How to make the most of Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market is situated in Portobello Road, and you’d feel the British culture dating back to the 19th Century. You can make the most of Portobello Market by visiting vintage and retro fashion and British antiques, 19th Century colourful houses, many English mews, not to forget the movie set to Notting Hill and Love Actually. You’d be sure you are in London. Along with the vintage and antique side of Portobello Market, make the most of your visit by tasting some of the street food all lined up ranging from fresh vegetables, fruits, and hot, cold food and snacks from around the world to quirky English, Spanish, Italian cafes, and restaurants from around the world. Why not check out the second-hand goods ranging from clothes, vinyl, souvenirs, and many more at the end of the market?
Come and join in my adventure. The best day to go to Portobello Road Market is a Saturday where you’ll experience everything that’s there. On other days, although not as busy as Saturdays, it wouldn’t be complete. There is no market on Monday, and it can get busy on Saturdays but Saturday is a good day to visit if you want to experience everything. We’ll talk about this later. I went to Portobello Road on a Monday and a Saturday. On Monday, all I did was take snapshots of colourful houses, the shop fronts and some of the English mews. Most shops are closed on Mondays, but it’s a nice quiet day if you want to stroll through the streets.
If this is your first time visiting London, check out my London Guide for first-time visitors, which will include what to expect before you go, visas, accommodation, flights, emergency numbers, different areas of London and its neighbourhoods, and many more.
You can get to Portobello Market via the Circle Line and get off at Notting Hill Gate Tube Station. Makes sure you take the Circle Line, not the District Line as the tube can be confusing for tourists. If you see a crowd walking in the same direction, then that’s where Portobello Road Market is. Portobello Road Market is within walking distance of Holland Park and Kensington Gardens. It is also a short bus ride to Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Tottenham Court Road, not including the traffic.
If you find accommodation near Kensington Garden, Queensway, and Marble Arch, you’re able to take one bus that will take you just minutes to get there. You can get the buses 27, 28, 52, 328, 452, N27, N28, and N31 that will stop outside Notting Hill Gate. Buses that start with an N are night buses, so they’ll operate later during the night. If you’re an avid walker, why not walk there from your hotel.
If you want to experience the antiques and the vintage shops first, then stop at Notting Hill Gate Tube Station, but if you want to experience second-hand goods and bric-a-brac, then get off at Lancaster Gate Station. Portobello Road is a straight road anyway, so you won’t get lost finding things.
Notting Hill London
Notting Hill is where Portobello Road Market is located and it’s famous for its bright coloured and pastel 19th Century houses. I would describe Notting Hill as stylish and vibrant. Everywhere you go, you will see the Notting Hill signs in shop windows in every corner. Although some of the houses are small, buying houses here can cost a minimum of a million pounds and upwards. Notting Hill is just another area like Chelsea. If you want to know more about things to do in Chelsea, there are many Instagram shops, designer shops, upper class cafes and restaurants in every corner. There’s not many tourist attractions around this area, but if you want to feel the British culture and its neighbourhoods, then give the area a visit. Plus, there are many British pubs, mid-range to upper-range cafes and restaurants, coffee shops, antique and vintage shops in every corner.
If you go further up, you will see the area is more impoverished than the rest.
During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the wealthy had big houses in London and took their servants, coachmen, and horses with them as they travelled. Because they needed a place for their coachmen, servants, and horses to stay, mews were built. You can still see the architecture from where the horses had slept. The garages you see today would have been where those horses slept, and everywhere else were where the servants and coachmen slept. Some mews still have cobbled stoned paths. Mews in London can be peaceful and quiet, but be careful taking photos, because it is a residential area. Generally, residents are lovely.
St. Luke’s Mews
Sussex Mews West
Holland Park Mews
If you’ve visited at least two mews in Notting Hill, they all look similar, so don’t waste your time visiting every one of them. Some building works are usually done in front of the houses, some have cars that are in the way, and the snapshots won’t look as great. When you want to take snapshots of colourful houses and the actual Portobello Road, you’ll see rows of cars parks outside the shops, so it’s quite hard to get a good snap, but there are several areas where you’ll be lucky to find no cars parked outside the houses. Most colourful houses are built in the 19th Century and are quite tall, so you’ll be able to cut the cars from the screen.
