London is not only about museums, monuments, cathedrals and palaces. It is also about markets, big and small, and many are sprinkled throughout the capital. If you are visiting London for more than just a weekend, I strongly recommend dropping by the Portobello Market. Running from Chepstow Villas to just under the Westway, it is a colorful, dynamic stretch of London that oozes trendiness and fun.
Although some stalls are open all week long, Saturday is the best day to visit the market. By five a.m., vendors are already setting up their stands on Portobello Road. Everything there happens between 6:00am and 9:00am when collectors searching for a specific gem or particular item arrive. By 10:00 a.m., the ambiance changes. Visitors flock the market; some enjoy hanging out while others are hunting for bargains.
Portobello road is a golden address. Everybody knows it, including the 2,000 merchants who come here every Saturday from all over the country. The lucky ones hold a shop inside a gallery; others, keeping up with traditions, wait for clients by their stalls on the streets. They sell everything from books to bric-a-brac and lace to Limoges – even fashion and exotic cooking ingredients are on sale. Thousands of people mill around browsing second-hand clothing stalls or choosing outlandish material. For those who have the patience to search, there are some fantastic bargains, particularly at the fashion market under the Westway flyover. You’ll find fashionistas and frighteningly trendy teens delving through troves of prized vintage, boutique fashion and retro memorabilia. You will discover young designers with incredible talent: Millau and its candy-color blouses and coats that will make you crave for sweets; Annette Olivieri, whose sequined dresses and silk blouses adorn stars from around the world; and Sidonie’s couture headbands that you will find irresistible.
Spots not to miss on Portobello Road
Decadent Vintage. A lavishly decorated vintage clothing stall where you will uncover a wealth of beautifully handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. Based under the Westway, it specializes in heavily sequined 1920s flapper dresses and bold 1980s prom gowns, all at affordable prices.
Portwine Arcade. Tucked next to the Portobello Star, the arcade harbours unique stuff from musical instruments to headwear – with a sign urging you to ‘Try on for Fun!’
TJ Evans. Top quality silverware.
79 Portobello Road
Refuel Yourself in Notting Hill:
The guaranteed queue outside the Hummingbird Bakery is worth the wait. People travel far and wide for its cupcakes.
133 Portobello Road
For a salad with fresh ingredients, stop at Ottolenghi
63 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AD
For a pint of beer, Earl of Lonsdale is the place to go.
277 Westbourne Grove
Hours: 8am-6.30pm Mon-Wed; 8am-1pm Thur; 8am-6.30pm Fri, Sat.
How to get to the Portobello Market:
Notting Hill. Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne tubes