WHY LIVE HERE?
Chelsea is synonymous with London’s swinging sixties. In those days of free love and flower power, the world’s most fashionable artists, musicians and models thronged to the area. Its main artery, the King’s Road, was a super cool centre for counter-culture. Such was the kudos of the neighbourhood, Chelsea even had a boot named after it.
The Chelsea boot is still popular but it is now more likely to be found in any old high street store than in Chelsea’s smart, independent boutiques. For today’s Chelsea is a high-end and entirely gentrified zone. Populated by bankers and wealthy pensioners – rather than rebellious hipsters – it remains a characterful and charming corner of the capital.
The west London area, bordered to the south by the River Thames and Knightsbridge and to the north by Kensington, houses some of London’s super rich and the largest concentration of Americans outside of the USA. Culturally, there’s still a buzz. Small, independent art galleries and antique shops nestle in its streets, while the world-famous Saatchi Gallery, showcasing some of London’s finest contemporary art, stands grandly over the historical Duke of York Square.
Bling may have replaced bohemia – but with its redbrick mansion blocks, pretty mews cottages and elegant, stucco villas, Chelsea is still a highly sought-after place to live.
Counting Daniel Radcliffe as a notable alumnus, Sussex House consistently tops the leagues for best preparatory school in Chelsea. Housed in a charming Victorian building, this boys’ school has strong academic credentials, with a notable emphasis on music. Sussex House is a quintessential English prep school – fencing is still a priority – and a major feeder to Eton, St. Paul’s and Westminster. Its motto – “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” – speaks volumes.
Garden House is another popular pre-prep and prep school in Chelsea. Boys and girls are taught separately here but they share extra-curricular activities. The school is not rigorously academic but it fosters well-rounded and happy children. With their turquoise and teal uniforms, Garden House pupils may be about the most stylish in London.
The Hampshire School is the so-called “happiest school in Chelsea”. Offering a co-educational pre-prep and prep school education, the main school has lovely facilities, including a vast outdoor playground and a beautiful old library. Children thrive on the inclusive and cosy feel.
Chelsea boasts one of the three Miss Daisy’s nurseries (the other two are in Belgravia and Knightsbridge). Among the first “village nurseries” in the centre of town, Miss Daisy’s is well known for its sensitive balance of learning and play. Tadpoles and Chelsea Nursery are also attractive options for pre-schoolers.
The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and London’s most decadent bohemians based themselves in Chelsea in the 1960s. It has since been home to Rowan Atkinson, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Bryan Adams – and players and fans of Chelsea football team. Plus, the annual Chelsea Flower show draws a crowd of famous faces from royal circles and the entertainment business.
RESTAURANTS & SHOPS
Eating and shopping in Chelsea is an expensive and pleasurable business. Sloane Square, the Duke of York Square development, the Kings Road and its offshoots are heaving with desirable shops and restaurants, including La Famiglia, Bluebird and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.