Chelsea, London, England

Living in London's Chelsea

Iyna Bort Caruso

If “influencers” lived in London’s olden days, there’s a good chance they may have lived in Chelsea.

The Central London district has been a fashionable center for centuries. Before it was absorbed into London, it was known as the “village of palaces.” The private road of King Charles II is still the main thoroughfare, King’s Road.  In the 19th century, Chelsea attracted a creative set that included artists like J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent as well as writers like George Eliot and Oscar Wilde. Then came the Swinging Sixties when Chelsea became the epicenter of mod.

Chelsea is situated on the northern bank of the Thames River within easy walking distance of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, but it is pocketed with impressive green spaces and gardens of its own. The Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden, dating back to 1673 when it was established to grow medicinal plants. The annual Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of the gardening calendar. For over a hundred years, people by the tens of thousands have been attending this show to see rare flowers, floral artworks and show-stopping arrangements.

Chelsea is filled with character and brimming with blue plaques marking historic buildings. The Royal Hospital, more than 300 years old, was built as a veterans home to care for those “broken by age or war.” Sir Christopher Wren designed what is now the oldest part of the building. Today it is both a residence for pensioners who served in the British Army and a museum.

Chelsea’s housing has long had the attention of overseas buyers who recognize that properties here represent a lifestyle purchase. Nearly two-thirds of the inventory dates back more than a century. Some are single-family homes that line private squares or are tucked away on hidden lanes. Others are converted flats in former mansions.