To Market, To Market : Portobello Road Market, London
I’ve actively avoided Portobello Road Market because of its reputation as a crowded tourist mecca on the weekend, but the daughters were home and it seemed like a good time to go.
The shops along the market route are actually open 6 days a week, while the market is only open Saturdays, beginning at 8am. We had a late morning start and arrived a bit late (10!) and the streets and stalls were already packed.
Now, I am not a crowd-averse person. I will stand in an endless Disney World queue in the August heat for a 5-minute ride without complaint. This…this was something different. It was literally ass to elbow from the beginning of the Notting Hill Gate tube exit to the end of the market at Ladbroke Grove.
You can start at either end of the market (Notting Hill or Ladbroke Grove). The Notting Hill end tends to have more established antique and high-quality vintage dealers, while the Ladbroke Grove end has a large number of new-to-the-market dealers and vintage clothing stalls.
If you start at Notting Hill, you’ll be traveling from the ££££ end of the market to the £ end of the market (Ladbroke Grove). Regardless of where you start, there are endless opportunities for treasure-hunting and price-haggling. We wandered in and out of the lovely antique shops and galleries along the way, vowing to return during non-market days to examine the goods at a more leisurely pace.
In addition to the more established shops, there are numerous arcades and galleries that wind in, around and behind the market stalls. I walked into what I thought was an art gallery and ended up wandering a labyrinth of small antique stalls, manned by incredibly knowledgeable dealers.
We tried on vintage fur hats, picked through piles of British tchotchke, examined WWII memorabilia and bought a great pair of faux converse. I wanted and clearly needed the Windsor Castle fire bucket hanging from the ceiling in one shop, but wasn’t sure it would go with our current decor. You could pick and search for hours and we did before deciding we were wildly hungry.
The Mister and The Girls decided to sample the lovely strawberry crepes with whipped cream. I decided to sample a little bit of almost everything from the fruit stands.
We managed to work our way through the whole market in about 5 hours, but it could easily be a full-day outing.
Check the website for details and download a map before you go. Wear a helmet and a cup. You’ll need it.
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