Off the beaten track: underrated attractions to be enjoyed in London’s Chelsea

shutterstock 78783925
shutterstock 78783925

Sure; the salubrious district of Chelsea in Britain’s capital is renowned for its luxury and high-fashion shopping, it’s military nursing home and museum, a roster of rollicking good restaurants, brilliant bars and pristine pubs and an all-round aspirational air, but what it’s less known for are some of its less vaunted – but just as deserving-of-praise – attractions. So, if you choose to stay at accommodation like the San Domenico House hotel Chelsea, we’re talking the likes of this eclectic trio of venues…

Proud Chelsea

(161 Kings Road SW3 5XP)

For some visitors to this corner of the UK capital, rock music may not be something they’d immediately associate with it, yet – as evidenced by much on show in this stylish and very cool photographic gallery and shop – the heritage of 1960s and ’70s music (not least thanks to the line drawn between the Swinging Sixties and ’70s punk movement) is an important factor in the defining modern image of the King’s Road and the wider Chelsea and Kensington area. Proud Chelsea is, in essence, a paean to rock ‘n’ roll of yesteryear; brimming with fabulous monochrome and colour captures of rock gods and goddesses of different eras, but it’s also worth a visit for its bar, sun terrace (the latter especially on sunny summer afternoons and evenings, of course) and occasional live performances. All this and you’ll discover illuminating imagery of many more famous faces – not least from the worlds of film and fashion – and the opportunity to purchase prints as well.

Eccleston Yards

(SW1W 9NF)

Starting out way back when as a coach manufactory (for the Westminster Electrical Supply Corporation), this striking, Pimlico-located space of old-school brick has in recent years been transformed into a must-visit destination for fashion retail, food and drink indulgence, wellbeing venues and workplace units. Of particular interest to anyone visiting and staying in nearby Kensington and Chelsea (no doubt at luxury boutique hotels London) are the 19 retail outlets that line its pedestrianised courtyard. They include the likes of Scandinavian beauty salon SMUK London, The Jones Family Kitchen, a Barry’s Bootcamp studio, Tailor Made London menswear, the Re:Mind drop-in meditation studio and eco-lifestyle store, Something & Son’s 50m fashion store (specifically set up for new designers to be able to showcase and sell their fabric creations) and Eccleston Place by Tart London; the latter being an eatery that blends together retail, fashion photography and an awesome events space.

Brompton Oratory

(Brompton Road SW7 2RP)

Finally, who could pass up the opportunity of stepping inside one of London’s finest and thoroughly extant examples of Victoriana? Dating all the way back to 1884 – yes, it’s more than 130 years old – it is, in fact, an imitation (apparently pretty much down to the last stone) of Rome’s Renaissance-era Church of the Gesu and, perhaps fittingly, was the UK’s first purpose-built Roman Catholic place of worship following the Reformation of more than three centuries earlier. As such, it features genuine Italian fittings that predate its construction. Also inside, you’ll discover an awe-inspiring curved ceiling with a 50-feet vaulted dome – not to be missed, for sure. Today, its services are distinguished by their obedience to rigid, ritualised Catholicism (an experience in itself); every Sunday, in excess of 3,000 worshippers attend mass within its ornate, voluminous interior. However, whether you’re up for attending a religious service or not, this is one architectural treasure of the area that’s worth popping into and – respectfully – having a look around.