Notting Hill became known to a lot of us due to its appearance in films such as Notting Hill and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. which gave great visibility to its antique market and rows of colourful houses. It is now also famous for its carnival.
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Portobello Market took its name from Porto Bello Farm which was built in the area known as Golborne Road. The farm was named after the town of Porto Bello in Panama, captured by the British from the Spanish in 1739.
Up until the 1940s, Portobello Road market was like many other London markets and mainly sold food and other essential items. However, in the 1940s, the market expanded to antiques, with Saturday being the main trading day. In recent history, the market has expanded to include all sorts of stalls – from beauty products past their stock date, to bric-à-brac, vintage clothes and food.
The number of stalls can be nauseating to navigate, but many of these stalls also sell the same stock. My recommendation to you is that you prioritise those stalls of interest to you.
Today, I would only face the throngs of people if I know there is something specific I need to get from the market, such as a vintage camera or vinyl records.
Here is some useful information on how the five sections of the market are spread across Notting Hill.
- Secondhand goods – Golborne Road to Westway
- Clothing/fashion – Westway area
- Household essentials – Westway to Talbot Road
- Fruit, veg and other food – Talbot Road to Elgin Crescent
- Antiques – Elgin Crescent to Chepstow Villas
If you’re not one for crowds, I would recommend passing by during the week or on Sunday when the market is not in full swing. Avoiding the crowds is not the only advantage if you pass by during the week, as you will also be able to pop by Books for Cooks. Just off Portobello Road, Books for Cooks is a bookshop that also provides a 3-course menu for less than a tenner, as part of their test kitchen. On Tuesday’s they test vegetarian recipes, Wednesday to Thursday meat recipes and Friday, fish. Their advice is to arrive at the kitchen by 12pm sharp, as it gets booked up pretty fast.
If you head there in the evening, it is nowhere near as crowded, yet alive with passerby visiting trending bars. Two of my favourite bars are Portobello Star known for its London-made Portobello Gin.
And Trailer Happiness – an underground cocktail bar with surfer vibes. If you’re up for a movie, do visit the Electric Cinema which, whilst pricey, is an experience you’ll only understand once you sink into those plush armchairs, after you’ve ordered yourself a hot dog from the retro, American-themed bar. Just don’t get too comfy as you’ll easily snooze before you know it.
Notting Hill has become rather affluent, something you will begin to sense as you wander about the side streets off Portobello Road. You will find plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops and bars. Check out Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés, for their lovely biscuits – a perfect gift or treat.
The Spice Shop has a pretty impressive collection of single and mixed spices.
Although Portobello Road is it’s most famous, I would recommend you detour to two other nearby destinations worth exploring – Golbourne Road and Westbourne Grove.
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Goulbourne Road is definitely worth visiting. It is nowhere near as crowded as Portobello Road although there are a few stalls out on the street. It appears to be one of the many London areas that is experiencing gentrification. If you head there via Westbourne Park station, you will catch a glimpse of the historical landmark – Trellick Tower. I recommend breakfast at Lisboa Patisserie, a famous local Portuguese bakery. I would highly recommend their most popular pastry, Pastéis de Nata, which they have many varieties of.
Just opposite you will find the Lisboa Delicatessen selling local produce. If you enter the back of the shop, you will notice a room dedicated to salted cod.
You will say many Portuguese cafes and shops along the way but Scandinavian outlets are also sprouting too. We had breakfast at Snaps and Rye – a Norwegian restaurant tempting customers with smørrebrød and warm plates. They also sell liquorice chocolate balls, with the Christmas edition out now.
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Westbourne Grove is ideal if you ready to fork out the sums of money on designer labels and high street brands. It has the feel of Kensington although perhaps a little more down to earth. As you keep walking, you will notice that there are fewer shops and more restaurants. In other words, this is not only a fashionista’s paradise but a foodie’s too.
***N O T T I N G H I L L C A R N I V A L***
Notting Hill Carnival is a good amount of fun. The spectacles are great, the crowds less so but it is something you would expect. Plenty of opportunities to join in the fun as you move along the parades, but planning is recommended. You will notice that people offer their toilets for the measly sum of £1, although public toilets are available. Consider both.