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London Travel Guide

  • Photo: © Halie Cousineau/ Fodors Travel

Notting Hill and Bayswater

Notting Hill is a fashionable square mile full of multiethnic finds, music, funky vintage clothing stalls, vibrant street markets, cool bars, and trendy restaurants and shops. It was the heart of London’s West Indian community in the 1960s and ʼ70s and a favorite with artists, rock stars, and rich hippies; it’s now home to well-off trendy young people who survive without apparent effort (dubbed

"trustafarians") and less stuffy investment banker–types. The area is studded with some of London’s most handsome period crescents and terraces. Every weekend, hordes descend on Portobello Road to go bargain-hunting at one of the world's great antiques markets. Holland Park to the west has even grander period villas while Bayswater to the east has excellent ethnic restaurants.

Notting Hill as we know it emerged in the 1840s when the wealthy Ladbroke family developed a small suburb to the west of London. Before then, the area had the far less glamorous name of "the Potteries and the Piggeries," after the two industries it was best known for: ceramics and pig farming.

During the 1980s, Notting Hill transformed from a lively but down-at-heel and somewhat dangerous West Indian enclave to a super-trendy fashionable neighborhood, though a legacy of its previous incarnation remains in the form of the annual Notting Hill Carnival in late August. By the early 2000s the neighborhood’s fame had spread—helped massively by the hit movie that bore its name, though the movie itself was criticized by locals for downplaying the area’s ethnic diversity. For the Notting Hill of the silver screen, head for fashionable Westbourne Grove and Ledbury Road, lined with eclectic independent boutiques offering highly desirable designer goods, children’s clothing, furniture and home accessories, upscale cookware, shoes, and contemporary art. Prices and taste levels are high.

For less rarified shopping, try Portobello Road, with the beautifully restored early-20th-century Electric Cinema at No. 191. The famous Saturday antiques market and shops are at the southern end. The central part of the road is home to a weekday produce market interspersed with vintage clothing shops and hot food stalls. On weekends, the more northerly part of the road sells discounted household goods, secondhand goods, and bric-a-brac, while the Portobello Green Market under the Westway overpass has clothing stalls selling everything from super-cool baby clothes to jewelry to vintage threads and club wear from youthful new designers. Meanwhile, the boutiques of the Portobello Green Arcade carry clothes from more established designers.

To the west of Labroke Grove, before Shepherd’s Bush Green, lies the handsome Holland Park neighborhood. On the south side of Holland Park Road (the westerly continuation of Notting Hill Gate) you’ll find quiet streets filled with imposing stucco villas, an area even more "stealth wealth" than Notting Hill itself.

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