Chelsea is to London what the Upper East Side is to New York, the most upscale neighborhood and an elite stomping ground for young hipsters. However, with its long and rich history, Chelsea is much more than that.
Behind the façade of its quintessentially English mansions lies a multifaceted experience for those who want to scratch beneath the surface.
A Little History
Located in the center of London, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the neighborhood has some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Although famous for its young, wealthy inhabitants (popularized by television’s “Made in Chelsea”), the area has not always had the same image. Chelsea’s population expanded relatively late, through the growth of porcelain manufacturing in the 18th century. An influx of artists in the 19th century, such as the impressionist painter Turner, gave new life to the neighborhood. These new inhabitants attracted in turn their own share of notable figures, who settled here for good.
A Mecca for Fashion and Design
Little by little, Chelsea’s trendy and discerning residents have transformed the district into a popular destination for high-end shoppers, who flock to King’s Road for the designer stores. Also, on any given day you can find a film crew or fashion shoot using Chelsea’s narrow streets and iconic, colorful homes as their backdrop. Still, Chelsea has not forgotten its artistic DNA. Many successful art galleries continue to thrive around Sloane Square, and the famous Saatchi Gallery sets the tone for Europe’s contemporary art scene.
What’s more, over the years residential Chelsea has gradually become more accommodating to tourists and today, its popularity is record-breaking. In London, Chelsea and Kensington are the neighborhoods that stood out in 2018 as having the greatest increase in seasonal rentals. AirDNA, a data analytics company specialized in the tourist rental market, found a 57% year-on-year increase in tourists staying in Chelsea – which is an even greater rate than Shoreditch, London’s hippest neighborhood. Consequently, numerous pop-up events have come to Chelsea, especially during the most recent seasons of London Fashion Week. It’s also the home of London Ethnic, a fashion house that brings together global influencers and emerging designers to set a course for fashion that is both ethical and diverse.
Key Chelsea Landmarks
Chelsea Physic Garden: The romantic elegance of this London borough owes much to the flowers blooming in its streets, as well as this iconic garden that attracts horticulture enthusiasts from around the world and has 5000 varieties of flowers and plants, perfectly landscaped.
Saatchi Gallery: Founded by collector Charles Saatchi, the museum displays an impressive array of contemporary art through its exhibitions. Carefully and expertly curated, the gallery regularly introduces new talent who often go on to become leaders in the art world.
Royal Court Theatre: This non-commercial theater saw great success in the 50s with some legendary politically-minded playwrights. Today the venue is known for its experimental theater and many celebrated names in the dramatic arts still come to its cozy bar for inspiration.
Bibendum: Located in the iconic Michelin building, the restaurant has been a London institution for 30 years. French chef Claude Bosi, who has twice received Michelin stars, offers cuisine that is both traditional and awe-inspiringly technical. Not to be missed!
Mary Quant Boutique: Any discussion about Chelsea must include Mary Quant, the emblematic fashion designer of London’s Swinging Sixties who invented the mini-skirt and gave the neighborhood its own style, the “Chelsea Look.” Her famous concept store Baazar, where Twiggy and Mick Jagger came to buy clothes and dance the night away, may be long gone, but the designer still has a place on King’s Road, thanks to a boutique in the experimental shopping center Duke of York Square.
Chelsea Football Club: No tour of Chelsea would be complete without mentioning this successful soccer club and its dedicated fans. If the opportunity arises, watching a live match is an experience in itself.