Guide to Notting Hill, London

Notting Hill: London’s Buzziest and Coolest Neighborhood

There’s more to Notting Hill than just colorful houses… Scroll through Instagram and chances are you’ve seen Notting Hill’s famous façades spring up on your news feed.

Luke Abrahams
20 May 2023

Aside from all its Technicolor houses, the neighborhood plays host to Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street carnival, and a load of fashionable boutiques, pubs, bars, and one of the capital's best antique markets on Portobello Road. It’s all about the locals, too. The London grunge punk and reggae scenes here are second to none, plus with all its cutesy Italian shops, French cafés, and restaurants rustling up global cuisine, it’s easily one of London’s most diverse and cultural hubs, too. Then there’s the vibe: It’s more European than it is gritty London. I’ve personally always looked at it as a mini version of Paris with all its secret mews, operatic townhouses, eclectic bohemian coffee culture, and swanky boutique scene. Back in the 60s and 70s, it was the place where London’s cool crowds who couldn’t afford the likes of nearby Kensington and Chelsea came to set up their nests because it was cheap, raw, and what we would all now describe as “edgy.” It still retains much of that charm, and despite its slow gentrification, remains one of the city’s most authentic neighborhoods. The fashion crowds especially love it, but beyond all the boutique chic and high-brow shops, there’s plenty of spirit here. You just have to know where to look.

Getting to Notting Hill

When it comes to getting to Notting Hill, the Tube or bus are your easiest options.

The Central, District, and Circle lines all stop at Notting Hill Gate Tube station, as do the number 27, 28, 52, and 328 bus services.

The fare to get there depends on what part of London you are coming from, but for those traveling in from the city, expect to pay no more than £2.80 (around $3.50) with an Oyster card or contactless payment card.

What to see and do in Notting Hill

Portobello Road Market Antique Market

Weekends trump weekdays

If you are heading to this part of London, the best time to see it in all its glory is on market day on Saturday. The buzz is infectious, and the bohemian vibe will show you what London is all about: no-frills fun.

Even if you haven’t been to London before, you would have heard of this famous market. It’s had starring roles in Hollywood films, from Notting Hill to Paddington, and even hosted the entire cast of Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. So yes, the half-mile-long stretch of road is a pretty big deal. On Saturdays, the whole thing is transformed into a glittering street market selling all sorts of antiques. Think pocket watches, mirrors, vintage prints, cutlery, pots, ornaments, furniture, clothes, and more. In between all the gems, there’s lots of trash and the markets can get wild during the summer, but don’t let that put you off as there’s something here that suits all tastes.

The Colorful Houses of Notting Hill

One of the major reasons most people come to this part of London is to see and photograph Notting Hill’s famous colorful houses. The ideal time to see them is off market day, usually on the weekdays to avoid peak times like the morning and evening rush hours -you can never be sure how long those will last. But be warned, it gets busy. Nearby, Lancaster Road is a dreamland of loud and proud colors with period townhouses showing off all the shades of the rainbow. Just off Portobello Road, you’ll stumble upon Colville Road, where periwinkle, tomato red, and electric blue houses wow day and night. The same goes for Elgin Crescent where many of the flamboyant houses date back to the mid-1800s.

Electric Cinema: England’s First Cinema

Welcome to England’s first purpose-built cinema. The historical spot began life as the Imperial Playhouse when it opened to punters way back in 1911. Since then, the place has been adored by locals and was saved from ruin thanks to a multi-million-pound project that saw the place restored to its former glory. It’s cushy in every way imaginable: Think huge seats to recline on and – if you’re a couple – large couches to snuggle on, with, as the British say, Champagne service throughout.

Eat your Heart Out

The Notting Hill Carnival Awaits: “There's no better time to experience Notting Hill than during the carnival. If you can, plan your trip around the last weekend of August to see the world-famous carnival in action. It's crazy and hectic, but it will make you feel more alive than ever.

One of the greatest things about Notting Hill is its eclectic mix of excellent neighborhood restaurants. There’s something to suit every budget, from bank account-busting Michelin-starred restaurants to chippies, pubs, and landmark cafes. Standout eats include Core by Clare Smyth, Notting Hill’s two-starred fine dining joint that’s all about great food and immense technical prowess. The perks of clean living can best be enjoyed at Cocotte. Herb-marinated chicken, zingy sauces, and superfood salads keep the locals coming back for more. If you fancy experiencing the flavors of Britain, Hereford Road has been the go-to for locals for years. Housed in a former butcher shop, expect hearty seasonal dishes celebrating all corners of the British Isles that won’t cost the earth. In the mood for brunch? Look no further than Granger & Co. This Australian-inspired café serves some of the tastiest posh breakfast classics in this part of town.

Where to Shop in Notting Hill

Aside from the street market, most flock to Westbourne Grove to shop until they drop. It’s mostly about high-end boutiques and French style with houses from Sandro to the Kooples and Sézanne wooing would-be customers. Heidi Klein’s whitewashed swimwear boutique is well worth a visit, as is Anya Hindmarch for her eponymous brand’s quirky collection of handbags and accessories. For something on the grungier side, Golborne Road (right at the end of Portobello) sells all sorts of wares, arts and crafts, antiques, and more on bric-a-brac stalls. Les Couilles du Chien is great for small decorative steals.

Where to rest your Head in Notting Hill

Notting Hill is fiercely independent, so you won’t find many chains in this part of town. Boutique stays are very much at the top of the hotel agenda with places like the deeply stylish The Laslett and cult favorite The Portobello Hotel (it was here that Kate Moss and Johnny Depp filled a bath with Champagne) topping traveler hotel bucket lists. That said, because Notting Hill is so close to Central London, it’s one of those places you can get to easily no matter where you are staying in the city.

Who Should Stay in Notting Hill?

Notting Hill is an ideal spot for those who love nothing more than experiencing what London is all about: culture, great foods, and shopping. It’s excellent for couples in search of romantic strolls and shoppers searching for the latest indie trends. Be prepared, Notting Hill is always busy, but that’s very much part of its enduring charm.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.