One of London’s most sought-after areas, Belgravia is the small district that links the bright lights of the West End with the legendarily salubrious environs of Kensington and Chelsea. Visitors to this patch of the city are rightly beguiled by the beautiful Georgian architecture that lines its streets and like to soak in the general air of affluence, but don’t doubt it; the place is brimming with quality attractions too – here’s a quartet of them…
(Apsley Way W1J 7JZ)
Along with Marble Arch, this grand triumphal archway was commissioned by King George IV to commemorate the recent Napoleonic War victories and was also conceived as something of a ceremonial western entrance into Central London, the perception having been that this was effectively where London ‘began’ at its most western point (which explains the nickname of the nearby Apsley House – ‘No. 1 London’). Finished in 1830 to a design by the marvellously named Decimus Burton, it today stands on a large traffic island in front of the eastern main entrance of Hyde Park, topped by a ‘quadriga’ sculpture (an ancient four-horse chariot) that was added in 1812. Interestingly, up until 1992 the arch housed the smallest police station in London, but now its interior – detailing a small exhibition of its history – is open to the public.
(149 Piccadilly W1J 7NT)
The aforementioned ‘No.1 London’ is most famous for becoming the London home of the Duke of Wellington – yes, *that* Duke of Wellington – from which he launched his post-Napoleonic Wars career in politics, which culminated in him becoming Prime Minister in the mid-19th Century. Today, it’s still, in part, accommodation used by the present day Duke, but it’s more recognised as a place to visit for its collection of around 200 Renaissance-era paintings and trinkets received by Wellington from nobles, including marshal’s batons from various European rulers.
(Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road SW3 4RY)
A long-time resident of building space on the South Bank, the notorious and dynamic, nay essential Saatchi Gallery has recently made Belgravia its home; ensuring that, should you be on a jaunt into Belgravia-Chelsea from wherever you’re staying in London (maybe away to the east in, say, London City Suites or The Montcalm Brewery hotel on Chiswell Street London), here you can sample the delights of some the world’s greatest contemporary art. Throughout its 30 year-plus history, the gallery’s been at the forefront of the modern art movement in the UK, partly because it’s cannily courted controversy. And, admirably, many artists whose work it displays are unknown newcomers, ensuring it plays a pivotal role in launching many exciting, creative careers.
St. Peter’s Church, Eaton Square
(119 Eaton Square SW1W 9AL)
Finally, if you have a penchant for discovering and looking around historically important and intriguing places of worship, then this Belgravia church has to be on your list when visiting the UK capital. A Grade II-listed neoclassical building with a hexastyle portico featuring Ionic columns and a stunning clock tower, it surely has to be one of most beautiful churches in the city and, despite its interior having been totally renovated, the results have been acclaimed as generating a clean, bright and modern aesthetic. Charming and beguiling, this is a Belgravia site you must see.