48 HOURS IN CHELSEA
AT THE CROSSROADS OF CITY AND SUBURBIA
Staying overnight in luxury at 11 Cadogan Gardens we discover the cultural haven of London's Chelsea.
Bound, to the east and north, by three of London’s greatest public spaces, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and only minutes away, by tube, from the frantic bustle of the West End, lie the largely unspoilt residential acres between Belgravia and Kensington, with Chelsea at its heart.
THE JOY OF LONDON is its infinite variety of sights and experiences. Like all the most exquisite works of art or literature, what you miss (or take for granted) on first acquaintance will delight you even more when reviewed on a second, or even later, visit. First-timers can be excused for concentrating on the ‘must-see’ monuments, Westminster Hall, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and many others, but are missing out if they think that is all there is to see. 50 years ago, with the 1960s in full ‘swing’, King’s Road, Chelsea was a focal point for fun-seeking ‘baby-boomers’ taking advantage of the relaxing of social, and other, restraints imposed by decades of global conflict and post-war austerity. The new freedoms have become the norm but echoes remain. The Chelsea Potter, a pub where the late Keith Moon, uncontrollable drummer with The Who, pulled pints when his musical talents were not required on stage, is still there,
apparently unchanged and Sloane Square, spiritual home of the ‘Sloane Ranger’ set and actual home of the Royal Court theatre, sits at its terminus. The department store, Peter Jones, has been on the square for over 100 years while the splendid, familyrun Partridges, established in 1972, were awarded a Royal Warrant in 1994 as ‘Grocers to HM the Queen’. The equally remarkable Saatchi Gallery, opened in 1985 to display the founder’s own art collection, is only yards away. The Grade 1 listed, upscale streets and squares of Belgravia are the reserve of the wealthy and powerful, embassies and rows of elegant townhouses abound, some with the associated mews cottages still attached, and discreet pubs, fine-dining and top-quality hotels cater to their needs. The same conservation protection applies to Brompton, only a little less grand than Belgravia but still having that pervasive, undefinable air of easy quality, at the comfortably walkable north side of which is the retail magnet which is Harrods, the capital’s most famous ‘shop’. A further short walk to the west to the famous Brompton Oratory and the trio of illustrious museums, the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science, any one of which can provide (free of charge) hours of wonderment and enlightenment. This somewhat less-travelled corner is enjoying something of a revival as, wearying of the relentless pressure and pace of 21st century life, people are seeking out quieter corners to explore. Take a leisurely stroll along the secluded streets and mews and around the Georgian magnificence of the squares and be prepared for a surprising side of London you might otherwise have missed.
Early in the morning in December on the King's Road in Chelsea
Pictured opposite page: Christmas Lights Display on Sloane Square in Chelsea, London. The modern colourful Christmas lights attract and encourage people to the street.