Portobello Road Market
When I arrived at 10 o’clock, it was when the market opened, and I realised there were already a lot of people. Online advises you to get there early, but if you’re too early, the shops won’t open until 10 am. My advice is to get there at around 9 am or 9:30 am to avoid the crowds, then you can be the first in line before the crowds get there. Even earlier, the better. You can just have coffee in any of the local coffee shops, as they open from 6 – 7 am. I couldn’t imagine how busy it would get later in the day. On Saturday, at first, it looked quiet, and the flow of the walkers was smooth but when I got to the main market, it was a completely different story. If you stayed around Kensington Gardens, Notting Hill Gate, or Lancaster Gate, you’ll be there in minutes.
Take your time here and bumping into people is inevitable. People spend half a day here, or until the market closes. Half an hour to an hour before closing time, some of the fruit and veg stalls, and souvenir stalls will be cheaper than when you arrive, and there will be fewer people by 4 pm – 5 pm if you want to avoid the crowds.
Remember, take photos of them if you wish. A plaque that had George Orwell on one of the houses hung on the exterior wall of one of the houses in Portobello Road. That shows he lived here during the 19th Century. Someone who lives there now is one lucky person. Walk further up to Lancaster Road and Elgin Crescent to take great snapshots in front of the colourful houses.
I could hear different languages spoken when I arrived. Tourists from all over the world, mainly Italians, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
The shops here date to the 19th Century or even further, as you can see, some shops had “Ested in 1845” painted on their storefront. Shops were coloured from black, white, yellow, green, blue, red, just like the houses you’d see before you arrive. Souvenir shops, antiques from pots and pans hung on top of the windows, it made the shops look and feel crowded. Along the way, I saw vintage maps, cameras, leather bags, and many more. Further on, you can visit many vintage and fashion stores going back as far as the roaring 20s. The worst thing about it is that you’d have to squeeze your way past people browsing, and take turns looking at items. The road is small and narrow, even cars can’t pass, but it’s the buzz that makes it worthwhile.
When you walk further up, don’t forget to take pictures of the Electric Cinema, a vintage cinema in the heart of Portobello. Opened in the ’70s, it still hosts a number of 21st Century films, and the architecture inside is to die for. Although the exterior of the cinema looks simple, don’t take for granted the fact that it’s been standing there for more than 40 years.
After the cinema, you will come across Westbourne Park Road. If you see Starbucks, take note of people taking photos in front of the blue door number 280. No one lives there but it was the door to the movie Notting Hill’s character William lived in. There are usually around 10 people max crowding outside the door, but other times, there’d be no one there. You just have to be lucky.
In front of Starbucks, I saw some vintage cameras hanging from the stall for all you camera collectors out there. I saw one for £30 while I was browsing, but they were in bad shape. They just look pretty hanging from the stall, it’s not a bad idea if you just want to buy it as an ornament or a collector’s item. Shop around in other areas. It is quite a rare find nowadays. Next to their stall sells miniature toy soldier statues and toy car memorabilia if you’re into that kind of thing. At this point, you’d realise you’re in the heart of British culture.
A lot of people recommend to check out Harper & Tom’s Flower stand because it’s Instagram worthy, but it’s just a normal stand full of flowers. You can easily miss it. The reason why it’s Instagram worthy is because many upper-class retail shops in and around Central London, especially Chelsea have been customers of Harper & Tom’s and they’ve advertised their company very well, but the shop front is nothing special.
Portobello Food Market
When you’ve finished browsing and buying vintage and antiques, you will come across the fruit and vegetable stalls and street food, restaurants, cafes, bars, and pubs from around the world. Bits of lettuce, pieces of carrots, squashed tomatoes, and rubbish can be seen thrown on the floor, and the British sellers shouting 5 packs of strawberries for a pound, colourful fruits nicely presented on their individual stalls. Then there are other sellers that are quiet, happily tending to their customers.
