Whether you’re familiar with this corner of west London or not, chances are you’ve heard of Notting Hill Carnival or the Richard Curtis rom-com Notting Hill. Both make an appearance in our guide to free and cheap things to do in Notting Hill. There are no official boundaries, but the district postcodes are W2 and W11.
Visit some of London’s prettiest streets
Instagram is full of pastel-fronted houses and colourful facades from Notting Hill. You can either brighten a gloomy day or enhance a sunny one by following the trail of bright hues. The town houses on Lancaster Road look like a classic Crayola set, with indigo, teal, grey and yellow all living side by side.
Just off Portobello Road, you’ll find even brighter shades on Colville Terrace. Over on Elgin Crescent, the mid 1800s houses are pastel coloured too, and have slightly different architecture to some of the other streets. The last street on the colour-swatch tour of the area is St Luke’s Mews. This street features another famous Richard Curtis rom-com—Love, Actually. The pink house is an Insta-favourite. It’s set on a beautiful cobbled street, filled with colourful, leaf-covered houses with fancy doors.
Peruse vintage goods, antiques and records on Portobello Road
Portobello Road Market isn’t just one of the most famous street markets in London, it’s one of the most famous in the world. Stretching over half a mile, it’s largely famous for antiques, with over 1,000 traders. But it’s not just fancy goods. Market days are a mix of vintage clothing and accessories, furniture, art, ceramics and fruit & veg. Choose your day according to what you’re after. Friday is all about Antiques, while Saturday is the main, full market day. it’s shut on Sundays.
As well as the market, Portobello Road is home to independent shops like the Rough Trade record shop (now known as Rough Trade West), and The Notting Hill Bookshop (the one Hugh Grant owns in the film Notting Hill) as well as cute cafes like Scandi bakery Fabrique, Bluebelles of Portobello, Coffee Plant and Lowry & Baker.
Go on a bookshop-hop
Book lovers are well rewarded in this part of town. Literary treasures extend further than the famously cosy Notting Hill Bookshop [link]. Luytens & Rubenstein bookshop was founded by two literary agents in 2009 and the shop also functions as a literary agency. It’s a modern, airy space where books are stocked based on recommendations by readers, writers, publishers and the owners’ friends, so you can expect plenty of great finds. If you’re looking for a beautiful quiet spot to read your newest purchase, be sure to check our guide to reading nooks and secret gardens.
For browsing of a more zen nature, head over to Dechen. It’s also a Buddhist centre and events space, where you can find out more about Buddhism and learn to meditate. Alternatively, if the aromas and flavours of Portobello inspire you, take your culinary curiosity to the delightful Books for Cooks which is not only crammed full of cookbooks (and a squishy sofa perfect for leisurely browsing) but also has a tiny test kitchen and cafe at the back. Just to let you know, they close for most of August.
Check out urban and street art at Graffik Gallery
Graffik is a small gallery, specialising in urban and street art. Entrance is free, and you can see art works by artists like Banksy, Stik, Alec Monopoly and Katherine Rupit.
If you fancy testing your graffiti skills (or learning some), Graffik also hosts weekend workshops. They cost £36.00, which includes your own A4 canvas to take away with you. You can also try your hand at freestyle spray painting on the garden walls.
Eat local and wild British fare at The Shed
Dining out in Notting Hill doesn’t need to be swanky and overpriced. The Shed is a family-owned restaurant that specialises in food made with local and wild British ingredients and a zero-waste philosophy. There’s a trendy foodie vibe, but without the spenny price tag.
The A La Carte Menu is a mix of small plates and slow-cooked mains like Skate with black garlic, smoked chilli puree and chorizo crumb for £16.00; pricewise that’s on par with gastro pubs and chain-mains, but with the chance to taste a few more interesting flavours.
Pop in for a drink with a nice bouquet at The Churchill Arms
The Churchill Arms is probably best experienced on a sunny, warm day (unless you suffer from hayfever) – its famous exterior is literally covered in flowers. The pub takes so much pride in its floral display that it’s won awards at Chelsea Flower Show, which is just as well given it forks out a colossal £25,000 a year on flowers. If you’re reading this later in the year, check out their Christmas trees.
Unsurprisingly the interior is big on Winston Churchill memorabilia. Don’t be fooled though — the pub itself dates way back to 1750. There are also hanging plants everywhere and Thai food on the menu; a curious, but quintessentially London, mix.
Browse the Museum of Brands
This is a real blast from the past. Travel back through the museum’s Time Tunnel and see how your favourite brands have changed throughout history; you might spot packaging you haven’t seen since your last school packed lunch. There are also some interesting temporary exhibitions; at the time of writing, my favourite looks at how brands support social causes and contemporary issues. Tickets are £9.00.
Take a tour of Notting Hill’s blue plaques
Notting Hill has its fair share of English Heritage blue plaques, which mark the homes or workplaces of a wide range of noteworthy residents including scientists, politicians, artists, inventors and more. English Heritage run guided walks for members but you can go Cheapo and download details from the site to plan your own route. Don’t miss those for author George Orwell and suffragette leaders Emmeline & Dame Christabel Pankhurst.
See a performance at The Coronet
The Coronet Theatre is a recently restored off-West End institution. The building used to be a cinema; now it’s a live performance and studio space, hosting shows and acts from around the world.
Programming is a mix of contemporary dance, poetry clubs, political drama, arts festivals, creative workshops and experimental theatre. Tickets for performances range from £10.00–£25.00.
The bar is a candlelit affair filled with vintage furniture and ornate rugs, so it’s a pretty atmospheric place to come for a drink (or to impress a date) if you’re watching a performance.
Head underground at Notting Hill Arts Club
Basement bars and decent gig venues are rarity out west these days, but Notting Hill Arts Club is still a staple for gig and club nights. Communion Records host regular indie nights, and NHAC also puts on jazz, hip hop, funk and soul nights. Expect moody lighting, dry ice and dancing to beats under the Notting Hill Streets.
Eat hearty Italian food at Saporitalia
Renowned for its pizza, family run Saporitalia is a cute, popular, family-run neighbourhood Italian with giant wood-fired ovens, rustic interiors, and classic flavours. Menu staples other than pizza include anti-pasti, Gnocchi and Calzone. Most pasta dishes are between £13.95–£16.95.
If you’re going during the week you should be able to take advantage of an easy walk-in, but if you’re after a weekend evening bite be sure to book ahead.
Party at Notting Hill Carnival (August Bank Holiday Weekend)
Every August Bank Holiday weekend, the biggest show in town (that’s London town, folks) is Notting Hill Carnival aka Carnival. It’s the biggest street party in Europe, so it’s worth planning ahead to deal with the crowds. Lucky for you, we wrote a whole guide to Notting Hill Carnival. From how to get there, taking kids and planning your outfit, we’ve got you covered. Expect parades, steel bands, lots of Caribbean food, cold drinks, sound systems, rum and flamboyant costumes.
Afternoon tea at the Park Grand, Lancaster Gate
Last but not least, a short stroll alongside (or after a walk in) Hyde Park to Lancaster Gate brings you to the Park Grand. This the most spicy of our picks from affordable afternoon tea in London, as they have an “India inspired” afternoon tea. This makes for fun change from the usual afternoon tea menu and great for vegetarians.