There are some things – wonderful, beautiful, and sometimes quite obvious things – that in retrospect, seem so utterly unmissable that we begin to question whether we actually have any vision at all. This is exactly how I felt recently. After almost a year and a half living in London, I finally made the trek to the inimitable neighbourhood of Notting Hill. I wholeheartedly realise that there are far greater faux pas in life than simply missing out on some jolly good fun looking at pretty pastel townhouses and strolling down Portobello Road. Of course, I had heard of Notting Hill – Hugh Grant made sure of that. Casual linen jacket draped effortlessly over his shoulder; the star famously strutted his stuff down bustling Portobello Road in the renowned 90’s rom com. However, quite frankly, it all comes down to the mere fact that London, with its multitude of magnificent gardens and glorious architecture, simply has so much to offer.
I had high expectations of Notting Hill. It is after all one of the river city’s most beloved neighbourhoods. It seems to have that perfect blend of iconic sights, and interesting slightly out of the way destinations. On a cold yet sunny Sunday morning, my husband Dan and I set forth to discover this thoroughly charming district. Upon alighting (as you do in London) from the train at Notting Hill Gate we were immediately overawed by the grand architecture of beautiful monochrome townhouses, adorned here and there by brightly coloured front doors. Once our house envy slightly subsided, we made our way slowly downhill towards what we assumed was the beginning of one of the world’s greatest outdoor antique markets, Portobello Road. We zigzagged back and forth looking desperately lost until, gingerly, I asked a local lady on a pushbike if she could point us in the right direction.
Now, instead of starting from the beginning, as planned, we ended up right in the middle, at the crossroads of Portobello Road. We set off upwards along the gently sloping street hoping to work up an appetite for lunch, and make room for an obligatory pastry or two from Ottolenghi – that iconic London pitstop. Every scene we encountered was a photographer’s dream, turning our leisurely pace into a slow meander as we watched the local life unfold before us. It would be near impossible (futile really) to resist the delightful, slightly disheveled scene surrounding us. We were charmed by the little old lady who has probably sat at her same sidewalk stall peddling her antique wares for decades, and we loved the dapper English gent’s store selling all sorts of tweedy peaked caps and gentlemanly knick knacks. We marveled at the kitschy, yet rather lovely overhanging shop signs perched high above our heads swaying on their hinges in the chilly morning breeze. Every scene warranted our full attention, and like the well behaved attentive tourists we obeyed.
Sunday brunch is almost a rite of passage here in London, and the streets of Notting Hill were buzzing with an abundance of eateries and cafes dotted around the area. A paint box yellow pub with its golden sunburst signage seemed destined to tempt us inside until we spotted an equally delicious looking eatery just down the street, practically waving us over with its citrus-coloured umbrellas and zesty lime green awnings. The decision was finally made by Dan’s persistent hunger, and we settled upon a lovely pub called The Oak, with its weather worn exterior of crumbling purple paint. Nearly all London pubs serve that good old English staple the heaving Sunday roast. Like a warm hug from an old friend this gastronomic mainstay is your much needed saviour on a frosty winter’s day. However, if it’s a roast you’re after, The Oak may disappoint. This somewhat out of the way pub is all about comforting home cooked Italian fare set amongst rustic old tables and plush leather stools. While waiting for my pinot noir to arrive I had time to soak in the old-world charm and have a peak around at the other diners meals. Nearby, an Italian couple were pontificating rather loudly about the qualities of their slow cooked ragu with homemade pappardelle. Well, they had me convinced. Satiated by his hefty wood fired pizza with artichokes and Parma ham, Dan was adamant we had made the right choice, and as I wiped away the last remnants of ragu I couldn’t agree more. Notting Hill is a cornucopia of tempting eateries and that alone will continue to lure us back.
What I enjoyed most about Notting Hill is the beautiful confusion that has made its home here. You’ll find majestic old buildings, restored to their former elegance, nestled cheek by jowl against some of London’s wildest townhouses with their saturated facades painted in unashamedly theatrical hues. Brilliant blue doors stand erect throughout the neighbourhood like jewel coloured candles on a birthday cake, while garishly beautiful street art rubs shoulders with swanky local bistros providing a surprisingly pleasant continuity.
