A fine part of town to make your base during a short-stay in the UK capital, Pimlico is a district of Central London that’s not just full of affordable hotels, but also blessed with quiet, elegant, broad boulevards brimming with appealing white-washed buildings, many of which are homes to the great and good of London.
Indeed, located as it is in the celebrated ‘Zone 1’ transport designation, it’s easy – and so cheap – to get out and about in the city from Pimlico which, given its other attributes, may explain why its high-calibre accommodation is home to the city’s movers and shakers, such as Members of Parliament and high-ranking civil servants, whom tootle off each morning to make decisions a few minutes way in Westminster. And with many a decent restaurant and bar, as well as the salubrious areas of Chelsea and Victoria just a stroll away, Pimlico’s also a fine area to discover – not just to commute from and to during your stay. Here are some of its major highlights for visitors…
(Millbank SW1P 4RG; open 10am-6pm daily)
The area’s undisputed major draw has to be this globally-renowned art gallery, revered for being bettered only by Trafalgar Square’s National Gallery when it comes to showcasing British art. Like the UK’s other Tate galleries, it was founded by sugar tycoon Sir Henry Tate and, indeed, is looking to take some of the thunder of its sister gallery in the capital (the contemporary art behemoth that’s the Tate Modern) thanks to an ambitious 20-year-long redevelopment plan.
This project seeks not just to upgrade its galleries inside, but also build a new café and open up more floor space for more priceless works of art. And, don’t doubt it, the artworks here are priceless, indeed; we’re talking a collection comprising efforts by Turner, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds, (Lucian) Freud, Bacon and, of course, Constable – so good he gets three room to himself. Twenty-first-Century art’s given a look in too thanks to the Tate Britain usually being chosen to exhibit each year’s Turner Prize nominees (October-January).
Perfect for affording any visitor to the area – and especially someone staying at one of the hotels near Victoria London – superb views along a particularly appealing stretch of the major waterway that’s the River Thames, Chelsea Bridge was first constructed and erected in place nearly 170 years ago, only to be redesigned just prior to the Second World War. In the Swinging Sixties it became a notorious hang-out for the legendary ‘rockers’ of the age and rightly gained Grade II-listed status just a short decade ago.
Pimlico Farmers’ Market
(Orange Square SW1W 8LP; open Saturdays 9am-1pm)
A fine little site to pick up some delicious bargains, this one’s a must for foodies, for sure. Featuring stalls manned by genuine farmers whom travel from miles around just to sell their gourmet-standard and simple wares to punters from all walks of life and backgrounds – both locals and tourists alike – it’s perfect for a lunchtime discovery one day during your stay (perhaps at one of the many hotels around Victoria Station London), not least because it’s always located near the idyllically leafy environs of Sloane Square.
Chelsea College of Art
(16 John Islip Street SW1P 4JU)
A beacon for modern art lovers this one. It was founded way back in 1895 with the admirable aim of providing technical and scientific education to London’s citizens. Just a few short decades ago though – in 1970 – it took on its modern guise as the Chelsea College of Art and has since become one of the most respected development grounds for artists in the city, its alumnae including luminaries such as Anish Kapoor, Mark Wallinger and Steve McQueen. As of 2005, the college is now housed in the Grade II-listed Royal Army Medical College building.
As elegant a street as they come in Pimlico, Ebury Street – it’s no surprise then – enjoys many a blue plaque adorning its buildings, denoting the fact that famous and significant figures once called them home. Indeed, should you take a stroll down this road, you’ll discover plaques celebrating the fact the likes of Lord Alfred Tennyson, Sir Michael Caine and Dame Edith Evans all, at one stage or another, lived here. Moreover, as well as a blue plaque, a bronze statue commemorates the fact that none other than Mozart composed his first symphony while living in the street back in 1764.
85 Vauxhall Cross
(85 Embankment Lane)
Instantly recognisable as the Lego-like building that’s home to the British Secret Service in the later James Bond films, this modern architectural icon’s actually home to the UK’s real Secret Intelligence Service (SIS – or MI6). Its construction, opening in 1994, apparently cost more than £17m, including requirement for bomb blast resistance and, apparently, an underground tunnel to Whitehall, just across the other side of the Thames. Indeed, its in-built bomb resistance was tested as soon as September 2000 when an ant-tank rocket was fired at it by the terrorist organisation that calls itself the Real IRA – of course, in the world of Bond, the building was dramatically blown up in the latest movie, Spectre! Somewhere then that fiction and reality delightfully meet and co-mingle.