Why I Love Chelsea

Guest post for our blog by former Chelsea resident Andrea Kirkby together with an exciting competition below the post!

Chelsea was once the epicentre of the Swinging Sixties. It was the home of punk too, a few mohican-wearing punks remaining standard tourist sights until the mid 1980s; I doubt if they’re still around now. But my Chelsea when I lived there was never about punk. Instead, I wandered round the back streets, looking for history. And much of it doesn’t even cost you a penny.

I’ve always loved the Royal Hospital. How can you not love the mix of Christopher Wren architecture and the wonderful characters who live in it – the smartly uniformed Chelsea Pensioners, old soldiers who all have a story to tell.

The museum here is fascinating – for instance I found out about Christian Cavanagh, a.k.a. Mother Ross, who joined the army initially to look for her conscripted husband; she fought at Blenheim and Ramillies and her cover was only blown when she was wounded and the surgeon stripped her to operate. She got a pension (but apparently didn’t actually live in the Hospital, which was closed to women till quite recently). There’s always a Pensioner looking after the museum, friendly, chatty and full of information. There are uniforms, memorabilia, all kinds of military pictures – and then you have the chapel and the dining hall, if they’re open, and the gardens – which are full of green parakeets! And the buildings are Wren buildings and there is also an interesting little graveyard. It’s all free of charge.

Next door is the National Army Museum, which I didn’t think was going to be much fun (its brutalist architecture didn’t inspire me initially either); but it’s up to date and rather interesting, with displays for instance on the Korean War and National Service. It goes all the way back to 1066, and among other fascinating exhibits you can see the skeleton of Marengo, the horse Napoleon rode at Waterloo. Again this is a free attraction.

A hot summer day always called for a relaxing visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden, which was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as a source of medicinal plants. Around that initial, functional collection a wonderful botanical garden has grown up; the micro-climate here has allowed the building of a collection of tender plants, including plants from the Mediterranean and Canary islands, while there are also a number of glasshouses to be visited (it’s not a cheap visit though at £9 so do take your time and there’s also a cafe if you fancy a bite to eat).

When I lived in Chelsea the Duke of York’s Headquarters was still owned by the army. Since then though it’s added the Saatchi Gallery to Chelsea’s already numerous cultural attractions. Tate Modern is just modern (that is, post-1900) but the Saatchi is actually contemporary – what’s going on in art right now.

Consequently the exhibitions are always changing and often controversial. But they’re also always free. It’s a great place to explore with a friend.

A quite different kind of cultural experience is offered by a visit to the comforting intimacy of a High Victorian environment at Carlyle’s House, a National Trust property on Cheyne Row. It’s been preserved practically the way it was when the Carlyles lived there, with the historian’s study, his books, even the little garden with its fig tree (which is still productive).

You won’t get to see the Chelsea Arts Club though, unless you know a member. I was lucky enough to be invited a few times and enjoyed myself immensely.

Almost all the members work in the visual arts – though they include architects and photographers as well as painters and sculptors – and they make engaging company.

Down Cheyne Walk, by the river, are two more historical monuments. Crosby Hall was built in 1466 – but in Bishopsgate, several miles east of here. It only arrived here in 1910 when it was transported brick by brick (The Hall is original, the other wings were built on to it after its removal). Close to it is Chelsea Old Church (open Tuesday to Thursday) which looks much more modern than Crosby Hall on the outside, which was rebuilt after damage in the Second World War. But inside, it’s a different story; there are chained books, Tudor monuments, Sir Thomas More’s private chapel and a memorial designed by the great Bernini – though executed by a rather less expert sculptor. Really good fun for someone brought up on church-crawling, as I was!

Finally, if you like your spy fiction, you should make your way along the King’s Road to Bywater Street, where John le Carré’s mole-hunter George Smiley lived with his faithless wife. I always loved the cute pastel-painted houses here; I loved them even more when I found out their espionage connections.