Needless to say, it isn’t just Portobello Road (as entertaining as it is) that makes Notting Hill one of London’s true gems. As wonderful as a jaunt down any famous road can be, there are always real treasures to be found lurking around every corner. This is one of the true joys which makes travel so gloriously fulfilling; the slight chance that you’ll discover something truly unique. A particular highlight for me was when we stumbled upon a silvery Burmese cat called Lola with the disposition of a dog who enthusiastically rubbed her silky fur against my legs for a good ten minutes. Those are the moments that make travel so memorable, and you won’t find them listed in any guidebook. Portobello Road is a morning well spent and worthy of great pilgrimage, but it was Lola’s unwavering welcome that I’ll remember most about my time spent in Notting Hill.
We walked until our boots rubbed against our blistery feet, determined to breathe in all we could before the sun set at 4:06pm – as it does this time of year. Try as we might to partake in a little evening wine and cheese delight, we just couldn’t seem to locate that inviting wine bar we passed by earlier in the day. Oh well, with camera in hand, and a bag full of pastries to console us we hopped back on the train and headed home. And this time we didn’t even get lost.
I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt around Notting Hill! Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
How to get there
From central London you can catch an underground train from Marble Arch station to Notting Hill Gate, or take a scenic stroll through nearby Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens if it’s a nice sunny day.
Lovely things in Notting Hill
Delicious things to eat
Daylesford Organic Daylesford Farm’s sister store introducing a little flavour of the Cotswalds to London
Granger & Co Aussie chef Bill Granger’s namesake eatery bringing a little sunshine to Notting Hill
The Oak Cosy pub serving Mediterranean dishes with a distinctly Northern Italian feel
The Farm Girl Another Aussie owned cafe serving healthy all day brunch and bloody good coffee. Go with the flow here and try the rose latte!
Ottolenghi The iconic flagship store – you’ll find decadent cakes and pastries, as well as delicious seasonal salads like you’ve never tasted before!
Sun in Splendour A paintbox yellow exterior beckons you inside where you’ll find excellent pub fare in the oldest public house in Notting Hill
Sally Clarke Bakery Restaurant A restaurant, shop, and bakery inspired by fresh ingredients and made by hand using traditional methods. Also home to the most beautiful shop sign in London!
Beautiful things to buy
Toast TOAST creates and curates simple, functional, beautiful clothing and homewares, as well as limited edition collections in collaboration with local and international artisans.
Bonpoint Exquisite classic French designer wear for boys and girls
Diptique French toiletry brand synonymous with hand poured candles and exotic perfumes
Books for Cooks Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop, crammed with thousands of tasty titles
The Spice Shop Rows of distinctive yellow tins contain a vibrant range of hand-blended spices inspired by travels around the world.
American Vintage American Vintage (despite the name AV is actually a French label) proposes an edited wardrobe of elevated basics inflected with vintage references
Katrina Phillips The interior designer’s contemporary store on Portobello Road selling an envy inducing collection of art, homewares, and artisanal clothing
Native & Co Alongside curating pieces from Japan and Taiwan, the founders design and make some of the items themselves, adding to Native & Co’s unique collection of homeware treasures.
Rough Trade Records Renowned independent record shop founded in 1976.
The Mews – Mews is a British name for a row or courtyard of stables and carriage houses with living quarters above them, built behind large city houses before motor vehicles replaced horses in the early twentieth century. Today the Mews have been lovingly restored and transformed into private residences.
These hidden pockets can be found in many parts of London, however, Notting Hill Mews are particularly picturesque and the homes are now awash with colour and quirky charm.
I fell in love with Horbury Mews, as well as Colville Mews, and St Luke’s Mews.
25 thoughts on “Notting Hill – A Kaleidoscopic Gem in West London”
What a fantastic article about such an interesting place!
I love your descriptions of everything that you’ve seen – I feel as though I am there myself. It looks like such an interesting area to wander around plus I am looking forward to trying out some of those food destinations
That’s one of the wonderful things about London, every neighbourhood is so lovely to explore. And Notting Hill is seething with interesting details. It’s definitely one of my favourite areas!
