© Zach Nelson / Fodors Travel
Burlington House was built in 1664, with later Palladian additions for the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1720. The piazza in front is a later conception from 1873, when the Renaissance-style buildings around the courtyard were designed by Banks and Barry to house a gaggle of noble scientific societies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Astronomical Society.
The house itself is home to the draw-card tenant, the Royal Academy of Arts. In a city with heavyweight galleries such as Tate Modern, Tate Britain, and the National Gallery, the Royal Academy more than holds its own. The statue of the academy's first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, palette in hand, is prominent in the piazza of light stone with fountains by Sir Phillip King. Within the house and up the stairs are statues of creative giants J.W.M. Turner and Thomas Gainsborough. Free tours show off part of the collection and the excellent temporary exhibitions. Every June for the past 240 years, the RA has put on its Summer Exhibition, a huge and always surprising collection of art by living Royal Academicians and a plethora of other contemporary artists.
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD, England
020-7300–8000; 0207-300–5839-lectures; 0207-300–5995-family programs