*This post was last updated in December 2021*
Walk the walk – Posh Chelsea and quirky Battersea
Chelsea has always been one of my favourite London neighborhoods. With its mysterious mews, stately homes, and gorgeous boutique shops, it’s definitely an exclusive area worth visiting.
Chelsea has been a part of London since 1900 and merged with the Metropolitan Borough of Kensington, forming the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington in 1965. The fact that property prices are still in the highest regions doesn’t come as a surprise when we look back in history. Once King Henry VII acquired the manor of Chelsea, more Royals, and other affluent people started to reside in the village, resulting in its nickname: ”village of palaces.”
The best way to explore ”the village of palaces” is on foot, and the best place to start is at Sloane Square tube station. A charming square with a water fountain welcomes you when you exit the Chelsea station and the area is surrounded by the typical stately homes that you’ll find all over the area.
Royal Hospital Chelsea – home to British veterans
Following your way to Holbein Place and the Royal Hospital Road, you’ll quickly find the stately entrance to the grounds of the Royal Hospital. This is a retirement and nursing home to hundreds of retired British soldiers.
The grounds are open to the public and boast peaceful gardens where you can stroll around and feel completely at ease. A rare occurrence in such a vibrant city as London. When you’re in luck, you might see some of the Chelsea Pensioners in their traditional uniforms.
Due to the COVID-crisis, it is not possible to visit Royal Hospital Chelsea until further notice.
Making your way down south, you’ll soon reach the end of the Royal Hospital Grounds. Crossing a busy road, you’ll be treated with the sight of the Thames River, and the Albert Bridge on your right-hand side.
Crossing Chelsea Bridge, you might be wondering what the large building with the four chimneys is on the other end. That is Battersea Power Station, the decommissioned coal-fired power station. Did you know that it used to provide a fifth of London with electricity? Nowadays it’s a fully transformed destination, with apartments, shops, restaurants, and leisure centres.
At the time of my visit in 2016, it was still a major construction site, as you can see in the picture below.
In fact, the whole area around Battersea Power Station is fully being transformed and can be reached by tube at a brand new stop on the Northern Line. I can’t wait to go back to check it out one day for myself.
Buddhist Peace Pagoda, Battersea Park
Having crossed the bridge, you can’t miss the turn to the right towards Battersea Park. The main attractions of the park (besides the super green area) are the Buddhist Peace Pagoda, a boating lake, petting zoo, and the Old English garden.
Views on the Thames and Chelsea across from it aren’t bad either!
When you’ve seen enough of Battersea Park, cross the Victorian Albert Bridge that will bring you back to Chelsea.
Passing by all the gorgeous residences on Cheyne Walk, turn right into the small cobbled back streets of this area. This is where you’ll find the famous mews and flower-covered houses. Don’t be afraid to get lost here and turn left or right whenever you’d like because there are surprising finds around every corner.
Criss-cross your way upwards to King’s Road, Chelsea’s main shopping area. Designer labels, boutique shops, quirky cafes, eateries and inspiring interior design shops are the main focus here. Spend a little while here to shop or to get a cup of tea, but if you’re up for more culture, don’t forget to turn left on Sydney Street where you’ll find St Luke’s Church. It was here where the British author Charles Dickens married his wife Catherine Hogarth.
For the foodies and non-stop shoppers among us, head over to the Chelsea’s Farmers Market in Sydney Street, where you won’t find farmers selling their merchandise, but unique arty shops and food of the highest quality. Especially a lovely place to visit when the weather is nice, as people gather on this small piece of concrete land to enjoy the foods and drinks on offer.
When you feel you’ve taken in enough of Chelsea’s metropolitan, yet peaceful atmosphere, you just follow King’s Road east-bound and you end up right where you started: at Sloane Square tube station.
Attractions to visit in Chelsea – Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane was an English architect, specialised in the neo-classical style. His best known work was the Bank of England but you also have seen his work if you’ve ever visited Dulwich Picture Gallery. Also, an avid collector of antiques and art, his Chelsea residence has been turned into a museum and you can see his impressive collection for yourself.
Attractions to visit in Chelsea – Saatchi Gallery
Saatchi Gallery is situated in a gorgeous historic building and showcases the best of modern and contemporary art.
Other interesting attractions and sights in Chelsea:
Chelsea circular walk – Route details
Circular walk. Starting and finishing point: Sloane Square Underground Station
Length: 6,5 km/ 4 miles
Is riding a bike more your thing than taking a stroll? Don’t forget to check out my post on cycling in London.
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