Gosh this was so lovely.. a nostalgic walk down one of my favourite areas in London. It’s been almost three years since I visited and it was lovely to visit vicariously through your lens and words! And fellow potter here too 🤩 thanks Rosie, keep em coming.
My pleasure Misha! I’m so happy you enjoyed the virtual trip down memory lane. Notting Hill will definitely be a place I visit again and again. There’s so much to explore in that one gorgeous neighbourhood!
What a great article! The photos are stunning too! I can’t wait to get back to London to see all these great places. xx
Thanks Jess! Put Notting Hill at the top of your list. By the time you visit we’ll have so many areas to explore.
What an amazing travelogue. Such vivid descriptions of Notting Hill with the sophisticated and the kitsch. Some architectural buildings and the colours are so alluring and I can understand why you are drawn to this place. Sandie x
Thanks Sandie! My visually greedy eye was on overload;) I hope you enjoy today’s post about our jaunt to the wonderful Columbia Road Flower market.
Love your travelogue, Rose! Your photography is exquisite and description of your pizza & ragù with pappardelle mouthwatering! So happy for you and Dan!
Grazie Judy! If it was good enough for the Italian couple is was good enough for me! I think you’ll enjoy my latest jaunt to the vibrant Columbia Road Flower Market.
A wonderful read Rose. Looks like a must see area to visit.
Thank you Cheryl, Notting Hill is definitely up your alley! I hope you make it there one day.
You had me at Ottolenghi! Another great read Rose. I was transported from my Qld living room to Notting Hill through your wonderfully descriptive prose and fabulous photos. Thank you. Can’t wait to visit sometime.
Thanks Sue! I had myself at Ottolenghi;) There was a line along the footpath but so worth the wait. I can see you walking around Notting Hill, in fact, you’d fit right in here. London is so colourful and vibrant.
Rose, you bring it all to life so well, and I love you’re style. Especially how well you wear a beret🤗
Thank you Diana! I’m so happy you enjoyed a tour through Notting Hill. I think you’ll love this week’s jaunt to the vibrant Columbia Road Flower Market.
I must admit, wearing a beret means I can hide my unbrushed hair underneath;)
Hello Rose from Melbourne Australia Your such a clever gal. Your travel blog is absolutely amazing. Love hearing about your travels and adventures.
Between you and me that pastel blue jacket your wearing is fabulous lol me and you and our love of blue greens
Keep up the great work. I’m definitely smitten with your travels. One day I would love to visit the UK what a wonderful adventure your having. Great for the mind and soul.
God Bless Rose from one huge flower lover to another And yes
Green Blue hues love as well
Thank you Diana! It’s so lovely to hear from you:) And thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying The Sunday Londoner. It’s been such a wonderful way to explore our new home and to document our time here. It’s such a vibrant and incredible city!
Blue and green forever!!
Ciao From London all the way to Melbourne
You triggered such happy memories of many days trawling the market with friends, eating at one of the many eateries, exploring the neighbourhood and let’s not forget dancing to exhaustion at the Carnival. Nottinghill is a neighbourhood of such vibrant energy and joy
It really is Cheryl! Notting Hill is definitely one of London’s most interesting neighbourhoods and I can feel the pull to return already. I love that there is always something new to discover, no matter how many times you go back. The carnival sounds fantastic! I’ll have to look it up.
Thanks Cheryl, so glad this post brought back such wonderful memories for you.
Such a lovely read Rose with these amazing places – well done you are amazing
Thanks Vicki! I hope you are able to visit one day. You would love it here.
Thank you Vicki! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the tours around London. It’s such a wonderful city!
What a cracker Rose feeling so envious right now!!! Beautiful read as always and how do you keep your boots so fresh? Love that pic with Lola 😻 Thank you once again for reminding me to buy a lotto ticket to come and explore all these beautiful places x
Thanks Leishy! So glad you enjoyed the jaunt around Notting Hill, it’s one of my favourite parts of London. You would be in heaven! One day!