London: Places to Explore


Notting Hill and Bayswater

Notting Hill is a trendsetting square mile full of multiethnicity, music, magnificent street markets, bars, restaurants, and chic shops. The area is studded with some of London's most handsome old crescents and terraces, now home to those well-dressed residents—musicians, novelists, film-biz workers, and fashion-plates—who the style-watching London media has dubbed the Notting Hillbillies. Every weekend, the locals welcome hordes who descend on Portobello Road to go "flea-ing" at one of the world's great antiques markets. Who knows what treasures they'll find among the acres of bric-a-brac and curios?

Notting Hill, as we know it, was born in the 1840s when the wealthy Ladbroke family laid out a small suburb to the west of London. Before then the terrain had been known as "the Potteries and the Piggeries," in honor of its two industries: ceramics and pig farming.

During the 1980s, Notting Hill was quickly transforming from poverty-stricken backwater to super-trendy enclave. By the early 2000s the neighborhood was clearly established as chic—helped massively by the Julia Roberts hit movie that bore its name. For the Notting Hill of the silver screen, head straight for Westbourne Grove, replete with quirky boutiques and charity shops laden with the castoffs from wealthy residents. (Don't forget to check out the Travel Bookshop on Blenheim Crescent—Hugh Grant is the proprietor in the movie). This is also where you'll find a smattering of boutique art galleries, such as England and Co., which welcome browsers as much as serious collectors.

The whole area has mushroomed around the 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; Westway Portobello Green Market, under the Westway overpass, is occupied by bric-a-brac, secondhand threads, and clothes and accessories by young, up-and-coming designers.

In Bayswater, the main thoroughfare of Queensway is a rather peculiar, cosmopolitan street of late-night cafés and restaurants, multiethnic food shops, and the Whiteleys shopping-and-movie mall. Nearby Paddington station, one of London's most handsome railway terminuses, is the namesake for the world's most famous marmalade fan: Paddington Bear.

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