This week will be about Notting Hill. This place is now so famous around the world that we, most of the time, forget to enjoy it more locally. Everybody knows the Portobello Market; most will refer to the “Blue Door” or “The travel Bookshop” from the movie. Notting Hill is also famous for its luxury shops. But there is so much more to see and focus on in that little village in the middle of vibrant London.
What I will tell you
I will not give you the perfect tour, but I will lead you through some spots I particularly noticed during my walks in the area. From here it’s up to you! As I always say, you have to wander and get lost to feel the local atmosphere. So this first 18 ideas list is starting today with some photo-spots to try in the neighbourhood.
A Mews is a must-see in London. They offer a quiet back streets spirit of this enormous city. If some are becoming incredibly famous such as Neal’s Yard, most of them remain forgotten by the non-Londoners, even by the busy Londoners sometimes! If you want to catch this backstreets London spirit:
- 141 Ladbroke Grove. You also don’t have to enter here. When I visited myself, the mews was under renovation. Therefore it was wide open. But apparently, in its previous version, there was a gate. Anyway, gate or not you will be able to take your photo and have a first idea of the inviting special lighting of the secret mews.
- Colville Mews is a U-shape alleyway. You can enjoy cobblestones and brick-lanes traditional in oldest streets. There are also some beautiful little doors and a most charming green wall. Then you will find an impressive Union Jack flag decorating the wall on one end. Don’t be misled by the sign here. The Museum of Brands is not in this mews anymore, you’ll find it here.
- Lambton Place is one more mews I would advise. It is intricate and diversified enough in mater of architecture. You have ways to enjoy shooting in this area at many times of the day regarding the several orientations of the branches of the mews.
3 classic buildings spots
Notting Hill would probably not be Notting Hill without its coloured houses. There are so many of them! But the first time I went there I had a real hard time to find any. It was a mid-August hottest day. We were freshly new greater-Londoners (I am not sure this word exists, but it suits us rather well!). My teens wanted to visit Notting Hill to live the “Notting Hill” movie experience. I am all about mindfulness, out of tracks tourism but they are here to remind me of the basics. What is travelling without any tourist experience? But it must remain sparse! Anyway, that hot, stifling day was due to be a basics-tour one.
We saw “The Blue Door,” and what remains of the redecorated “Travel Bookshop.” We had a pretty good idea of the Portobello Market, both shop and stalls. But under the heaviest sun, we had difficulties enjoying looking for beautiful coloured houses. So for the ones who do not want to spend too much time finding them:
- Lancaster Road: between Basing Street and All Saints Road. You will see the most colourful houses in the area for sure. From yellow to dark olive green, going through burgundy and indigo, you have your photo spot. Don’t forget to try not to include any of the car-lane. It would take off the joyful spirit of those beautiful traditional houses.
- Circling Ladbroke Crescent and Stanley Crescent: Not colourful at all, very white indeed. But very typical of classic Georgian architecture. If you look carefully down, you will find some other jewels of London: The entrance doorway to the lower level of the buildings. Once the opportunity to rent for much less or a secondary door for deliveries and employees, it is now a different matter. Any place in fanciest London areas is high standard housing. So if you look well, you will find that some make the best of that little concrete surface. It happens to suffer from being so close to street level and every inconvenience that would follow, but most of the time everyone forgets about it. Don’t miss the view over St Peter’s Church from Stanley Gardens.
- On your way to Ladbroke Crescent have a look at Arundel Gardens on your right. You will have a perfect alignment of the Georgian colonnades and a great perspective to record.
This one was inspired by one scene of the Sherlock TV series… A shortstop on Martin Freeman alias Dr. Watson in that precise setting. I mean, not exactly there, though I don’t know for sure. I liked that perspective, and I wanted to find one just for myself,… and you. So there it is!
4 Cafes to enjoy a sweet break
This area is full of them. But the trick is to find some that are less tourist-trap than others. When I say “less” it seems a little negative perhaps. Well, if I saw some places I enjoyed, I must admit that prices are higher than in some more peaceful areas of greater London. Very often the staff seems, if very kind nevertheless, very well aware of their easy gained clients thanks to their probably hardly earned location.