Street food stalls selling Spanish, Italian, Greek food, and other snacks such as cakes, pretzels, doughnuts, and chocolates lined up along the street too. The price range for street food here is from £6 – £8 per portion, and doughnut and chocolates may be around £1 – £3. This is London’s standard price, but if you want to save money, then head over to Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s for a sandwich, a packet of potato crisps or chocolate, and a bottle of drinks for less than £5.
There are many stalls you can take advantage of if you want to have breakfast and lunch, and it’s also great if you’re on a budget. You can take a few cakes, biscuits, and chocolates with you as you walk around.
It gets hot in summer, so make sure to bring a bottle of water. People can spend half a day here, so be prepared to walk around. You can relax in Kensington Gardens in between or after your day.
Portobello Road Shops
The famous red vintage shop Alice’s in Portobello Road, have nice British teapots in different colours and vintage bread baskets and signages standing outside the store. There will usually be crowds of people browsing in front of the shop where they sell cheaper items than inside, from £5 to £30 vintage compact cosmetic mirrors, British souvenirs from the old red double-decker buses to vintage London posters, and vintage jewellery. You might have to squeeze your way between other people. You could literally buy everything in this shop. If you step inside, it feels claustrophobic because of its mess, but if you love anything vintage, then you won’t feel cramped at all. I saw an old 19th Century till, a 1950’s bicycle, a worn-out trumpet hanging at the top of the ceiling, and an old vintage British storefront.
Hirst Antiques is another shop you should check out for vintage jewellery. Here, you’ll find jewellery from different eras, branded jewellery such as Givenchy, Vivien Westwood, Christian Lacroix and many more. You’d feel like you stepped inside Audrey Hepburn’s closet, and these jewelleries aren’t cheap. The atmosphere feels dark compared to what you’d expect to see from the website, but feel free to find something to suit you. There were many sparkly jewelleries, colours ranging from dark to light green, yellows, purples, reds, and blues. Inside the shop, there isn’t much space to walk around in but you’d be buried alive with all that jewellery around you. The prices here aren’t cheap, but if there’s something you like, feel free to buy it. Hurry though, there is only one of each item.
Portobello Green Shopping Centre
Further up from the street food stalls, you will come across Portobello Green shopping centre where they sell more antiques and vintage goods. Next door, there are more stalls selling street food here. The street food stalls were just as colourful. You had a taste of the Caribbean, falafels, Greek, Afghan, Vegan, Korean, Chinese, cocktails, and beers. There is a nice large seating area where you can sip on beer, soft drinks, and many more. You could also see the chefs cooking with their pans in front of you where you can taste different flavours from different countries.
As you head over to the bric-a-brac and second-hand goods you will see various murals painted on bricked walls, and a Farmer’s Market can be found opposite the murals. The Farmer’s Market opens from 9 am – 2 pm every Saturdays, but it’s not as exciting as I thought it was. There were only 5 stalls selling bread, fresh meat, and fresh vegetables.
The Mau Mau Bar is a great place to enjoy live music. Although it can be crowded, it has an intimate atmosphere. Near the Mau Mau Bar, check out Pepper Tree for more vintage fashion brands. The price range from £20 upwards, but you’d have to dig deep for a treasure here.
Golborne Road, Notting Hill
At the end of the market, I ended up at Golborne Road where I fancied a nice cup of coffee and a chance to charge my phone. The coffee shop is owned by the Italians and when I was inside, I felt I was in Italy. Loved the decor and the paintings with a taste of Italian culture. I didn’t sit outside as everyone was sitting there, and the weather was bright. I didn’t mind sitting inside as I had to charge my phone anyway. Around this area, Golborne Road sold second-hand goods ranging from t-shirts, suitcases, toys, and many more. It’s not as attractive or as exciting as the vintage and antiques that you’d find in the middle of the market, but if you love second-hand, then this area is for you. It’s less busy than the middle of the market, so if you don’t like crowds, start your route from Golborne Road. Once you arrive here, you’d be at the end of your adventure in Portobello Road Market.
