Chelsea Area Guide
Home to the riverside, world-class boutique shopping and elegant townhouses.
Ivy's Guide to Chelsea
A Rich History
For those who like to look beneath the surface at the layers of London history, Chelsea is a wonderful area to explore. Discover Crosby Hall, on Cheyne Walk, which was moved brick by brick from its original location in Bishopsgate. The man behind this extravagant attempt at 'moving house' was Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, who was later beheaded for his Catholic faith.
Chelsea has been synonymous with wealth and royalty ever since Henry VIII and his six successive wives haunted its enclaves. No. 19-26 Cheyne Walk was once home to Katherine Parr, Henry VIII 6th and last wife, who outlived him, as well Lady Jane Grey, the 'nine day queen'.
The King’s Road weaves its way through the area, carrying with it an aura of luxury and sophistication. However, despite its reputation for all that is chic and debonair, it still rings with the echoes of its Bohemian past. For centuries home to a myriad of artists – many of the pre-Raphaelites, Turner, the satirist Swift, and historian Carlyle – it was more recently the roosting place for Swinging Londoners, and a decade later, the birth place of punk. The famous Chelsea Art School is still a mecca for aspiring young artists, and lends the area intellectual glamour, whilst the surprising mixture of traditional and esoteric bars and clubs attracts London’s Bright Young Things – Chelsea is still very much up for the party!
A Village Atmosphere
Chelsea is a peaceful, residential area. Though you can find a vibrant buzz of evening activity. As in the England of old, butchers, fishmongers and patisserie shops still hold out against the supermarkets.
Explore with the kids
Battersea Park is a stunning riverside park, and a favourite with London joggers. Kick a ball around with your children, hire a paddle boat in the boating lake or admire the landscaped gardens, including an Old English Garden and a Sub Tropical Garden. Battersea Park Children's Zoo has a variety of friendly animals, including giant snails, chinchillas, lovebirds and turtles.
On the other side of the river is the Chelsea Physic Garden. Here, botany and science combine - it was founded by the Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants. Still today, it captivates visitors with its pharmaceutical garden, garden of edible and useful plants and garden of world medicine.
Brompton Cemetery is more pretty than spooky. It's a neo-classical, Grade I listed English heritage site. The bones of many a celebrity are laid to rest here, from the grave of Emmeline Pankhurst, who helped British women win the vote in 1918, to many founders and footballers from Chelsea FC.
The famous Royal Hospital in Chelsea, home to to retired soldiers of the British Army, offers guided tours with one of its very own Pensioners. The building joins the ranks of other London landmarks built by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, including St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace. The renaissance courtyard and surrounding gardens are also beautiful.
The Fulham Road and the Kings Road, which run parallel to each other, are both excellent for shopping. Head to Butler & Wilson for magnificent crystal window displays and Penhaligon's for British perfume sold in the original clear glass bottles with a ribbon-wrapped stopper.
Whether you choose to see an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, or browse the private galleries and antiques shops of the New Kings Road and Pimlico Road, Chelsea has something for all art lovers.
Battersea's Fish in a Tie may sound eccentric, but the fish is excellent and the atmosphere charming. Social Pantry does a fantastic all-day brunch. Try their homemade granola and rhubarb compote, or opt for the full works with an English breakfast that includes Free Range British sausages and bacon. For a more elegant affair, cross the river to Daphne's, a lunching hotspot for Chelsea locals. Bibendium, just round the corner, has a fantastic Oyster bar and is set within the original stained glass windows of the Michelin tire company's previous London headquarters. For a quick lunch, l'Eto on the Fulham Road has stunning salads and patisseries. Goat, further down towards Fulham, does great oven-fired pizza in a low-key atmosphere.
Riccardo's Italian in Chelsea is always packed full of guests that come to pay homage to Tuscan food. One street parallel, on the Brompton Road, is another outstanding Italian, Macallaio RC, this time serving speciality Italian meat. For modern French cooking, Margaux is well-priced and serves beautiful food.
South Kensington's The Sampler is a wine shop and tasting room. Buy a bottle from the shop, pay a reasonable corking fee and enjoy in the wine bar downstairs. Ask for a plate of the traditional French saucisson and duck rillettes to soak up the wine.
There are tonnes of good pubs in Chelsea. The Surprise, just off Justice Walk, is one of our favourites. The Anglesea Arms is another fine London pub, with an outside seating area looking onto the pretty side streets of Chelsea.
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