A pleasant stroll west of Tate Britain along the embankment which forms part of the Thames Path sees you in Chelsea for a host of outstanding attractions including The Saatchi Gallery, the National Army Museum and the historic home of Thomas Carlyle (National Trust). Chelsea has had its fair share of eminent residents over the centuries alongside Carlyle including Sir Thomas More in the Tudor period and in the 20th century the cutting edge fashion leaders of the 1960s and 1970s on the King's Road Chelsea including Vivianne Westwood and Mary Quant. » Find Accommodation in Chelsea
Discover cutting edge theatre at the Royal Court Theatre in Chelsea and admire the Albert Bridge across the Thames at Chelsea, easily London's most elegant bridge across the Thames. See one of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece buildings in London, The Royal Hospital in Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioner which is free to enter. One of the UK's most popular flower shows, The Chelsea Flower Show takes place in The Royal Hospital Chelsea annually in May. Also not to be missed in Chelsea is a tour of the Chelsea Physic Garden founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries.
430 Kings Road Chelsea is one of London fashion's most famous addresses, synonymous with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in the 1970s who opened a shop here first called 'Let It Rock'. Westwood and McLaren reinvented the shop a number of times through the 1970s. In the late 1970s it became 'Seditonaries' and here Punk style was born. The Sex Pistols played their first gig in clothes bought from the shop at 430 Kings Road. Westwood's World's End store is still located here today at 430 Kings Road.
King's Road Chelsea was at the heart of 1960s 'Swinging London'. Legendary small boutiques were located here in the 1960s including Mary Quant's first boutique 'Bazaar' opened on the King's Road as early as 1955. Famous fashion boutiques in the 1960s on the King's Road included the psychedelic boutique 'Granny Takes a Trip' first opened in 1966 by Nigel Waymouth, Sheila Cohen and John Pearse. The boutique 'Top Gear' appeared on the King's Road Chelsea in the 1960s, set up by James Wedge and Pat Booth.
Today on the King's Road Chelsea you'll still find a selection of great boutiques. Westwood's World's End is at 430 and check out the shop at bluebird at 350 Kings Road (weblink right).
Thomas and Jane Carlyle moved from Scotland in to what they considered the delightfully spacious house on Cheyne Row in Chelsea in 1834. A celebrated writer of the Victorian age, Thomas Carlyle wrote many of his most famous works in this house in Chelsea including 'The French Revolution' and Frederick the Great'. The Carlyle's Chelsea home was visited by numerous artists and famous names of the period including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Thackeray and the poet Tennyson.
The National Trust cares for Carlyle's House in Chelsea which has been preserved as it was when Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane lived here. Thomas Carlyle died here in the drawing room in 1881. The Carlyle's were at the epicentre of the 19th literary world of London, influencing many including Dickens.
Top London contemporary art gallery The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea opened in 2008 on the King's Road, having previously been located in County Hall in Central London. This is a free entry London gallery, inclusive of free entry to all temporary and curated exhibitions. The Saatchi Gallery famously exhibits artwork by young and largely unknown artists, unknown both to the public and to the commercial art world, as well as international artists not previously exhibited in Britain.
Large rooms with high ceilings in the The Saatchi Gallery offer plenty of scope for the display of huge works and installations. The building also contains educational facilities, a book shop and a cafe bar restaurant.
The Saatchi Gallery sits at the end of the King's Road near Sloane Square. Also at Sloane Square is the award winning Royal Court Theatre in Chelsea. Britain's leading national company are here and you can expect to see cutting edge drama by the most innovative of new writers. John Osborne's 'Look Back in Anger' famously opened here 1956 and this London Theatre treasure has been playing host to hard-hitting drama ever since.
The National Army Museum in Chelsea contains four permanent gallery displays and features regular changing exhibitions alongside numerous events and activities. Admission is free to the galleries which include 'The Making of Britain, 1066-1783' from Norman Conquest through to Agincourt and the English Civil War. The 'Changing the World, 1784-1904' gallery digs deep into the army's role in expansion and defence of the British Empire whilst the 'World Wars, 1905-1945' gallery examines the armies of the British Empire and Commonwealth and their experiences during an era of Total War.
Displays in all these themed galleries at the National Army Museum in Chelsea feature paintings, posters, film, photographs and artefacts such as uniforms, badges, medals and weapons. The National Army Museum's superb collection of copy prints of paintings and posters are now available to buy online (see website link for details). Exhibitions at the National Army Museum go well beyond media hype and focus on perspectives from the frontline and on domestic issues. Hard hitting and powerful, these exhibitions are not to be missed. See the National Army Museum's website for details on current and forthcoming exhibitions.
Completed in 1692 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the Royal Hospital in Chelsea is home to the Chelsea Pensioners. Much survives of Wren's original work here at the Royal Hospital including the oldest part the great Figure Court with its beautiful Wren colonnade plus original benches and panelling dating from 1688. Grinling Gibbons, who also worked with Wren on St Paul's, designed the statue of Charles II in the Figure Court, so named because of the centrepiece statue.
Guided tours of The Royal Hospital are available for groups. Entrance is free for individuals who can tour the spectacular Great Hall, Octagon and Chapel, the Figure Court and Light Horse Courts and there is a superb museum and shop onsite. Virtual tours are via The Royal Hospital Chelsea's website.
The Royal Hospital in Chelsea was built by Wren following a Royal Warrant issued by Charles II to build it in 1681. Much of the funding came from Charles himself and other private donations. The Royal Hospital Chelsea today continues in its original function as the home of ex-service men and women. "The Men in Scarlet", the Chelsea Pensioners, which includes today quite a few Women in Scarlet are all veterans who have seen many years of service.
One of the most famous annual events at The Royal Hospital Chelsea is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May. This world famous flower show features the cream of the garden world and leading gardens designers like Tom Hoblyn and Andy Sturgeon often feature in the showcase of garden designs. The event is a mecca for gardening lovers and very popular with tourist visitors in London. Pre-booking tickets online via the RHS website (link right) is highly recommended early in the year as the Chelsea Flower Show is one of Britain's most popular flower shows.
The charming Chelsea Physic Garden founded in 1673 was deliberately sited here near the River Thames at Chelsea so that plants could benefit from the warmer microclimate near the river giving them the best change of survival through cold British winters.
The garden is home to some of Britain's oldest gardens including the Grade II listed oldest rock garden in England. A Historical Walk weaves around the western side the Chelsea Physic Garden, taking you on a journey through the work of some of the gardens best known planters and plants. Gardener to the society of Apothecaries Philip Miller (1722-70) features among others on the historical walk.
Chelsea Physic Garden's collection has a focus on medicinal plants with the glasshouse containing a range of Mediterranean plants. The collection is thematically split into areas like The Pharmaceutical Garden, The Garden of World Medicine, The Perfumery and Aromatherapy borders and the Vegetable plot.
A range of garden items are on sale in the onsite shop including beautiful cards painted by members of the Chelsea Physic Garden's Florilegium Society. Honey produced from the garden's own beehives is also on sale in the shop. The Chelsea Physic Garden's Tangerine Dream Cafe is licensed and serves a superb range of homemade fresh food inclusive of popular afternoon teas.