There are so many reasons to love Chelsea. Why don’t I still live there? Simple: just about the most expensive houses in the UK. I just can’t afford it. But I can still visit when I want and stay in a beautifully intimate Chelsea hotel like The Beaufort, just to fall in love with this wonderful area over and over again.

This is a guest post by Andrea Kirkby. 

Do you agree with Andrea?  Tell us in the comments below why you love Chelsea and we’ll give the best answer by 5pm UK time on 21st July 2013 a free luxury night’s stay at The Beaufort.  It can be anything at all – a shop, your favourite restaurant, a street or your very own secret Chelsea tip.  We’ll also offer a complimentary traditional cream tea to the best runner-up.

You can check out our Pinterest boards for inspiration including our brand new I love Chelsea board!

Enter for the chance to win now.  And don’t forget to RT this blog post to inspire others with your favourite Chelsea tips!

Terms and conditions: the main prize of an overnight stay for two in a double or twin room must be booked in advance and the winner’s preferred date must be for a stay taken by the end of 2013. The runners-up prize includes a cream tea for two at the hotel to be booked in advance (but no overnight stay). This competition may be withdrawn and cancelled at any time at the discretion of The Beaufort.  Any employee, supplier or family member or anyone connected to the hotel is excluded from the competition.The promoter will not be liable for any failure of receipt of entries. To the extent permitted by applicable law, the promoter’s liability under or in connection with the prize draw competition or these terms and conditions shall be limited to the value of the prize in question. Prizes are non-negotiable, non-transferable and non-refundable. No cash alternative is available. In the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond the promoter’s reasonable control, the promoter reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the prize draw competition or these terms and conditions, either in whole or in part, with or without notice. The promoter’s decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. The winner’s twitter username will be posted on @beauforthoteluk after the winner has been selected.

Photo credits: Monica Arellano-Ongpin, Steve Cadman, Karen V Bryan, The National TrustPablo Sanchez, Henry Lawford.

174 Comments on “Why I Love Chelsea
  1. Chelsea Is the heart of modern London. It was once home to both the Beatles, and Rolling Stones members Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. In the 1970s, the World’s End area of King’s Road was home to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s boutique “SEX”, and saw the birth of the British punk movement. It is full of history and is fascinating!

  2. For me its everything that I see London to be, I arrived in London from New Zealand in 1994, I hopped in a cab and said Chelsea please ( was staying at a friends), and from that day to this it has remained my true home, I have moved out now to Strawberry hill, but I always go back at least every other week, so meet friends for drinks/food and shop or to just wander around the the place. Jason Bringans

  3. I love the Kings Road area of Chelsea as there are loads of great shops and restaurants dotted around

  4. Sorry I wrote the first one on the train !! please update with this :(……Why do I love Chelsea? not hard to answer for me it’s everything that I see about London to be, I arrived in London from New Zealand in 1994, I hoped in a cab and said Chelsea please (was staying at a friend’s), and from that day to this it has remained my true home. I have moved out now to Strawberry Hill, but I always go back at least every other week, to meet friends for drinks/food and shop or to just wander around the place.

  5. – I used to ride for a courier company based at the end of Kings Road, and whenever I was close I always had scenes from James Bond films going through my head, in one of the books it says that he lived in “..a ‘little plane tree’d square off the Kings Road’. I used to grab a cold drink on a hot day, and look around at the buildings and streets wondering where he had in mind …never did figure it out, but it was always a pleasure to stop off there….

  6. I love the style,
    the swagger, the walk,
    The beautiful people,
    They way that they talk.

    Down by the harbour,
    The wonderful sights,
    Looking out over the river,
    Lights shining brightly at night,

    The shopping, the bars,
    The walks down the street,
    Never quite knowing,
    Just who you might meet.

    Never a dull moment,
    Always something to see,
    Wherever I may go,
    My heart’s in Chelsea.

  7. Because I grew up just down the road in Fulham and had t he best time shopping in the Kings Road. Stop the Shop was my favourite clothes shop and The Chelsea Drugstore for nights out. Visitung Chelsea brings back great memories.