These 4 places are standing-out by their originality, consciousness and quality. The first two and my 3-posts project about Notting Hill where directly inspired by a great Instagrammer, blogger, cook, retreat leader and mamma: Local_Milk. She recently came from her native Tennessee to grant some lucky ones with several of her workshops and retreats in Europe and Northern Africa. I couldn’t be one of them, so I just tried to walk for a little bit on her steps and managed to see the city through someone else’s eyes.
- The Tin Shed is a lovely rustic cafe. They make delicious tea, great coffee. They are bakers, so they sell amazing loaves of bread. You will go downstairs to meet the hands kneading the dough, that adds a bit to the rustic spirit of the place.
- Pedlars: Everything’s delicious, but there is not much choice. Anyway, you will enter a Frenchy post-war little shop. In the back, you have few tables, kept away in a quiet corner. I had a good time there. This place is eccentric in its way. It’s a mix of various gadgets and peaceful mood.
If you can do with a couple more cups of coffee
- Coffee Plant: on the very busy Portobello Road in the middle of the market area. So not a hidden place, but certainly worth noticing. They roast fairtrade organic coffee. Yes, I already like the sound of that! As it’s situated on a very busy part of a very busy road, there are much more people inside than in the last two. But you have excellent coffee here.
- The Farm Girl: perfect for lunch. They do healthy delicious food. They are also very busy so beware that you will more likely have availabilities before noon than around 1:00 pm. This place is a little pricey, but as I said, you are in Notting Hill so don’t look for the cheapest coffees and lunches in the world. This time you will have to do with finding the worthy places.
Notting Hill is a shop-friendly area. There are the souvenirs and genuine or less genuine antiquities on Portobello Road. On Westbourne Grove, you’ll find the luxury fashion shops. Very often there is no time left for anyone who does not look in the first place for more charming and unusual places.
Care for something different
I was charmed by some shops that appear to be very special, or specialized. I found many, and that could, once more, be the subject of the second series of posts. Maybe later, for today here is a small selection. Most of them will be found on Portobello Road.
- Jelly Jolly London: sells everything in plastic. Even Dr. Martins has been transformed into see-through boots! You will find some entertaining equipment against London rainy days, but most of all, that’s psychedelic shop, that suits, better in my opinion, to the Notting Hill spirit than the false antiquities, often plastic made themselves.
- The Highland Store: you will find everything tartan here! They seem very serious about the quality of their Scottish products, even if you must also find some slightly more mundane and simple accessories.
- Stumper and Fielding: almost next door to the previous one. And that’s a fun fact because this one is a classic English fashion store! I don’t know if they compete or complete each other! Anyway, they are serious about what they sell.
- Superga: They sell shoes. It’s a brand with several addresses actually. What I loved is the fact that you can personalize your shoes! In an area of silly tee-shirt only shops, this one is so refreshing. A little further down Portobello Rd, you will find it when going down Pembridge Rd after leaving Portobello Rd.
To admire the decor
- All Saints: This is a large multi-store brand in the area. (You’ll find a street and a church with the same name not too far). Go and see the large one selling leather clothes. It is situated at Portobello Rd and Westbourne Grove. The two most significant shopping streets in Notting Hill neighbourhood. I don’t know about their leather things, but they decorated all their walls and windows with thousands of old sewing-machines and that, in itself, is worth a stop.
This is a place for bookshops, once more thanks to the Notting Hill movie, or maybe not. I liked this one in particular:
- Lutyens & Rubinstein: for the one who cares about not going right to the very popular Notting Hill bookshop, which is very nice all the same. This bookshop is on a backstreet parallel to Portobello Rd. It’s an old fashion pretty little shop, with stairs and ladders lifting you to the upper levels of the bookshelves.
- Whittard of Chelsea: They sell everything you need for hot beverages: coffee, tea, infusions and cocoas. We especially go there for this last one. They have the finest and most original chocolate powders. They also have some very funny white chocolate powders for those who are not into powerful chocolate. Their teas and coffees are fantastic!
- The Spice Shop: this one is so far from the beautifully decorated shops of Notting Hill. It is very small and very simple. But the walls are covered in spices from everywhere.
That makes a lot, and at the same time, that’s not quite much. The idea here is not to rush for shopping, but more to enjoy the diversity of what’s offered while enjoying a quiet and beautiful walk in one of the most charming neighbourhoods of London.
Need more idea to walk in London?