Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages are stowed! Anything and everything a chap can unload, is sold off the barrow in Portobello Road. You’ll find what you want in the Portobello Road!
– Mr Browne in Bedknobs and Broomsticks
From the quiet back streets of Notting Hill, I stepped into the flow of tourists heading toward the famous Portobello Market. Like many of them, I had my camera in hand. Sometimes crowded places are the best places to take pictures and Portobello is often one of them.
It’s probably one of the areas of this city with which I’m most familiar. For two years, I walked nearly the full length of Portobello Road on my way to work and I worked in the area for four years. Plus, it’s a place I’m continuously drawn back to over and over again for its vibrancy and eccentricity.
Yes, it’s jam-packed with curious tourists on a Saturday afternoon, but I know the side streets I can escape down when I’ve had enough and all of those snapping cameras make it easy to point your own at everything everyone else is not without having to deal with funny glances. It’s a place of camouflage in that respect.
(This one is in my Etsy shop!)
It’s a fantastic place for people watching too, from the Louis Vuitton bag totting Europeans with their giant sunglasses and too high heels for walking anywhere with this many people to the groups of Converse-wearing teenagers forking bites of Spanish paella on the side of the road, it’s a wonderfully diverse mix. I was hoping to spot the lovely Ron and Betsy but no such luck.
(This one is in my Etsy shop!)
Walk further down and you’ve got the Rasta stall holders pumping Bob Marley tunes from their speakers and the quirky women with feathers in their hair selling vintage clothing.
You can tell there’s a real culture of community among the stall holders – something most people probably don’t notice. But if you watch and listen, they’re constantly joking with one another, talking politics, asking opinions on displays and looking after each other’s spaces when one wants to go for tea run. These are people who have been here for decades and it’s great to go back to see the same faces time and again.
(This one is in my Etsy shop!)
Toward the Notting Hill end of the market, there are tables full of antiques (or items masquerading as antiques in some cases). This is what the market is most well-known for after all. It’s the world’s largest antiques market with over 1,000 dealers. Some are tucked away off the streets in larger stalls. I usually avoid these unless I’m actually looking for something specific since they are usually way too overcrowded on a Saturday. The streets are bad enough!
Around this area, I spotted a guy who was pushing a bike through the crowd, along with bags of stuff with a small dead Christmas tree dragging behind him. He must have been going back and forth because I saw him probably four or five other times that afternoon.
A bit further down, you hit the fruit and veggie tables, the flower stands and the first round of street food near the Electric Cinema.
The area surrounding the market has definitely changed quite a lot in the last few years, with high street shops like Ben Sherman and All Saints standing behind the stalls. The streets branching off of Portobello Road have some upmarket shops like Jonathan Adler and trendy restaurants and bakeries that have recently moved in. There’s a great little sushi place and a tapas joint further down that has rave reviews.
I usually swing over to Westbourne Grove and pop into a few shops along the way until I get to my favourite – Claudie Pierlot – before turning around again. The Westbourne Grove branch is built into an old church. There’s also the Daylesford Organic, 202 and The Breakfast Club and if you want to mesh with the Notting Hill Crowd. And it’s worth a wander past the beautiful flower shop – Wild at Heart – on the corner near the animal monument.
Back in the hustle and bustle of Portobello Road, I stop along the way to listen to a variety of buskers – some much better than others – quite a few of whom and wonderfully eccentric characters.
Carrying on, the quality of stuff for sales goes a bit downhill for a while – tourist knickknacks, tables full of cheap make up, etc until you get to the railway bridge.
Just after the bridge, you have three choices: left for jewellery, handmade goodies and vintage clothes, right for a new world street food market and the Rasta guys, or straight for the cheapy second hand knock off brands where the crowds start to trail off.
I did a quick swoop through the food market, through Little Jamaica and around the edge of the vintage clothes and back against the grain, making my way up to Notting Hill where I started. For lunch, I ended up grabbing a crepe along the way and popping in to R. Gracia & Sons to stock up on some Spanish goodies: arepa flour, fuet, Maria biscuits and crunchy corn.
I’m sure I’ll be back before long!
Art FarmMarch 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm
I feel like I need to rewatch Bedknobs and Broomsticks.I haven’t seen that since I was a kid. The last time I was in London, I went to Portobello Road with some friends that used to live in Kensal Green. So lively! I loved all the vendors. I found an awesome vintage bracelet. Beautiful portraits, Steph. I love the one of the saxophone busker.
littleobservationistMarch 25, 2015 at 5:18 pm
I know! I haven’t seen it in years either. That’s funny you visited friends in Kensal Green – that’s where I lived for a few years when I first moved to London! I used to go to the market all the time them. Thanks about the photos. Hope your week is going well. x
Jacintha @urbanpixxelsMarch 26, 2015 at 5:35 pm
I love this area, although unlike you I don’t know it that well. For me to get to Notting Hill takes forever on the tube which is why I usually avoid it. But this post makes me want to visit again soon.
littleobservationistMarch 26, 2015 at 7:51 pm
That’s how I feel about east London – takes me forever to get there but I love it once I’m there… 🙂
Melissa BlakeMarch 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm
Ahhh! This looks like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to go to England and this is another place to add to the must-see list!
littleobservationistMarch 30, 2015 at 10:06 am
Definitely do if you make it over here! You won’t regret it. 🙂
SophieAugust 16, 2015 at 2:18 pm
I got one of those boxes to pop my makeup in and it just love them – will definitely be popping along to your Etsy store! Notting Hill is just fabulous and I actually quoted that very song in the beginning of my last post!
TessOctober 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm
Thank you! Your photos are amazing and they’ve just inspired my school art project!
littleobservationistOctober 29, 2015 at 8:54 pm
Oh that’s exciting! What is your project about, Tess?