When we envisage London, it’s often the red-brick mansions, paved streets 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 on the King’s Road. Of course, it’s also known for some excellent hotels. Here are Culture Trip’s favourites.
Made in Chelsea may portray the eponymous neighbourhood as having a disproportionate amount of sunny days and a constant nostalgic glow, but the reality of this royal borough isn’t actually far off. Its pavements are lined with gleaming townhouses; perfectly primped private gardens are nestled between multi-million-dollar mansions, and sleek sports cars roam its streets. This is still a borough where you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bargain, but behind its wealthy sheen are cutting-edge theatres, quaint antiques shops, cosy brunch spots and famous galleries. Dip your toe into the life of the other half with a stay at one of these six hotels.
Truly embodying Chelsea’s aristocratic spirit, 11 Cadogan Gardens is housed in a series of former townhouses originally built by Lord Chelsea in the 19th century (which means that, yes, you will technically be staying in the home of a noble). The hotel feels at once down-to-earth and decidedly Chelsea, and each room has its own style – some feel palatial, others like an especially luxe farmhouse. Located a stone’s throw from Sloane Square station, and the shops and restaurants along Kings Road, you’ll have some favourite high-society haunts on your doorstep. Guests get access to the private Cadogan Gardens across the road, too – when the weather permits, pack a picnic from one of the local delis and pick a spot. It’s the perfect place for people-watching.
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 the pretty walled garden, you can enjoy a range of delicate cakes and sandwiches among the 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 only 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.
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. 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. From the 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.