Well-known as one of London’s more affluent and stylish areas, there is so much to see and do in Chelsea. Vibrant and fashionable, Chelsea is a veritable feast of cultural sites and activities and, better still, it doesn’t have to cost you the world to make the most of the area when visiting.
I love to stroll along Chelsea Embankment for a blast of fresh London air, grabbing a bite to eat from one of the various restaurants.
Chelsea is my favourite area of London to visit with my girlfriends, we’re always guaranteed a fabulous, fun and mostly free day out!
by Aimée Castles-Greene;
Aimée has lived 20 minutes from central London for 28 years, enjoying and exploring all aspects of the city ever since. In her spare time, Aimée enjoys writing, reading, visiting exhibitions and museums and eating good food!;
What to see and do in Chelsea?
1. The Royal Hospital Chelsea And Tours With The Chelsea Pensioners
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was completed in 1692, under the order of King Charles II and designed by famous historic architect Christopher Wren as a home for veteran soldiers. Still home to veterans today, there is so much to see and do at the Hospital, some 300 years later.
For those on a budget, you can tour the Museum, containing uniforms and paintings amongst other artefacts, and access the Chapel and Great Hall for free on the days it opens.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth experience, The Royal Hospital Chelsea also offers guided tours led by a Chelsea Pensioner. These tours are for groups of 10-15 people.
2. Relaxing At Ranelagh Gardens
Set back within the grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea Estate, is Ranelagh Gardens. Forming part of the land used for the world famous Chelsea Flower Show, the gardens offer the perfect place for a peaceful walk.
This ornamental garden, developed in the late 17th century, is free to walk around, but do check their website for opening times as they can vary due to events.
3. Celeb Spotting In Chelsea
Chelsea is the location of the British television programme Made in Chelsea, therefore, taking a stroll around the area may well lead you to bump into one of them.
If you can’t wait for the celebrities to find you, you should head to the celebrity hotspots such as Imperial Wharf – a pub frequently used for filming the programme, or Brinkley’s, a restaurant in Little Chelsea and a firm favourite of the likes of Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley.
Keep your eyes peeled and phones ready at all times, you never know who you’ll bump into.
4. Stand To Attention At The National Army Museum
Housing collections of war paintings, photography and texts to name but a few of the items on display, whilst also boasting interactive galleries for children and so much more, The National Army Museum is a great place to visit for anyone wanting to delve deeper into the history of the British Army.
Perfect for those travelling with children of all ages, entry to this museum is free and, as it is situated over four floors, it will keep you and your family busy for hours.
5. Discover Something New At The Saatchi Gallery
Home to new contemporary art by unknown or international artists, the Saatchi Gallery showcases works not yet seen in the U.K. Located in the beautiful Duke of York’s HQ on Sloane Square, entry to the gallery is free.
If you’re looking for a more refined experience, why not book in for a meal at the Gallery Mess Restaurant? The restaurant features artwork on the walls, exposed brickwork and offers a delicious seasonal menu.
In the warmer months, you can head outside to the alfresco terrace which overlooks The Green!
6. Catch A Concert At Cadogan Hall
Home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cadogan Hall is a beautiful building both inside and out and has become one of London’s leading concert venues.
Events take place throughout the year, including matinee and morning performances of folk singers, performers and composers to name but a few. Tickets are available on their website.
As with many theatre and concert venues, you aren’t permitted to bring your own refreshments, however food and drink is available from The Oakley Bar and Café.
7. Visit Chelsea Physic Garden
Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanical garden. Established by apothecaries in 1673 in order to grow plants for medicinal purposes, the Garden is still home to over 5,000 different plants today.
Located on the river due to the warm air currents from the Thames, you’d never know you were in central London when in this secretive, south-facing garden.
Tickets cost between £9.50 and £10.50 dependent on season, and entry for under 5’s is free. Chelsea Physic Garden is known globally for initiating the Index Seminum (Seed Exchange) in the 1700’s which is still in use worldwide today.
8. Saturday’s At Partridges’ Food Market
Partridges’ Food Market was established in October 2005 with just 15 stalls. Today, 70 stalls grace the market each Saturday.
Started as a celebration of U.K. and international foods, Partridges’ Food Market also offers farmers and small start-ups the opportunity to sell their goods and showcase their extensive knowledge to visitors.
There are so many wonderful things to buy, including Partridges’ own Chelsea Flower Gin and specialist hampers, it’s certainly worth a visit on a Saturday, 10-4pm.