  8. It’s amazing diversity in architecture, and the many cultures co-existing in harmony makes Chelsea great

  9. I love Chelsea because it has a vibrant vibe at the same times as feeling like a very relaxed place.

  10. i love Chelsea because it is the best place to be in united kingdom. my heart is always there

  11. Down by the riverside, Chelsea couldn’t be cooler – In more ways than 1!! Who doesn’t love a bit of posh tosh on a summers day!! Lol

  12. Gotta love the shops and the general vibe of the Chelsea and the footie aint bad either!

  13. I love the hustle and bustle of the big city and the gardens and museum to get away from it all

  14. I love the architecture, the shopping, the bars, the people, everything about Chelsea is amazing.

  15. I love the style of architecture, especially the tall white town houses which create such an elegant and poised but fresh feel in the sunshine.

  16. I don’t know much about Chelsea but I loved going to the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago. I didn’t see much of Chelsea itself but it all looked very quiet and clean, with some beautiful buildings.

  17. Chelsea has so much to see and do that it is easy to spend a day losing yourself in its charm and atmosphere.

  18. I love the feeling you get when you are in Chelsea – just an air of excitement and aspiration

  19. It’s one of the most chic parts of London, with great restaurants, bars, gardens and architecture. Once you’ve visited once, you’ll always come back.

    And in the words of one of Chelsea’s most famous residents…”Not many people know that”

  20. The ladies in their classy clothes,
    their voices make me swoon,
    The shopping and the nightlife,
    romantic stroll neath silvery moon,
    The football team are not to bad,
    Though I prefer West Ham,
    But I’d rather be suited and booted
    With the swagger of a chelsea man !

  21. I love the history, the architecture and how it has moved with the times whilst remaining steeped in a rich colourful history, beautiful buildings and gardens, wonderful shopping and a mix of real people.

  22. Chelsea manages class without pretension; that’s a really hard thing to do these days. It’s a truly beautiful part of London and I challenge any city-hater not to fall in love with the place. I love Chelsea.

  23. I love chelsea because of the high prestige to the area, a feeling of romanticism has developed over the years in Chelsea and this is reflected in the architecture, businesses and even the people! I am a huge fan of the area! With love, Gabrielle x

  24. Amazing place for people watching, and if that is not of interest, then admire the buildings and architecture!

  25. I love Chelsea for its stunning expensive buildings, funky unique sights and sounds and the fresh English scent

  26. I don’t know..I have never been
    I love made in chelsea
    it has some funny people in it and from what i can see of chelsea it looks
    like a pretty cool classy place. pretty relaxed and safe!
    Would love to experience this for myself though..test to see if im right!

  27. When Samuel John said “tired of London, tired of life” – he was definitely talking about Chelsea!!! – classic, modern and ever changing.

  28. The beautiful buildings and beautful people…. what is better than to sit at a cafe in Chelsea and watch the world go by…

  29. I love Chelsea because I love walking down the King’s Road and imagining it in the swinging 60s!

  30. I love Chelsea because it’s picturesque, peaceful, calming yet vibrant and trendy. It’s feels like you’re not in the UK at all, even on a rainy day. Can’t wait to visit again.

  31. Love the variety in the area and some great classic buildings, not to mention great spots along the river

  32. I love chelsea because it was the first weekend away me and my boyfriend had together and we loved the really vibrant atmosphere ! Everyone is super friendly not to mention 5 star service in every cafe and restaurant we visited! Top notch place!

  33. I love it all really, especially the pubs 🙂 Just wish I could afford to live there!!!

  34. Sloane Square is amazing and I love to see all the eclectic people there. You could spend hours there just observing the rituals of all that visit there.

  35. Chelsea is beautiful, just wandering around is so enjoyable because there’s so much culture to see and absorb.

  36. I love Chelsea because it’s all the best bits of London, it’s quintessentially British, vibrant yet historic, timeless and modern all rolled into one.

  37. Chelsea has something for everyone. It merges the contemporary with the historic, natural beauty with stylish shopping, calm tranquility with buzzing nightlife. I love chelsea!

