London's Chelsea neighborhood is one of the city's most posh areas, boasting expensive homes and high-end restaurants and shopping. But the neighborhood, located west of central London, has lots to see and do for any type of visitor. It's home to the Chelsea Football Club, Saatchi Gallery, the National Army Museum, and each year the area hosts the Chelsea Flower Show, which welcomes locals and tourists alike. Whether you're looking for fine dining or a casual stroll, Chelsea has a lot to offer.
Shop the King's Road
Chelsea's most iconic street is the King's Road, a vast avenue of restaurants, stores, and cafes. It has a history as a fashion center dating back to the 1960s when the street was filled with designer boutiques and vintage shops. Today it keeps the cool factor and visitors can find tons of shopping and dining options along the thoroughfare. The Ivy is a good spot for celeb sightings while taking a shopping break. In the summer, book a table on the terrace at Bluebird Chelsea, a chic restaurant serving European fare.
Visit the Chelsea Flower Show
Every spring Chelsea is host to the famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which draws celebrity and royal guests. Tickets are required for entry (and best booked ahead online) and visitors will see impressive arrays of gardens, flower displays, and exhibitions. There are also food and drink options, shopping stalls, and educational displays. Try to book an afternoon tea in the gardens, which is usually offered in partnership with a high-end hotel (2020's is a collaboration with The Dorchester).
Explore the Saatchi Gallery
The Saatchi Gallery, first opened by Charles Saatchi in 1985, has been located in several buildings, but its current spot near Sloane Square is almost museum-like. The gallery hosts rotating exhibitions, from pop culture to contemporary painters to Egyptian history. The gallery is usually free to visit, though some exhibitions may require the purchase of a ticket. There are also frequent talks and workshops, including art classes with notable teachers. Check the gallery's online calendar before visiting to see what exhibitions are on display.
Eat at The River Café
As its name suggests, The River Café is located along the Thames, with outdoor dining options that boast great views. The restaurant is known as a place to dine for a special occasion or as a spot to take visiting relatives, and it has a high-end but casual vibe perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Reservations are a must and should be made as far in advance as possible. The Italian-themed menu changes seasonally, with a more affordable set lunch option available during the week. It's not a cheap night out, so consider this an end-of-trip indulgence if you're on a budget.
Dine at Hans' Bar & Grill
For an intimate evening out, book a table at Hans' Bar & Grill. The restaurant serves an array of tasty cocktails, as well as British-inspired dishes like lamb cutlets and rib-eye steaks. The atmosphere is low-key, unlike some of Chelsea's more see-and-be-seen eateries, which makes it perfect for a date night or a family dinner out. After dinner, head upstairs to The Chelsea Bar, a moody cocktail spot where you can select between traditional and newly created drinks.
Tour Stamford Bridge
Football (soccer) fans should head immediately to Stamford Bridge, home to the Chelsea FC. The massive arena offers tours for sports fans, which go behind the scenes and reveal areas like the dressing rooms, press room, and dug-outs. The tour also includes access to the Chelsea FC Museum, which showcases the team's 115-year history, and all tours are available in 12 languages via an interactive multi-media device. Book tickets online in advance, especially when visiting on a weekend or bank holiday. Families with young children should look for "The Stamford and Bridget Tour," which involves the team's two mascots and a free gift for the young ones.
Visit the National Army Museum
Chelsea's National Army Museum hosts five galleries of artifacts and history that detail the British military's legacy. Entry is free and visitors will get a chance to see everything from Lawrence of Arabia’s robes to the skeleton of Napoleon's horse to a display on the symbolism of poppies. There's also an immersive theater and a cafe, and much of the exhibition is tailored to kids and families. The museum puts on regular events, many of which are free for attendees.
Visit Carlyle's House
Carlyle's House, once of the home of historian Thomas Carlyle, is one of London's strangest and most interesting museums. Owned by the National Trust, the museum is like a time capsule of Victorian life in England. Everything has been preserved since Carlyle's death in 1881 and visitors can see the kitchen, his soundproofed study, and walled garden.
Stroll Through Chelsea Physic Garden
Established in 1673, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a hidden gem in London. The garden grows over 5,000 plants that can be used as medicines in both outdoor spaces and in greenhouses. It's a peaceful, picturesque place to visit, and the garden also features a nice cafe that serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch, along with tea, coffee, and cocktails.
See a Play at the Royal Court Theatre
While many of London's big theaters are located in the West End, Chelsea is home to the Royal Court Theatre, which sits on the edge of Sloane Square. The theater hosts a rotating selection of plays and focuses on works by provocative writers. Don't miss the Royal Court’s Bar & Kitchen, which serves food and drinks before and after the show.
Dine at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Splurge on a night out at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef's high-end eatery in Chelsea. The restaurant, which boasts three Michelin stars, has been around for 21 years, offering a classic dining experience. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant isn't recommended for very young diners as there is no kid's menu. Reservations are available up to three months in advance, and it's recommended to book early when dining on a weekend or holiday. Cooking masterclasses with Chef de Cuisine, Matt Abé, are available on select dates (and for a very large fee).
Learn How to Bake Bread
Book into a baking course at Bread Ahead, one of London's most popular bakeries. There are a few locations around town, but the best is in Chelsea. The Bread Ahead Bakery School offers all kinds of classes, from making sourdough to learning complicated French pastries to Japanese baking. Many of the workshops book up in advance, so be sure plan ahead.