amazing place, dating from 1801 and is most famous to Brits as where all the birth certificates were kept. It was also: the nation's Stamp Office where every newspaper was stamped before distribution; where the Royal Academy of Arts began; and, the home to various government offices. It still houses government departments but it is more famous for its wonderful courtyard (which was once just a car park!) and fountains, its restaurant, its exhibition and the events in the courtyard. Currently in the courtyard is an amazing exhibition by Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese artist who was behind the Olympic Birdsnest stadium in Beijing and the Sunflower Seeds exhibition of 100 million pieces in the Tate Modern. Sadly at the moment he is in prison in China but his work speaks out for him. Here we have 12 massive bronze animal heads depicting the traditional Chinese zodiac called Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This is his first major outdoor exhibition in London and Somerset House's first outdoor modern sculpture display.
The day I went to see them was very warm and sunny so we could enjoy the heads while families enjoyed themselves running in and out of the fountains. People of all ages couldn't resist running through the changing fountains and the kids stripped off to their swimmers and there was no stopping them! We however enjoyed a light lunch at Tom's Kitchen within the main building and remained fully clothed!
Another good reason for visiting Somerset House is the Courtauld art gallery where you can view a wonderful collection ranging from some of the most famous impressionists and post impressionist work - Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Degas - and some more modern pieces - Bacon, Hepworth and Nicholson - and many older pieces too - Ruebens and Brueghel. For a mere £4.50 entry to what is termed a small museum, you can treat yourself to a journey through some great art.
Photos are: a view of the full courtyard; various shots of the zodiac heads and people playing in the fountains.