When we envisage London, it’s often the paved streets, red-brick mansions and wrought-iron fences of Sloane Square and South Kensington we imagine. Picture-perfect Chelsea is home to cutting-edge theatre at the Royal Court, contemporary art at the Saatchi Gallery and pastel-coloured boutiques of the King’s Road. Of course, it’s also known for some excellent hotels. Here are Culture Trip’s favourites.
11 Cadogan Gardens
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11 Cadogan Gardens is close to all the action in Chelsea | Courtesy of 11 Cadogan Gardens / Hotels.com
When you imagine staying at a Chelsea hotel, you’re probably picturing a traditional red-brick mansion overlooking a quiet square, which is precisely what 11 Cadogan Gardens offers. Set just off Sloane Square, if you’ve got tickets for a show at the Royal Court or are planning some retail therapy on the King’s Road, its prime location makes this luxury hotel a great place to stay. After a full refurb, it continues to pay homage to its heritage in the form of antique furnishings while also celebrating modern design, textures and colour palettes. Han’s Bar and Grill offers brasserie-style cuisine in a relaxed, leafy setting, while the Chelsea Bar – a moody, mahogany drinking den – offers dark corners and potent cocktails for those looking to carry on the party.
If you were to pick the quintessential Chelsea girl, it would have to be Anouska Hempel – the blue-eyed, blonde-haired actor-turned-interior-designer responsible for opening Blakes back in the 1970s. One of the first boutique hotels in London, its interiors are brilliantly moody: a brooding combination of dark wood and heavy velvet. That is unless you opt for one of the Signature Suites, which involve a dreamy mix of white-wood floors, muslin drapes and mottled-gold antique-style furniture. London’s ‘It’ crowd loves to hang out at Blakes Below Bar, making it an ideal spot for drinking cocktails and people-watching.
Just down the road from the Natural History, Science and V&A museums, Number Sixteen delivers the usual Edwardian elegance, warm colours and curious patterns in the shape of a luxury hotel. The Victorian property benefits from a private garden, onto which many of the rooms overlook. As with all Firmdale residences, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a particularly stylish home rather than a hotel. Afternoon tea is a must if you’re staying – served in the conservatory-style Orangery or pretty walled garden, you can enjoy a range of delicate cakes and sandwiches among flora and fauna.
You don’t necessarily have to fork out an arm and a leg to stay in this upmarket location. Just off the King’s Road, Sydney House offers guests simple and affordable accommodation just a three-minute walk from South Kensington station. Rooms are comfortable with bursts of colourful modern art adorning the walls. Most rooms have a good view of the pretty Victorian street while some even boast a balcony. You’ll find L’Occitane toiletries in the bathroom, free Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service for the nights you get peckish. There’s also an award-winning breakfast spread on offer each morning.
Decorated by revered interior designer Sue Rogers, San Domenico House is a perfect example of old meets new; original features from this classic red-brick house have been spruced up by clashing prints, bright colours and modern amenities. Each of the 19 rooms and suites shows a flair for the dramatic – whether that be in the form of a red-velvet blanket thrown on a gold-painted bed or crushed-silk floor-length curtains adorning the sash windows – and manages to be both spacious and comfortingly cluttered. Book breakfast, lunch or dinner in your room, and head up to the roof terrace to enjoy a view over the neat rooftops of West London.
My Chelsea has certainly developed an edge since the opening of its conservatory-style bar. A hub for those on business and pleasure alike, it’s close to the village-like area of South Kensington. Bedroom options range from standard doubles to deluxe suites – the chicest of the lot are the deluxe doubles, which blend chunky wood bed frames with crisp, white linens, mustard-velvet headboards and slate-grey walls to create a softened, masculine look. From the leafy glass-roofed, parquet-floored Living Room to the rustic Tanya’s deli, the social spaces are laid-back, bright and breezy. Juices, salad bowls and a light bites menu can be enjoyed from the olive-green-velvet sofas in the conservatory, and in the evenings, you can huddle around the outdoor fires with blankets and cocktails. Best of all, there are a series of events each month, including literary salons and live music performances, to keep guests entertained.
One of the best things about Chelsea is all the beautiful walled gardens; however, most of them are private. That’s why a stay at the Draycott Hotel will appeal to lovers of green spaces, as the sprawling central garden is open for guests and provides a perfect spot for romantic autumn walks or lazy summer afternoons filled with reading and sunbathing. Back inside, the rooms are rich in traditional trappings such as grand antiques, floral fabrics and elegant original features. They all, of course, come with mod cons such as Wi-Fi, power showers and Freeview TV, so you’ll be able to live out your Pride and Prejudice dreams and post them on Instagram, too.