  38. Pingback: The Beaufort launches ‘Chelsea’ competition | London Hotel News | Official daily news on London hotels |

  39. Great restaurants and shops awesome coffee shops to people watch and not a bad place to watch a little football

  40. Now you mention it I’m quite a fan of Chelsea too! I loved finding out more about Oak Apple Day at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the National Army Museum in the Kid’s Zone play space with my daughter. I also enjoy looking for the blue plaques and discovering the connections to the past. This is a really lovely blog post. Thanks for sharing your insider tips!

  41. I love the mix of culture with the contemporary shops and restaurants. Also I love seeing the Chelsea Pensioners in their red uniforms, always makes me feel happy.

  42. the restaurants on King’s Road – nowhere else have I so many favourites concentrated so densely

  43. I used to visit Chelsea as a child and then later in life as a soldier was stationed at Chelsea Barracks which has now gone but I would love to show my daughter and wife around some of my old haunts (if they are still there

  44. I love sitting outside Partridges watching the people and absorbing the atmosphere, especially when there’s a food market. Then I stroll down the Kings Road, searching each of the charity shops for the perfect designer bargain (there’s so many to choose from!). I sit surrounded by the roar of the supercars as they cruise past Bluebird and am dizzied by the clock at Worlds End – one day I’ll treat myself to those pirate boots too!

  45. I’ve not seen as much of Chelsea as I would like but I do love the river, the bars & the atmosphere!

  46. I used to live in Pimlico nearby, I loved walking to Chelsea from there… there are great shops, fab bars and restaurants and its just a really nice chilled out place to be at the weekends, away from the madness of the Oxford Street/Regent Street area where people tend to flock to.

  47. Go early in the morning and just enjoy the beauty then stroll down to Kings Road for some shopping!

  48. I love finding those historical blue plaques when I stroll around the streets off the Kings Rd,then buying lunch in lovely Partridges. I ‘ll
    be doing that very thing next week 🙂

  49. I enjoy the vibrant atmosphere because it very chich, rich, extravagent, genteel. Love Chelsea Bridge. The beautiful girls, houses, expensive cars, fantastic eateries and atmosphere of a thriving community. Very clean and hospitable but being taken over by an crust who don’t appreciate as much those who walk on the streets.

  50. i love the shopping and people watching with all the lovely dresses and high heels and false eye lashes !

  51. I love the atmosphere, the social element of it all & also the Chelsea Arts Club which I was lucky enough to visit recently with a work colleague

  52. An old fashioned girl like me
    loves Harrods for high tea
    the bridge, harbour, Sloane Square
    fashions to shop and to wear
    That’s why I Love Chelsea!

  53. Chelsea has alway been the home of the London Elite
    No other area in London can really compete
    From A ‘village of palaces’ as it was once known
    LIke its famous Flower Show it has blossomed and grown

    Steeped in history, culture and art
    Many reasons why this borough stands apart
    From the amazing Manor Home of royals galore
    To Beaufort House the home of Thomas More

    From Kings Road to Sloane Street
    You never know who you might meet
    The ambience is amazing, a trendy busy hive
    The heart of London is so vibrant and alive

  54. Thoughts of Chelsea remind me
    of Londons red buses
    and a romantic walk in Battersea

    A meal at Gordon Ramseys
    What amazing food
    followed by a trip
    down Kings Road (I know doesn’t quite rhyme! – but it is the memories of a great weekend)

    My days almost over
    So finally a treat not for me
    Tickets for my husband
    to see Arsenal V Chelsea!!

    Thank you 🙂

  55. chelsea is the place for me
    its amazing what you see
    from royalty , stunning architecture ,shops along the kings road
    to bars, restaraunts and even that “spencer” toad
    football stars are all around
    and a very impressive football ground
    i cant think of another place i’d rather be
    to recojice in being british and partaking in afternoon tea

  56. Amazing memories of being one of those punks who hung out in the Kings Road. Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McClaren’s shop World’s End, with the clock that went backwards, was one of my favourite places.
    I may not look quite as outrageous as I did back then, but my heart is still there.

