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Chelsea is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is home to some of London’s wealthiest residents, including several members of the British royal family.
The Marble Arch London is located just a short distance from Chelsea, but with galleries, museums, National Trust properties and dozens of bars, restaurants and shops, where do you even begin exploring this delightful part of the UK capital?
Here’s our guide to five must-do activities in Chelsea:
1. Visit the Saatchi Gallery
Owned by well-known businessman Charles Saatchi, the Saatchi Gallery on the famous King’s Road (more on this later) is one of Chelsea’s best-loved attractions. The gallery also looks out onto Sloane Square, meanings its location couldn’t be more in the heart of Chelsea.
The contemporary art gallery prides itself on showcasing innovative art forms, with an exhibition of smartphone photography on display until May 20th 2017.
Titled ‘From Selfie to Self-Expression’, the showcase explores how self-portraits have evolved over the years from paintings that took months or even years to complete to the constant selfie photos that are being snapped by everyone – not just artists – today.
2. Step back in time at Carlyle’s House
Carlyle’s House is the former residence of Thomas and Jane Carlyle, who were writers during the Victorian period. Owned by the National Trust, their London abode provided them with a completely different pace of life than they had been used to in rural Scotland when they moved down south in 1834.
Although not necessarily as well-known as some of his contemporaries, such as Charles Dickens and Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle’s social commentary influenced these famous names. Later, he established the London Lending Library, which has since been used by hugely influential figures, including Dickens himself, as well as Agatha Christie and even Sir Winston Churchill.
Today, the Carlyles’ house is furnished as it would have been when the literary couple lived here, while the garden has also been preserved, with many of the flowers and herbs planted by Jane almost 200 years ago still able to be seen, along with the site of Thomas’ once-fruitful vegetable patch.
3. Explore the famous King’s Road
King’s Road is a two-mile road that runs right through the heart of Chelsea, made particularly famous in recent years thanks to the popularity of the reality TV series Made in Chelsea.
Along this stretch, you’ll find the Sloane Square Tube station, as well as numerous fancy bars, restaurants, designer shops and outlets selling vintage fashion. European-esque cafe culture is huge here, so grab a coffee or a glass of wine and sit outside one of the many bars seeing how the other half live – big sunglasses to hide behind are a must-have.
The charity shops in Chelsea are particularly good, as many of the borough’s affluent residents kindly donate their no-longer-wanted clothing, bags and shoes to these stores, which are then sold on for a small fraction of their original price.
4. Wave hello to royalty at nearby Kensington Palace
Although not in Chelsea itself, Kensington Palace and Gardens is certainly the most famous attraction in the whole borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The palace is the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, but parts of it are also open to the public for exclusive guided tours, as well as a look at special exhibitions.
At the moment, visitors can see the Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit, which includes many of the late Princess of Wales’ most iconic outfits, including the black velvet ball gown she famously wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House.
Kensington Gardens are open throughout the year and are one of London’s eight official royal parks. There’s another tribute to Princess Diana here in the form of the memorial playground, with other highlights including the Peter Pan statue, which was erected to mark the spot where the boy who never grew up landed during a night-time adventure in the much-loved JM Barrie tale.
5. Check out the National Army Museum
Chelsea is also home to the National Army Museum, which houses a wide range of exhibitions relating to various aspects of the Armed Forces, including uniforms and weapons from the past.
Visitors can learn everything from who Lawrence of Arabia actually was to how army doctors helped to develop early plastic surgery amid the horrors of the First World War.
Other exhibits explore how military uniform has influenced modern fashion, the role animals have played in the Armed Forces over the years and the role that West Indian slaves played in supporting the British army in many major battles.