The glamorous, elegant and arty London district of Chelsea is renowned for many things – fine arts, flower shows, antiques, shopping at high-class fashion boutiques and outstanding Chelsea hotels – but there is one thing, in particular, that may seem a little out of place with all this: football. And yet, of all of the UK capital’s many and various areas, don’t doubt it, Chelsea is rightly synonymous with perhaps the world’s most identifiably traditional working-class sport as anything else. And that’s because of the presence here of the royal blue-clad team that’s Chelsea FC; one of England’s most famous, popular and successful football clubs.
Indeed, should you be planning a visit to the area any time soon and staying at comfortable accommodation in Chelsea London, of course (as well as being something of an adherent of the sport), then you may not be aware you can visit the club’s home, Stamford Bridge, for an all-encompassing, fascinating stadium tour. But, to say this tour of this most celebrated – and historically resonant – of British football grounds would be well worth your time, is putting it mildly.
Tour and museum
For, not only does it give you the opportunity to see the stadium from different angles (not least at pitch-level) but also the chance to check out its innards, so you get something of an appreciation what behind-the-scenes life is like at the club for those who work there, especially the top-class players, of course.
And this is because a portion of the tour is devoted to discovering areas usually only reserved for elite staff on matchdays, including the dugouts, the press room and, of course, the home team dressing room; a somewhat enigmatic space that, no question, oozes memories of all those season-defining moments experienced by the club’s squads and coaches of the past.
Moreover, tour attendees can also enjoy a stroll around the Chelsea (or Centenary) Museum, a space of the stadium devoted to delivering a journey through the club’s prestigious history; bringing to life, as it does, through accessible exhibitions and interactive elements (such as an introductory video message from the club’s former vice-president, the legendary filmmaker Sir Richard Attenborough) Chelsea FC’s most engaging, surprising and important stories – both from the modern and older eras.
A grand old ground
And, if you’re still on the fence in terms of giving this classic ground a visit during a stay at one of the London hotels near Chelsea, then give a moment’s thought to the stadium’s history. Opened way back in 1877 (yes, the original stadium, as it was, really does date back that far), it began life as an athletics stadium before, in 1904, being bought by two brothers whom, after their offer of its use to Fulham FC was rejected, decided to set up their own football club to make use of this (then) immense stadium – and so Chelsea FC was born.
And, yes, it was immense (far bigger than today’s 41,631 capacity), which at times saw it called upon to host cricket, rugby union, speedway and greyhound racing events, as well as occasional FA Cup finals (1920-22), FA Cup semi-finals, FA Charity Shield matches and even England football team home matches (1909-46).
Address: Fulham Road SW6 1HS
Nearest Tube Station: Fulham Broadway (District Line)
Tour Times: open from 10am-3pm daily (at least twice an hour); be aware, though, that no tours take place on match days or the day before European football fixtures
Museum Times: open 9.30am-5pm; the museum is closed on most match days.