If you’re not visiting on a Saturday, why not pop down to the Partridge’s shop, located on Sloane Street?
— Aimée Castles-Greene
9. Blue Plaque Hunting
You don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to see interesting, historical parts of Chelsea.
Looking around, you may see blue plaques outside of houses, on walls or above doors.
These plaques represent a famous person who has lived or worked in that building.
Some of the famous plaques to look for in Chelsea include; Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, William Wilberforce, A.A. Milne and Bram Stoker, to name but a few!
— Aimée Castles-Greene
10. Culture At The Royal Court Theatre
Located in Sloane Square and dubbed ‘the writer’s theatre’, The Royal Court Theatre leads the way in provocative theatre in London. Kick-starting the careers of writers such as Samuel Beckett, The Royal Court Theatre hosts productions throughout the year. If you don’t fancy seeing a production, you can still pop in for a coffee and a browse of The Samuel French Bookshop in The Balcony Bar; you may even catch a live event with a playwright to partake in.
At night, the entrance makes for a fabulous, bright Instagram picture.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
11. King’s Road Shopping
Formerly The King’s Road, it famously takes its name from the fact that it was used privately by King Charles II until 1830 to travel to Kew. In the 1960’s it became a haven for English Mods, famously being visited by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, and in the 1970’s important in the Punk Movement.
Vivienne Westwood first opened her shop with Malcom McClaren, manager of The Sex Pistols here. Today, Westwood still owns a shop on King’s Road, and she’s not the only designer shop to grace the street.
King’s Road is a shopper’s heaven – designers, boutique and high-street labels line the street. From bespoke adult and children’s clothing, toiletries, artisanal chocolates and designer interiors to Nike and McDonalds, King’s Road is perfect for those on a budget or those looking to splurge.
A favourite with celebrities, you never know who you’ll spot!
12. The View From Peter Jones Department Store
Peter Jones, a department store owned by John Lewis, is not only a great place to pop in and browse but, more importantly, the top floor restaurant offers unrivalled views across the city of London.
If you’re looking to get some fantastic photos and eat lunch or take tea against a beautiful backdrop in a reasonably priced restaurant, you’ve got to pop in to Peter Jones.
13. The Bluebird – Instagrammers Heaven
One of London’s most photographed venues and a favourite of celebrities such as Cara Delevingne, The Bluebird boasts a café and courtyard, restaurant and bar and lounge. Prices for food and drink are expensive, so only book for dinner if you’re willing to splurge.
But, if you want to head out and mingle with London’s A-List whilst taking totally rad photographs for Instagram in a gorgeous environment, pop in for a drink and enjoy the atmosphere.
14. Chelski For An Indoor Activity
Just off the King’s Road is Chelski, an indoor ski centre. Chelski offers 1:1 or 1:3 tuition for absolute beginners or those looking to refine their skiing skills.
Whilst you can’t plan for the ‘great’ British weather, if it looks like rain for your visit this is a great indoor activity for all ages. The price includes one hour’s tuition with at least 30 minutes skiing or snowboarding.
15. Carlyle’s House – A Writer’s House In Chelsea To Explore
24 Cheyne Road was once home to Thomas and Jane Carlyle, Scots who moved to London in 1831, and to their home in Chelsea in 1834. A successful essayist and writer, Thomas Carlyle wrote The French Revolution: A History in 1837.
He used his success and influence to instigate the opening of the London Library in 1841, tired of not being able to sit at the British Library. Upon his death Thomas donated his house to The National Trust, who have since opened it as a museum.
Today, the museum features all the original Victorian fittings and a collection of items that belonged to the Carlyle’s. As it is a National Trust property, the entry fee is reasonable and free to National Trust members, making it easy to walk in the footsteps of the guests of Carlyle, such as Charles Dickens.
There isn’t a café on site however, nor card facilities, so you will need to ensure you bring cash for entry and gifts. King’s Road is a short walk away for refreshments.
16. Take A Stroll Along Chelsea Embankment To Albert Bridge
Fancy a stroll along the Thames? Head down to Chelsea Embankment. A mile in length, the embankment offers beautiful views of the River, and of Albert Bridge.
Connecting Chelsea in Northern-Central London with Battersea in the South, Albert Bridge has served as a film location for movies such as A Clockwork Orange, Sliding Doors and Maybe Baby.
Perfect for a few snaps, especially at night as the city becomes illuminated by light.
