The Top 9 Things to Do in Chelsea, London

Chelsea is home to some of London's best restaurants, shops and galleries
Chelsea is home to some of London's best restaurants, shops and galleries | © Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock
Photo of Madis Kabash
14 August 2020

Home to the iconic King’s Road, world-class restaurants, shops and galleries, Chelsea is so much more than coloured chinos and flashy cars. Here are nine things to do in this sought-after London borough for a guaranteed great day out.

Wander around Chelsea Physic Garden

Botanical Garden
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The Chelsea Physic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in London
© LH Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Chelsea Physic Garden is one of the capital’s best-kept green secrets. Founded in 1673 as the Apothecaries’ Garden, the botanical space has a rich history and still houses more than 5,000 plant species. The gardens are open daily for visitors and are the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely amble. Feeling peckish? Stop by the Tangerine Dream Cafe, which serves up a delicious afternoon tea with a twist – think lavender scones and homemade ginger beer.

Visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea and learn about its inhabitants

Building
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History enthusiasts will relish in the story of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a 300-year-old foundation that’s home to soldiers in their retirement. The scarlet-uniformed army veterans (known as Chelsea Pensioners) host tours of the space, which feature beautiful buildings designed by the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren. They’ll also relate incredible stories of the Royal Hospital’s past and present inhabitants. In May, the grounds are transformed for the Chelsea Flower Show – one of the most celebrated gardening events of the year.
Take a tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, led by Chelsea Pensioners | © Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Explore the Saatchi Gallery on a rainy day

Art Gallery, Market, Museum
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Henri Barande at Saatchi Gallery, London
© Justin Piperger / Saatchi
The Saatchi Gallery – Charles Saatchi’s private art collection – never fails to disappoint with its forward-thinking exhibitions. Entry is free, and its prime location at the top of the King’s Road makes this the perfect spot to while away a couple of hours. The highly acclaimed Gallery Café and its daily afternoon tea offering are also worth a mention, especially the boozy option that features ice-cold Pommery Champagne and jugs of Pimm’s in the summer months.
Explore the Saatchi Gallery’s exhibitions, or simply enjoy the café’s offerings | © Ros Drinkwater / Alamy Stock Photo

Immerse yourself in football history at Chelsea FC's home stadium

Stadium
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Stamford Bridge, located on the western edge of Chelsea near Fulham Broadway, is the home of Premier League Champions Chelsea FC. Tours, which run daily, offer action-packed insight into the team and will take you behind the scenes, discovering areas such as the dressing room, players’ tunnel and press room. Afterwards, swing by the museum, which boasts an extensive array of Chelsea-related memorabilia. A must-visit for any Chelsea fan or football fanatic.
If you’re a Chelsea fan, you won’t want to miss out on a tour of Stamford Bridge | © Hanafi Latif/Shutterstock

Go on a shopping spree in Duke of York Square

Shrine, Shopping Mall
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Nestled between Peter Jones (the Sloane Square iteration of John Lewis) and the Saatchi Gallery, the Duke of York Square offers one of London’s chicest open-air retail experiences. Stock up on the latest trends at one of Europe’s biggest Zara outposts, treat yourself to a mini facial at Dermalogica, or browse inspiring coffee table books at the Phillippe Starck-designed Taschen. Head down to the Saturday market, which takes place come rain or shine, and feast on chorizo scotch eggs, pistacho-laden cannoli and vegan banana bread.
Spend the day exploring the shops surrounding the Duke of York Square | © Willy Barton/Shutterstock

Hunt around for historical blue plaques

Spend a morning or afternoon discovering London’s blue plaques on a walk through leafy Chelsea. For more than 150 years, blue plaques have commemorated the homes and workplaces of famous figures, of which there is no shortage in SW3. Former residents include George Eliot, Alfred Hitchcock, Oscar Wilde and Sylvia Pankhurst. Head down Smith Street, and you may even spot a plaque dedicated to P L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. It’s believed 50 Smith Street was the inspiration behind the Banks family home in the iconic Disney movie.

Find commemorative blue plaques on a stroll through Chelsea | © Ron Ellis/Shutterstock

Visit independent boutiques on King's Road

Shop, Store
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No trip to Chelsea is complete without a wander down the King’s Road, a picturesque street that runs parallel to the River Thames. You’ll find an eclectic mix of independent boutiques, designer offerings and high-street staples. Highlights include the Nike store, a space dedicated solely to women’s fitness, the Shop at Bluebird for under-the-radar fashion brands, Anthropologie for beautiful things you didn’t know you needed, and must-have homeware at Heal’s.
King’s Road is home to various independent boutiques | © Peter Scholey / Alamy Stock Photo

Stop on Pavilion Road for a spot of brunch

A stone’s throw from Sloane Square Tube station is Pavilion Road, a charming, cobbled street with a village feel. Work up a sweat at boutique gym KXU (there’s even an infrared sauna and cryotherapy chamber) before feasting on an egg and avocado-laden brunch at Hans’ Bar & Grill or Granger & Co. Be sure to stock up on seasonal produce, charcuterie and cheese at resident Natoora and on a doughnut or two from Bread Ahead while you’re there. Stationery fiends should also check out Papersmiths – its floor-to-ceiling shelves are brimming with design-led offerings (all of which can be monogrammed) as well as journals, periodicals and books covering graphic design, fashion and psychology.

Pavilion Street is a charming street full of good spots for brunch | © Willy Barton/Shutterstock

Browse Lots Road and the Furniture Cave for antiques

Retail therapy in Chelsea isn’t limited to designer clothes. Tucked off the beaten path is Lots Road, a London antique institution that hosts auctions every Sunday – expect to find everything from Persian rugs to Louis XV-style mirrors. The Furniture Cave, located at the end of the King’s Road, is also worth a visit if antiques are your thing. The space, spread over three floors, houses over 20 dealers offering paintings, ceramics, silver and furniture. Jewellery fans should seek out Bourbon-Hanby Arcade, the only remaining antique jewellery emporium in Chelsea, for one-off pieces.

Lots Road hosts weekly antique auctions | © Chloe Johnson / Alamy Stock Photo
These recommendations were updated on August 14, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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