  57. I love Joni Mitchell singing about waking up on a Chelsea morning. Although she sings about the one in New York, it makes me think of our own Chelsea in a fresh and lovely light.

  58. I love Chelsea because I used to meet my husband there when he finished work. It was a long time ago before we were married and I get very sentimental when we pass through.

  59. I love the architecture of the public buildings and old mews houses on pretty cobbled streets, the peaceful and pretty gardens, fabulous restaurants, great shopping, colourful characters and outstanding river views

  60. It’s glitz and glam, great atmosphere, buildings and people. What’s not to love? It’s perfect!

  61. I Love Chelsea because It inspired me everyday as I walked there while at The Chelsea and Kensington school of Art 🙂 It’s beautiful and inspiring.

  62. There’s nothing better that a stroll down the Kings Road, such a wonderful ambiance and so much fun to people watch and window shop!

  63. Had to laugh at some of the comments especially the poem with ‘chelsea harbour’? Hmm just shows that some folk make anything up to win(you could try going there!!!). Chelsea doesnt have a harbour!!!! I love the REAL people of chelsea the boutique shops and of course the lambhorghini garage, that place i visited daily to drool.
    Chelsea has always been a close knit community and in a way a city and a way of life all of its own.

  64. I Love Chelsea simply because, it is the one part of town that combines cool chic, with fun. As a younger man we used to go to the Chelsea Cruise, and watch all the great cars and the beautiful women, all in the same place, fantastic.

  65. I love the whole ambiance of Chelsea. I love the shopping, the upmarket bars and restuarants, the chic building, the classy cars the beautiful homes, the luxury and the freshness in the atmosphere.

  66. I love the fact that it’s a well-kept area with plenty of greenery, it seems more classy and laid-back than some parts of London. x

  67. I love the fact that Chelsea has always been at the heart of everything that is happening in London – from its mention in the Domesday Book – it has played a major part throughout the history of London – and not only from a historical perspective, but from a military, social, economic and most recently, fashion and design. I love walking through Chelsea – as you cannot help but gaze in awe and see a building that played an important part in georgian history close to a shop that played a pivotal part of putting chelsea ‘on the map’ in the sixties.

  68. As a kid I thought of London through a haze
    Swinging 60s, foggy 50s, Victorian days
    I now love to experience this for real
    To get that ‘anything could happen’ sort of feel
    And that means Chelsea, to share Whistler’s wonderful gaze.

  69. Its vibrant and full of History and Culture. Best of all the Chelsea Pensioners with their numerous stories to tell.

  70. I just love to wander around Chelsea when we are over in London for a break. Classy and chic with great restaurants – one of my favourite areas

  71. It’s a beautiful place with great culture, bars and clubs. The atmosphere is very laid back.

  72. What isn’t there to like about Chelsea? I love the history, the culture, the diversity, shopping in Kings Road and, just by chance have been a lifelong fan of Chelsea FC 🙂

  73. I love the architecture and the peaceful environment but then the buzz at night around the bars

  74. I love watching friends faces when I say I will take them to Chelsea Farmers Market. They initially look bored, expecting to be dragged around stalls displaying fruit and veg covered in soil…but then I take them for a wander around the shops and for a bite to eat at the marketplace restaurant and they soon forget that they were expecting to see ‘farmers’ selling their wares 🙂

  75. Chelsea holds very special place in my heart because my bestfriend used to live on a houseboat in Chelsea harbour, I loved going to visit her. From a swift half at the Pig’s Ear to lazily wandering through Ranelagh Gardens. It felt like you were in another world and a world away from the rest of London.
    I haven’t been back there since I left London eight years ago but the wonderful memories, I cherish and I hold so close to heart.
    If I close my eyes I’m right back there.

  76. We are pleased to announce the winner of the one night’s stay at The Beaufort Hotel is Tracey Belcher, and the runner-up winning afternoon tea is Melissa Peakman.

    Congratulations to the winners, and thank you all for some great comments about why you love Chelsea.

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