Image by Will Jones Lonely Planet
Designed by Christopher Wren, this superb structure was built in 1692 to provide shelter for ex-servicemen. Since the reign of Charles II, it has housed hundreds of war veterans, known as Chelsea Pensioners. They’re fondly regarded as national treasures, and cut striking figures in the dark-blue greatcoats (in winter) or scarlet frock coats (in summer) that they wear on ceremonial occasions.
The museum contains a huge collection of war medals bequeathed by former residents and plenty of information about the institution's history and its residents. Visitors can also peek at the hospital’s Great Hall refectory, Octagon Porch, chapel and courtyards. Chelsea Pensioner–led tours are also available (adult/child £12/7).
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is buried here, in the old cemetery. The extensive grounds are home to the Chelsea Flower Show, the annual jamboree of the gardening world, held in May.