A bourgeois playground for our city’s reality TV stardom, a second home for London’s best football team (at the time of writing this feature!) and for the next few weeks, the topic of conversation here on Boutique London. Chelsea is the upmarket prime London neighbourhood that glistens on its own leafy, designer stage. But how did the area come to be the epitome of upper-class London and what is there to do, see and devour along its streets?
Chelsea’s past and present
Scour Chelsea’s local headlines for the morning or thumb through its mentions on Instagram and it won’t be long before you see Chelsea FC or the familiar cast of Made in Chelsea scattered across your screen. But these aren’t the area’s only claims to fame. Over the years, Chelsea has come to many cultural turning points, fashioning a chic microcosm of London.
Take, for example, the tail end of the 19th century, when artists began flocking to the area. Countless art societies took shape and soon artists had transformed Chelsea into their own personal ‘artists’ colony’. The Chelsea Arts Society remains active today as a homage to Victorian Chelsea’s art-focused people and culture.
Bohemian Chelsea evolved to become the face of London’s iconic swinging sixties era and, swiftly following, its iconic seventy’s punk rock scene. Throughout its history, there has been one place at the centre of Chelsea’s activity – King’s Road.
Roads fit for Royalty
An aptly named road if ever there was one, King’s Road was originally commissioned by Charles II as his own private thoroughfare to Kew. Today, the bread and butter of the road has changed from ferrying around royalty to retail therapy and people watching.
King’s Road is littered with well-known designer labels but its collection of more niche boutiques is what the area is most loved for. John Sandoe and World’s End are perfect for when you want to escape into your private literary world. You’ll always find fascinating titles lining the shelves in either one of these independent bookstores.
Take the scenic route south-west from King’s Road towards the River Thames and you’ll soon arrive on Lots Road. Named after the ‘lots’ of land that belonged to Chelsea Manor, Lots Road could also be considered a shopping street, but one specialising in a different fare to its neighbour – antiques and home decor.
Lots Road Auctions is a local favourite with private collectors. Each Sunday sees savvy crowds gather into the upstairs salesroom for the antique furniture, paintings, carpets and works of art auction.
While away the hours
If an evening of theatre is up your street, then venture to nearby Sloane Square and you’ll soon find yourself on the doorstep of The Royal Court Theatre. Dubbed the ‘writers theatre’, the Royal Court showcases works from undiscovered creatives, rising stars and established big names, earning it a well-deserved reputation as one of the most important theatres in the world.
If you like contemporary art, go to the Saatchi Gallery. Charles Saatchi’s namesake gallery opens the floor to a host of talented unknown young artists, as well as international artists whose works often have yet to touch our shores until their Saatchi debut. This gallery never fails to provoke its guests with diverse exhibits that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition.
Chelsea Physic Garden sits south of the gallery, flanked by the Royal Hospital on one side and Chelsea Embankment on the other. London’s oldest botanical garden and the perfect setting for a peaceful afternoon walk, its picturesque four acres are home to around 5,000 different types of plant life.
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Our glasshouses have been standing their ground since 1902 and have survived two world wars. We have a long history of glasshouses at Chelsea Physic Garden and they are not to be missed on your visit. The first solid-fuel, heated Stove House was built at the centre of the site in 1680. . . . #historicgarden #botanicgarden #glasshouses #chelsealondon #london #londongardens #londongardeners #visitlondonofficial
Chelsea’s Wine and Dining
Whether you choose to round off your day with an evening of exquisite food or a night out on the town, Chelsea suffers no shortage of wining and dining options. At the charming gastro-pub The Phene, London brewed ales and a list of over 30 wines by the glass are offered up. Many of Chelsea’s locals – and a few of its famous faces – can be found mingling here on evenings.
If you’re searching for the best restaurants in Chelsea, look no further. We’ve rounded up our top five eateries.
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Property in the area
Chelsea’s rich heritage, culture and service industry means that homes in the area are in high demand. The borough is famous for its stucco-fronted townhouses, red-brick mansion blocks, and quaint mews streets, while ultra-modern apartments dot the bank of the River Thames.
Get to know Chelsea at a glance using our helpful map of the local neighbourhood.
Stay tuned with Boutique London for lots more on Chelsea!