Along Golborne Road, you can see the Trellick Tower standing tall. It’s not really a tourist attraction but the history of Trellick Tower goes back to the 1970s. Back in the day, there were a lot of drug dealers and drug users, vandalism. petty crime, prostitution, and rape, people were trapped in their flats and the social living was low. Since tenants had the right to buy council flats now, a three-bedroom flat will cost £700,000 or more. Although it does look shabby from the outside, it’s the inside that gives the flat the million-pound look.
As I walked further towards this road, I ended up at North Kensington. It’s a completely different story to Portobello Road and Notting Hill. There are many council flats all lined up in rows and around this area, and there’s not a lot of tourists. There are more residents living here. You can see the difference between the affluent area and the not-so-affluent side. I felt peace and tranquillity though, a break from the hustle and bustle of Portobello Market life. There’s a small park where locals go to take a break, walk past it, and take your children to play on the playground. It will also give them a break from their parent’s shopping. It’s very peaceful.
I headed to Ladbroke Grove. Ladbroke Grove is a place where I can take a sneak peek of the Grand Union Canal. What I love about Ladbroke Ladbroke Grove is that it’s only a few minutes away from Holland Park and Kensington Memorial Park. There are good eating spots here including restaurants and coffee shops as well as the tube station. I didn’t spend my time here though because I wanted to take more pictures of pretty houses in Portobello Road, so I headed back towards the market, and by that time, it was already 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the market was already getting busy, a tiny bit busier than that morning, not much different.
Instagram Worthy Shots
Have a visit to St. Luke’s Mews, another Instagram shot to take in Portobello Road. The pink house with a bicycle outside was set in one of the scenes from Love Actually, where Mark declared his love with cue cards. This mew has cobblestones and little houses (including the pink one), away from the hustle and bustle of Portobello Market. Have some coffee or brunch in one of London’s hidden gem pub The Little Yellow Door in All Saint Road. It’s next to St. Luke’s Mews. It was a pretty spot to take pictures. There aren’t a lot of people here, so don’t worry about the queue, but be careful of residents living there. It’s private property.
Check out the Tin Shed, an artisan café, as well as Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart, a favourite florist, and Farm Girl Café. There are many fashion bloggers that take snapshots in front of this café. You can also head your way to Lancaster Road where you will see Instagrammable spots to take pictures in front of pastel-coloured houses. Check out Harper and Tom’s flower stands, and Biscuiteers, a quirky, feminine, and unique café before you head home. Another area worth an Instagram shot is Pedlars General Store for home buys in Talbot Road.
Saturday is the busiest day to go to Portobello Market because it’s completely packed with shops opening, street food, bric-a-brac, and second hand stalls.
If you have 3 days or 4 Days in London, try to squeeze Portobello Market into your to-do list. If you have 1 day or 2 days, and you really want to visit Portobello Market, spare half a day to make the most of everything here and relax in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park 2 of the 8 Royal Parks of London. Trust me, your feet will get tired from walking. You can also visit Holland Park, and check out the Holland Park gardens. Holland Park tends to be more quiet than Kensington Gardens. Alternatively, just spend 1 hour browsing, taking Instagram photos and head your way to other tourist attractions.
On busy days, as a tourist, make sure you keep your belongings with you. I haven’t been pickpocketed ever in London, even on busy streets like Portobello Market or Oxford Street, but if something looks fishy, read my safety tips in London.
I advise on taking your raincoats, thick jackets, and coats with you if there’s a prediction it’s going to rain. In March-May, the weather may look sunny but can be windy at the same time. In summer, the weather can be unpredictable, one minute it rains, the next windy, sunny then cloudy, then rain again.
