Notting Hill & Holland Park
Just off London's prettiest park are the fine Georgian townhouses of Holland Park and Notting Hill. Here you'll find wide, safe streets and arguably the world's most famous market, Portobello.
Ivy's Guide to Notting Hill and Holland Park
A Brief History
Notting Hill has always been a desirable place to live. In the early 19th Century, London's population was increasing rapidly, and yet, like today, there was a housing shortage. James Weller Ladbroke, owner of much of what is today Notting Hill, had a strong business sense, and decided to try his hand at property development. He set to work transforming the existing farmland into a residential area. It was designed to be a beautiful series of crescents with gardens on either side - as in the garden in the film 'Notting Hill'. There are sixteen of these communal gardens, and many are hidden between the houses so that they can only be accessed by residents. The houses still remain today: you'll find terraced and semi-detached villas with handmade stucco or half stucco exteriors. Luckily, only a few houses were destroyed during the World War bombings, known as 'The Blitz'. These beautiful half-moon shaped streets can be found throughout the area, including Royal Crescent, which is historically protected under a Grade II* listing.
Portobello has always attracted travellers from around the world. Following WW2, Irish railway workers and Jews came to live in the area. Portobello's famous Paella stand also has its own heritage; during the Spanish Civil War, many Spaniards escaped to London and settled here, and after the war, more Spanish exiles arrived, fleeing the dictatorship of General Franco.
Many of Portobello market's stalls have been family owned for centuries. You'll find that some vendors are running the same stands that their great grandparents and great great grandparents originally founded. Portobello market's antique dealers have a particularly interesting heritage; after the Blitz bombings of WW2, the owners of destroyed properties were forced to abandon their homes, and they left behind a mass of furniture. Business-minded Londoners then took the furniture to Portobello Market to be sold as antiques - and it's been a hugely successful trade ever since. Portobello Market
Where a winding country path known as ‘Green’s Lane’ once transported farm produce to nearby hamlets, today stands one of the world’s most famous street markets. It's bursting at the seams with antiques, vintage fashion stores and bakeries. Whether you're looking for vintage clothes or street food, you'll experience Portobello as the heart and soul of Notting Hill.
Our favourite Holland Park cafe is the Italian run Melograno, serving all sorts of delicious homemade Italian treats. The pesto lasagna, which can also be bought to take away, is excellent.
Hummingbird Bakery dishes out daily perfection in the form of world renowned cupcakes. Located on the Portobello Road, Hummingbird is ideal for a little pick-me-up after browsing vintage wares in the surrounding arcades, some of which date back to Roman times.
Brunch at Grange & Co., who make ricotta hotcakes to die for. Lowry & Baker have got the relaxed brunch feel spot-on with their open planned kitchen and casually dressed chefs that look and sound like your best friend (albeit one that cooks exceptionally well). Sit in the window and people-watch the Portobello Road. Lunch
Books for Cooks is run by the chefs who give cookery classes upstairs. Downstairs, there is a magical cookery bookshop, with piles of books stacked in every inch of space. At the far end of the shop is a little cafe, where chefs run a test kitchen that serves up dishes from their own recipe books. Food here is a steal - 3 courses costs just £8. Arrive by 11.30am to guarantee a table for lunch, or go in the afternoon for tea and homemade cake. Bumpkin is a favourite of Notting Hill locals. It serves family-friendly British food made from local ingredients. Jamon Jamon is one of Portobello Market's many food stalls. Open on Saturdays only, their paella is made from scratch and cooked on enormous steel pans. You'll spot it from the crowds that gather to watch the chefs in action.
Osteria Basilico must be the most romantic dinner spot in Notting HIl. An institution of Italian food among locals, it always receives more demand than it has tables for. The owners have since opened a sister restaurant next door, also very good. Further down Blenheim Crescent, towards Holland Park, is the luxurious Casa Cruz. Here you'll find glitz and glamour, from the prime Argentinian steak served on silver platters, to the bronzed panelled walls and green velvet chairs that give the dining room a 1920s feel.Shop
In the little V shaped street where Westbourne Grove meets Colville Road, lies a hub of world-class boutiques. From Paul Smith to Helmut Lang, this is an ideal spot for shoppers that want to avoid the busy streets of Oxford Circus.
Bars & Pubs
Notting Hill is a hub of traditional English pubs, many of which now serve very good food. The best are The Windsor Castle, with its maze of wooden enclaves and a lovely beer garden, and The Ladbroke Arms, which serves seasonal food and is decorated with a mass of hanging baskets. The pretty Anglesea Arms also attracts a glamorous crowd after 5pm.
Kensington Wine Rooms is a chic sit-down wine bar with a very good tapas menu. Glass-panelled Enomatic wine dispensers allow customers to taste as much or as little of any wine as they like.
Explore (with kids)
Holland Park is a 54 acre wooded wildlife park built around the ruins of Holland House, bombed in the 1940s during the Blitz. Today, the park offers the summertime Holland Park Opera as well as pop-up theatre, temporary exhibitions and a year-round series of adventures for children and adults. The children's playground has ziplines, tyre swings, spider climbing and even a rocket climbing frame. If you're 3ft tall, the high-rise climbing frames are endless fun.
For a moment of zen, head to the Kyoto Gardens, hidden in the park's centre. The garden was a gift from the Japanese government and is full of little surprises - from the bright orange Koi Carp under the waterfalls to the occasional peacock that wanders through the gardens at will.
The most photographed streets in London are the brightly painted houses of Notting Hill. The multicoloured terraced houses in Elgin Crescent are our favourite.
Visit the Museum of Brands for a fun, whacky exploration of consumer culture over the past century. From 1980s Rimmel makeup to a 1970s Chopper bike, you'll find this exhibition of collectors items charming and cheeky.
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