Chelsea: what do Kate Middleton and Margaret Thatcher have in common?
Chelsea is one of London’s most prestigious areas; expensive homes, famous designer shops and incredible restaurants and nightclubs.
The busiest part of Chelsea – or, if you prefer, the part that exhibits the most life – is the King’s Road, home of the boutiques and restaurants of all kinds. In fact, it’s one of the very few places in London outside the traditional tourist areas where you’ll find busy restaurants on weekday afternoons, so choose your times wisely! You’ll see the most extravagantly dressed ladies and gentlemen chatting over lunch and reading their Times newspapers… so also dress appropriately! No tracksuits and caps please.
If you walk a little further along, you’ll find the famous Chelsea Farmer’s Market on the corner of King’s Road and Sydney Road. They may not sell vegetables like they used to (sorry, fitness freaks!), but there are a number of charming little cafes and restaurants, all of which are a hit with the locals.
Some of our most recommended restaurants include the trendy Botanist and Colbert in Sloane Square, as well as a favourite of Kate Middleton’s – before she started eating gourmet food in Kensington palace! – The Bluebird. You’ll also find numerous traditional pubs, the most famous of which are The Phene, The Sunrise and The Phoenix. All three are hidden away on side streets away from the eyes of most tourists, so look out for them if you fancy a pint a tad cheaper than in the restaurants!
However, for those keeping their purses a tad tighter, Chelsea isn’t only about shopping and dining with style. Relatively near the King’s Road is the Royal Hospital, where every year for the last hundred years the Chelsea Flower Show has taken place. Every May, floral fans from around the world come to admire the gorgeous flower arrangements. Well worth a visit if you don’t have hayfever!
One of the most famous contemporary art galleries in London also finds its home in Chelsea; the Saatchi Gallery. If you have already seen more traditional galleries like the National Gallery and the Tate Modern, the Saatchi exhibits some of the most genius and revolutionary modern art from around the world. The exhibitions change quite frequently, so you’re bound to see new things on every single visit.
If you have seen all the shops, eaten at all the restaurants and marvelled at all the art, head to Flood Street, one of the King’s Road’s various side streets. At number 19, you will find one of Margaret Thatcher’s previous houses, where she celebrated her first parliamentary victory in 1979. A little further down the street are a number of beautiful Victorian-era homes and apartments, built for the British aristocracy.
At the end of the street is a tiny little garden, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the main road. This is the Chelsea Physic Garden, notable for its gorgeous sculptures and its relaxing, calming presence. Originally used to grow medicinal plants and herbs, the garden is now a place of tranquility for locals and tourists alike. Entrance to the garden is found on another small side street, Swan Walk.
If you are a football fan, then Chelsea will be especially wonderful (or the opposite, depending on who you support!), for Chelsea Football Club and their stadium, Stamford Bridge, are but a stone’s throw away. Technically, the stadium can be found in a different borough of London, in Hammersmith & Fulham, but this is close enough so that travelling there will not be a time-consuming or expensive excursion. If you don’t happen to be lucky enough to acquire tickets for one of the matches, it is still worth your time to visit the stadium on a non-match day. They hold regular tours detailing the history of the club. This tour also allows you the chance to see the dressing room, where you can breathe the same rarified air as John Terry, Eden Hazard and of course Jose Mourinho (avoid Fernando Torres’ in case you get his bad luck!). If you are taking public transport to Stamford Bridge, exit the tube at Fulham Broadway station.
In this part of town you will find the magnificent Brompton Cemetery. An old Victorian burial ground, it is both a beautiful and spooky place, virtually untouched by modern life. You may even recognise some of its tombstones, as the cemetery has found itself featured in films such as Sherlock Holmes, Finding Neverland and Eastern Promises.
By this point, walking all day must have taken it out of you. So how about some dancing?! Some of London’s best clubs are located in Chelsea; from the famous 80s club Maggie’s to the chic Juju (one of Will and Kate’s favourites, before they had a son of course!), there will be a place for all lovers of music here. If you really want to partake in the party spirit, head to Barts, where you can adorn a number of masks and costumes to liven up your night. Do not spill your drinks on those expensive outfits!
Before 1900, Chelsea was a small village that wasn’t even officially part of London. Despite its postcode, there’s still a spirit of isolation hovering in the area, totally distinct to the rest of the city. There is enough variation here to fill a weekend without even seeing the traditional tourist spots, and all this – the aristocratic air, the entertainment, the gorgeous gardens and restaurants – just go to prove London’s sheer variety.