The best of Notting Hill in London
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
We love Notting Hill and can think of no better way to spend a Saturday than on the market meeting friends for a drink or a bite to eat in the many restaurants and bars in this unique part of London. Jump on a 94 or 148 bus around the corner from our Hotel and you will be at Notting Hill Gate within a few minutes.
Notting Hill started out as a genteel London Suburb with elegant villas on wide tree lined streets, but in post war London with middle-class families no longer employing servants the large houses fell out of favour. Many were split up into cheap rundown lodgings and the decline continued right up to the 1980s when families started to move back in search of larger houses within reach of the city centre.
Already on an upward path, the 1999 film Notting Hill turbocharged the housing market and brought huge numbers of visitors attracted to the Portobello Road Market, famous for antiques, food and clothing stalls surrounded by great pubs, bars and restaurants.
The edgy, shabby, bohemian feel to Notting Hill may have diminished as the fortunes of this neighbourhood have risen but the spirit lives on and if you scratch below the surface there are gems still to be found.
Search for a bargain on Portobello Road
Famous for its antiques market the Portobello Road runs right through the heart of Notting Hill. Whilst there are market stalls and shops throughout the week the main market day is Saturday when roads are closed and crowds throng the streets.
The market is split in sections starting a few streets down from Notting Hill Gate where most visitors arrive. We love searching the Antiques stalls which eventually give way to food stands. Further on there is a wide array of brick-a-brac and vintage clothes.
It’s never dull and is still a serious antiques market where collectors from around the world stand shoulder to shoulder with tourists looking for a picture or a keepsake of their visit.
Arrive early on a Saturday to beat the crowds and then perhaps grab a window seat in one of the many cafes, bars and pubs that line the route and watch the world go by.
The shear variety of places to eat and drink along the way is what gives this area a unique vibe and energy. There is a real community and comradery between the stallholders and they are a friendly bunch with usually a story to tell.
Post the Pastel & Mews Houses on Instagram
Notting Hill still has a quirky edge that attracts visitors from all over the world. Now the preserve of business owners and bankers it still retains some of the bohemian flavour.
The Pastel House street is another favourite for the social media crowd and it is not unusual to see a music video being shot or photographers seeking the perfect picture. You can find these houses on Lancaster Road which is off the Portobello road. Turn right at the Akai bar and keep going until you see the houses.
Mews streets are a common sight still in West London and where once the stables and servant accommodation for the adjacent grand houses. There are a number of them in Notting Hill, many with cobbled roads and are a charming haven from the hustle and bustle of the main roads.
St Luke’s Mews is one such road in Notting Hill and the pink mews house is one of the most charming with its iron balconies and vintage pink bike chained up outside.
When you reach the Castle Pub on the Portobello Road, turn right onto Westbourne Park Road then left onto All Saints Road and St Lukes Mews is the next right.
Take in a movie at the Electric Cinema
The Electric Cinema first opened on the Portobello Road in 1911. Its fortunes have fallen and risen with the area and what was once known as the 'Bughole' has been transformed into one of the most luxurious cinemas in London with leather armchairs sofas and even a double bed or two. Cocktails, beer and wine can be delivered to your seat as you sit back in the magnificent surroundings.
There is a mixture of classic, art house and contemporary cinema on offer at the Electric, book in advance to secure your seat. For the current programme click here
Party at the Carnival
From 1948 many people from the Caribbean settled in Britain and Notting Hill along with Brixton had the largest population in the country.
From small beginnings in the 1970s the annual Notting Hill Carnival has grown into a cultural institution and is a kalidisope of colourful costumes and elaborate floats parading through the streets to an eclectic soundtrack of Reggae, house & techno, Jungle, drum’n’base, rap and calipso. The sound systems are earth shattering, in fact the whole event is a sensory extravaganza. The sights, sounds and smell of home cooked Caribbean food attracts up to 2 million people over the late summer holiday weekend. The dates for 2021 are 29th and 30th August but celebrations start on 28th.
Stop for a pint in a Notting Hill Pub
The pubs of Notting Hill are both plentiful and charming. From Notting Hill Gate as you walk towards the Portobello road there is the Prince Albert, the Sun in Splendour and several great pubs and bars along the route of the Market.
Other highlights include the Cow and the Westbourne which are across the road from each other on the Westbourne Park Road and is the place to go if you want to rub shoulders with the young and beautiful residents of Notting Hill.
On the opposite side of Notting Hill Gate to the Portobello Road there are two great traditional Pubs - the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street which has an eccentric twist. Covered from head to toe in flowers it is probably the most photographed pub in London and a visit to this pub won’t disappoint. Elsewhere the Windsor Castle on Campden Hill Road still has the wood screens originally used separate men’s and women’s bars although thankfully no such restrictions exist nowadays. This pub also has a large garden, perfect on a warm day.
Our favourate bars: The Distillery which is a perfect location to retreat to after a long day of shopping on the market and watch the world go by; Trailer Happiness on Portobello Road is the place to go if you are in the mood to party and drink cocktails; just a few doors down is Portobello Star which we are told has been around since 1740 and serves cocktails and craft beer.
Eat and drink with the locals
Notting Hill is a magnet for new innovation in restaurants and cafes. Highlights include Amoret Coffee on Pembridge Road or for something a bit more down to earth and traditional, Mike’s Café on Blenheim Crescent just off the Portobello Road.
Portobello Gold is a bit of a Notting Hill institution and has recently has a makeover from local pub to elegant dining room. Elsewhere we like the Electric Diner which is an American diner with a French twist and popular with locals along with Ukai specialising in sushi but also with great live music.
Shop till you drop on Westbourne Grove
This major thoroughfare crosses the Portobello road and stretches all the way to Bayswater. Whereas Portobello Road is eclectic and varied, Westbourne Grove is home to high end fashion labels. At the Notting Hill end is a triangle with a pretty row of shops, boutiques and restaurants including Daylesford and Ottolenghi all centred around a charming flower stall.
Further on there are popular destinations such as Australian chef Bill Granger’s Granger and Co and just off Westbourne Grove, The Cock & Bottle which is one of the last great independent pubs left in Notting Hill and ever popular with the locals. If Notting Hill sounds tempting, why not try our self guided walking tour!