17. The Venus Fountain At Sloane Square
Feeling romantic? The Venus Fountain, located in Sloane Square, is a must-see.
Depicting a kneeling Venus, holding a vase and pouring water from a conch shell, the Fountain is decorated with a relief of King Charles II and Nell Gwynn, his long-term mistress.
Around the basin, the inscription reads “Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song”.
18. Dining In Style At The Ivy Chelsea Garden
The most glamorous restaurant in Chelsea, The Ivy offers all-day dining in a stunning location.
Reasonably priced given its location, you can eat in either the Orangery, Main Restaurant or Terrace and Garden amongst the stunning interior and exterior décor, escaping the rush of the outside world.
Al fresco dining is a must in the summer months.
19. Afternoon Tea At 11 Cadogan Gardens
If you’re looking to do something quintessentially British, you have to visit 11 Cadogan Gardens to take Afternoon Tea in their Drawing Room.
Served between 2:30pm and 5:30pm daily, prices range from £25.00 to £35.00 including a glass of champagne. This is a must do for anyone wanting to treat themselves.
The food is exquisite and the venue is a beautiful townhouse come boutique hotel; typically British and perfect for all those pinky-up pictures!
20. Feel Like A Celebrity At The Hollywood Arms
The Hollywood Arms is so chic it’s more boutique than pub, however it’s still serving up all of Britain’s best loved booze alongside an extensive range of reasonably priced food and cocktails.
Despite the good value, The Hollywood Arms’ interior is something to behold in itself; classic décor with a contemporary twist makes this one of the most beautiful pubs in Chelsea and a must visit.
21. Taste The Rainbow With The Colourful Houses In Chelsea
Heading out and about amongst the buildings, London can seem pretty gloomy and industrial.
However tucked away, you can find terraces of vibrantly coloured houses.
You wont be able to resist pulling that pose as the houses behind you brighten your day, and your Instagram snaps.
Bywater Street in Chelsea is a pastel paradise of pinks, greys, blues, whites and greens and a must-snap when in Chelsea.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
22. Shopping On Sloane Street – Tiffany, Prada, Hermes And More!
For a totally upmarket shopping experience, Sloane Street is the place for you.
Have your credit card at the ready as you’ll be passing the likes of Tiffany, Prada and Hermes stores, bursting with exquisite designer goods.
23. Grabbing A Bargain At King’s Road Oxfam Boutique
If you like charity shopping or finding an absolute bargain, you have to visit the Oxfam Boutique on King’s Road.
Oxfam took the initiative to set up three boutique stores across London for all those designer pieces donated by wealthy residents.
You never know what you could pick up or who wore it first! It’s certainly worth checking out to see what’s been dropped off when you visit.
24. Being FAB At The Furniture And Arts Building
Formerly known as the Furniture Cave, FAB offers three floors of antiques for your viewing, and should you wish, buying pleasure.
Spread over approximately 30,000 square feet, FAB is home to over twenty well-established dealers selling everything from paintings to silver and jewellery to furniture.
It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and worth dropping in to see the items on display.
You can even grab a bite to eat or a drink in Jak’s restaurant, which specialises in Mediterranean cuisine.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
25. More Restaurant Gordon Ramsay Than Hell’s Kitchen
If you’d like to experience fine, Michelin star dining, you need to head to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, on Royal Hospital Road.
The restaurant is quite exclusive, so booking is essential and a smart dress code is enforced, only adding to the exclusivity of your dining experience.
26. See London In Bloom At The RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Held annually each May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a must visit if you’re in London during its run.
If you do manage to get tickets, you can go to marvel at the world’s cutting-edge horticulturalists and their works; enjoy the world class garden designs and get the best tips from the gardening experts.
Plus, they’ve got everything from gardening tools to gifts to clothes, so you’ll be sure to pick up something to help you remember your day.
27. Big Easy Bar B.Q. & Lobster Shack Bay-bee
What better place for a Big Easy than King’s Road? Serving what’s in the title, the Big Easy is a great place to grab a big bite to eat for a bargain price.
Grab their express lunch for £10 and enjoy a signature meal, beverage (including alcohol) and a choice of fries or side.
If you’re heading out for dinner, why not try and catch their happy hour? 2-4-1 cocktails and live music – what more could you want?
— Aimée Castles-Greene
28. Chelsea Farmers Market Sans The Farmers … And The Market
Whilst not actually a market; nor will you find any farmer’s offering you their products, Chelsea Farmers Market is a little haven amongst the hustle and bustle of London.