Take your time here because sometimes, it can be stressful walking up and down. If there’s something you like, buy it. It is a little expensive here in Portobello Road but everywhere is more or less expensive around London. If you can afford to visit London, a few souvenirs from Portobello Market are not going to hurt.
Visit the famous Alice’s vintage shop. It has been open since 1887.
Even though a lot of websites say to get there early, the crowd wasn’t any different in the morning and afternoon. If you do want a quiet time, head to the market at around 4:30 pm to 5 pm where people would be packing up but selling at the same time. Often, products in the market would be cheaper because they just want to get rid of them as much as possible.
Go to Ladbroke Road and Portobello Road where you can take pictures of pretty houses and various mews including St. Luke’s Mews. Take a picture of George Orwell’s house if you stopped at Notting Hill Gate. You can see his plaque on the wall just before you arrive at the market.
If you spent half a day here, after, go to places such as Holland Park, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace or take the bus to Oxford Street, Hyde Park or Buckingham Palace and Knightsbridge for late-night shopping.
Hidden Gem Secret Bars
The Little Yellow Door
The Little Yellow Door Cocktail bar is situated in the colourful and fashionable area of Notting Hill. This bar has a 19th Century Victorian feel to it and its theme ensures that you stepped into someone’s flat and get that cosy feeling of being at home.
Here, you can have dinner parties, Sunday roasts, bottomless brunches, and house parties. Although the food is average and tastes like other pubs around London, the atmosphere is unique and the theme of feeling like you’ve stepped into someone’s flat is such a good idea.
Lunch closes at 5 pm and if you like RnB and Hip-Hop, head downstairs for dance and while downstairs. Take advantage of the DJ booth, a vinyl station, a fancy-dress box, poker, and backgammon tables if you’re hiring the place for a private event. You can play Jenga and Mario Cart by the bar for general board game activities too.
Evans Peel Detective Agency
Alternatively, take the tube to Notting Hill Gate on the District Line towards Wimbledon, and stop at Earl’s Court Station in 25 minutes. You’ll be taken to another secret bar situated in Earl’s Court. Evans Peel Detective Agency is a speakeasy bar. Like the Luggage Room, Evans Peel Detective Agency will make people feel like they’ve stepped into the set of the Great Gatsby.
The great thing about this speakeasy bar is that once you arrive in front of the door, a waiter playing a detective will tell you they’ve solved your case. Be prepared to have a story ready and play along with the dialogue as they guide you to your table.
The professional mixologists have excellent knowledge of modern classic cocktails. You will see many detective-themed items in the 1920s, including maps, magnifying glasses, and many more.
Everywhere around you, you’ll see colourful buildings, and Notting Hill has always been an iconic symbol of London. I felt like I was in a treasure chest or Aladdin’s Cave.
I don’t know how many times I can write love on this post. Probably a million times. Portobello Market is a place to shop for vintage, antiques, and street food. Even though it’s crowded, Saturday is the best day to go to Portobello Market. After all, the crowd is what’s so good about the market. There’s nothing to hate about the place, even the crowd makes the place a plus. If the weather isn’t nice, it’s not going to be a good day. That’s the only downside to it.
Portobello Market and Portobello Road are very colourful and it’s a very traditional British area. If you want to buy British souvenirs here, now’s your chance, but writing my post here in my room, I can’t find any faults to the place other than the fact it’s an expensive area to live in. There are a lot of council flats in North Kensington but other than that, it is an enjoyable day.
Every other day like Sunday, the market is not open except the shops, and during the week, there are fewer things to see than on the main day on Saturday. would visit it again and again and again and wouldn’t get bored. I rate it 10 out of 10.
So, if you are in the Notting Hill area, visit Portobello Market. It’s well worth the visit.
Another British market you should check out is Camden Market, another British market you can’t beat the British culture. Portobello Market and Camden Market are trademarks of what London is about.
If you have any questions or an itinerary on Portobello Market, feel free to contact me on Facebook, or follow me on social media.
Take care and be safe!!!!