One of the most breath-taking buildings in London is Somerset House. As you stand in the courtyard with the fountains dancing beside you, elegance envelopes you.

What we know today as Somerset House began in 1549 as the project of the Duke of Somerset. He leveled houses and businesses in this area to build himself an imposing residence.  Before he could finish the building, his enemies had him beheaded.  The property reverted to the Crown. Royalty maintained residences here for hundreds of years: Princess Elizabeth (became Elizabeth I), Anne of Denmark (wife of James I), and Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I).

The River Thames flowed against the South Wing. Three arches allowed boats to moor under the building.  Now, the embankment has pushed the river 20 feet away.

During WWII  bombs damaged the building and broke most of the windows. Repair was not completed until 1952.

Somerset House is now a museum. The film industry periodically sets up production on site. For example, some of the scenes from the recent Sherlock Holmes movie starring Jude Law & Robert Downey Jr. were shot here.

Even if you don’t visit the museum, step into the courtyard and turn 360 degrees. It is magnificent.