Independent shops, relaxing cafés and al-fresco restaurants are all available at Chelsea Farmer’s Market.
In the summer, the courtyard becomes especially vibrant as the restaurants extend their outdoor dining. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere a little more Mediterranean.
29. Stamford Bridge – Home of Chelsea FC
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club, is located in Chelsea. It’s actually located in Fulham, SW6.
Stamford Bridge is just outside of Chelsea, approximately a 20 minute (1 mile) walk from King’s Road, and if you’re eager to go and view the stadium, take a look online as Groupon usually have discounted tickets.
30. Design Centre For Shopping And Coffee
As iconic as the glass domes that adorn the rooftop of the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour, is its reputation as a world leader in showcasing luxurious design and decoration.
Filled to the brim with 120 showrooms displaying products from over 600 of the most prestigious brands, visiting the Design Centre is a must for any interior design enthusiasts and lovers of all things couture for the home.
Pop into the Dome Café for a relaxing rest after browsing and enjoy a coffee as you admire your surroundings.
31. A Roast At The Chelsea Ram
If you fancy a traditional British meal, The Chelsea Ram pub is for you.
Serving up a selection of classics including Roast Dinners, Fish and Chips and Ales, you’ll be sure to have a relaxing, filling meal at The Chelsea Ram.
The atmosphere is homely, due to the cosy interiors making you feel completely at home.
Keep an eye on the specials menu which includes seasonal delights and freshly caught fish.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
32. Eat at an award-winning venue
The Chelsea Pig is an award-winning gastropub and restaurant, and absolutely gorgeous inside and out.
A classic Chelsea location, the Chelsea Pig menu offers British delights throughout the year.
If you are visiting in winter, warm up by the beautiful, open fire.
33. Kick Back At The Chelsea Potter
Another trendy, traditional pub, this time at the heart of King’s Road, The Chelsea Potter offers a warm welcome.
Spacious, simple and friendly, pop inside and enjoy a pint in their beer garden to break away from the crowds.
34. Through The Back Door At Barts
Fancy heading back in time to the 1920’s prohibition period? Want to be naughty and sneak in the back door at an illicit late-night speakeasy?
You have to visit Bart’s – you really will feel like you’ve been transported back through the decades as every inch of the experience is tailored to enhance your evening.
On Saturdays you can enjoy afternoon tea with a twist as you drink liquor from teapots and sample 1920’s inspired treats and snacks.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
35. Even More Live Music At The 606 Club
Tucked away discreetly just off of Chelsea Embankment is The 606 Club, a traditional jazz club throwback for the enthusiast today.
Serving reasonably priced and quality food, The 606 Club offers that moody, dark vibe of old whilst allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the music of performers today.
The atmosphere and décor play a big part in recreating that traditional experience.
Take a look at their website to see who is performing and to book a table.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
36. Live Music And Pizza At The Pheasantry
No visit to Chelsea would be complete without a meal at The Pheasantry.
Home to Pizza Express (a reasonably priced chain of restaurants serving up a selection of pizzas and pastas), The Pheasantry also provides live music as you dine, in the setting of the cosy basement seven days a week.
Performances of jazz and cabaret acts to name but two, led this fantastic venue to be nominated for and come second in the Best Live Music Venue in London Awards, 2012.
The winner? The Royal Albert Hall.
This is the perfect location for an inexpensive, relaxed night out with friends, or a romantic, music filled evening with your beau.
37. Amorino Ice Cream Flowers
Amorino is the best place to grab some traditional Italian gelato. Fancy a beautiful flower shaped ice cream?
Amorino creates the cutest ice creams, with a selection of both traditional and unique flavours. Whilst seating is limited, it’s well worth popping in for a yummy, beautiful, photogenic dairy delight.
38. Maggie’s Retro Club
Grab some fantastic photos against the glowing backdrop of Maggie’s retro, 1980s nightclub as you leave your drink on the Rubik’s Cube tables and boogie on down to those 80s megahits.
Named after 80s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, you may well catch the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson and even Prince on special tribute nights. Leg warmers at the ready!
39. Juju’s For Dancing
Morning, noon or night Juju’s is an upmarket experience of dining, drinking and dancing.
At Juju’s you can have a bottomless prosecco brunch, or mingle with the high-flyers who frequent this upmarket nightclub until the early hours of the morning.
Keep an eye out for their 2-for-1 cocktail offers.