Until around a decade ago, most of this grand riverside building was closed to the public. Since its construction in the late 18th century as a replacement for an earlier Tudor palace, it had served primarily as offices, providing working space for a variety of government departments, including the Inland Revenue, the Navy Board, and the Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. Following the departure of many of these, and a multi-million pound millennial refit, Somerset House has been turned into one of the capital's leading cultural centers. It's home to the Courtauld Gallery and the Embankment Galleries, where a series of high profile temporary exhibitions are staged, as well as several cafes and restaurants. The highlight of the complex, however, is its central courtyard where in summer children play among 55 water jets that have been programmed to "dance," and in winter skaters slide and topple on a temporary ice rink. The courtyard is also the setting for a number of annual events, including Summer Screen, a week of outdoor film screenings, and concert performances by the likes of the Glyndebourne Opera. Check the website.