An Insiders Guide to London’s Notting Hill
Ahhh the ever so famous Notting Hill, a huge household name thanks to the classic 1999 film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. When non-Londoners think of London, I reckon that this picture-perfect neighbourhood is what springs to mind, and it has pretty much made it to the top of the list of anyone on the hunt for a quintessential London experience. Located in West London, this much-loved area wasn’t always charming, and it has had many guises over the decades. From brickmaking in the 1800s and slum housing in the mid-twentieth century. Years of gentrification later, its reputation now is that of an affluent and multicultural zone, jam-packed with colourful terraced houses, vintage antique shops, and some of the trendiest cafes in the city. So get ready to uncover all that this awesome area has to offer, with my ultimate guide to Notting Hill.
Notting Hill Gate is the main Tube station in the area and is served by the Central, District and Circle lines. Alternatively, Westbourne Park, Holland Park and Ladbroke Grove stations are all within walking distance. There are also many buses, far too many to list, which can get you here fuss-free. Or if you’re a bit of a lazy bugger, then you can hail a black cab or get an Uber.
Best Time to Visit
To get the best experience, join in on the hustle and bustle that goes down on Fridays and Saturdays, with Saturdays being the busiest due to it being the main antique trading day. For those of you hoping for a quieter setting, you may want to visit during the week, or as early as 8am on its busy days. Most shops and cafes are open 7 days a week, but Portobello Road Market is closed on Sundays, and only operates for half the day until 1pm on Thursdays.
It’s a fantastic place to visit all year round, but I’ve found Springtime to be the most enjoyable because you get to see all the blooming blossoms, magnolias and even wisterias throughout the neighbourhood. There’s so much going on here, but below are some of my top tips of things to do if you’re planning a trip to Notting Hill.
Browse Portobello Road Market
If you only have time to do one thing here, let that be a walk down Portobello Road. This vibrant street forms the very backbone of Notting Hill and is flanked by brightly-coloured buildings interspersed with antique shops, clothing boutiques and street food stalls. With over 1000 dealers selling all things weird and wonderful, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find some true treasures and unique souvenirs that will be a whole lot better than the average Big Ben keychain or Union Jack mug.
Visit St Luke Mews
There are many mews tucked away in the most unassuming streets in Notting Hill, but one of my favourites is St. Lukes Mews. Most likely, recognisable from the movie Love Actually, the houses here are a collection of mismatched, colourful facades that somehow blend perfectly together. You’ll also find an abundance of greenery and the lushest ivy dripping down the houses’ cast railings, which only adds to the charm of the place. It’s actually hard to imagine that this gorgeous residential area used to be stables for the horses of rich residents back in the 19th century. Today, one of the houses here will set you back by at least £2 million!
Enjoy a Pint at the Churchill Arms
Perhaps the most ‘instagrammable‘ pub in all of London, this part-tavern, part-Thai restaurant establishment is best known for it’s over the top decorations throughout the year. During winter, the building transforms into a real Christmas spectacle as it is covered in nearly 100 trees and over 21,000 lights! In the Spring and Summer months, they are replaced by potted plants that give off a gorgeous floral display when in full bloom. It’s definitely hard to resist stopping for a photo, and maybe even a drink or two.
Watch a Film at the Electric Cinema
This is one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK, and also England’s first purpose-built one. After being saved from redevelopment, the Electric Cinema has been lavishly restored to include some of the finest interiors like mahogany leather armchairs and luxurious cashmere blankets. Waiter service is also available if you fancy some mezzes and cocktails during your movie! Best add this one to your list if you’re planning to impress a date, or maybe as a treat from your usual days cooped up at home watching Netflix.
Go Cafe Hopping
There’s absolutely no shortage of places to indulge in Notting Hill, with every cuisine represented and any budget considered. Admittedly, it’s one of my go-to places for cool cafes, and ones that instantly come to mind are Farm Girl, who serve the most delicious lattes, as well as my personal favourite- coffee with cinnamon or cardamon buns from Fabrique. I mean, just look at them!
You’ll also find one of the best concentrations of restaurants in Westbourne Grove. From the Australian-inspired brunches at Granger & Co. to the vibrant and bold Mediterranean flavours in Ottolenghi, it’s hard to go wrong here when it comes to food!
Party it up at Notting Hill Carnival
Every August bank holiday weekend, hundreds of thousands flock to the area for the famous Notting Hill Carnival, which happens to be the second biggest carnival in the world after the one in Rio! This two-day event is an extravagant celebration of Caribbean culture, which originated in response to the settling of race relations between British residents and Caribbean natives in the late 1900s. What was once a gathering of two street bands and about 500 visitors have since grown into what it is today, with up to two million visitors, huge floats and performers in the most dazzling costumes filling the streets.
Whether you’re into shopping, eating, partying or only looking for somewhere for a walk, Notting Hill has something for everyone, and it’s one place that shouldn’t be missed by locals and tourists alike. So be sure to pop down and use this to navigate your way around Notting Hill.
If you like this guide to Notting Hill, then check out some of the other area guides. From How to Spend a Saturday in Bermondsey to A Day Out in Peckham and stay tuned, there are some more fantastic area guides on the way.