Portobello Road Market guide
It may be heaving with tourists, but Portobello Road Market is a London institution. It's crammed with antique dealers, vintage fashion stalls and retro memorabilia. Here's our guide to getting the most out of a trip there
The initial stroll from Notting Hill Station past the pastel-fronted terraces won’t prepare you for the seemingly endless line of vendors along Portobello Road. More than 2,000 specialist antique dealers are squeezed tightly into any available space, while avid enthusiasts bargain-hunt, camera-laden tourists look for that blue door (from the film ‘Notting Hill’) and jazz quartets all help to create a pleasing intimacy.
Push on past the meagre pickings after Elgin Crescent and explore the fashion market under the Westway flyover. Best visited on a less-frantic Friday morning, it’s here you’ll find fashionistas and frighteningly trendy teens delving through troves of prized vintage, boutique fashion and retro memorabilia. Otherwise, you’ll find them posing in the Portobello Star, the newly refurbished traditional-boozer-meets-chic-cocktail-hangout.
Don’t cut Portobello short at the Westway; continue up until you hit Golborne Road. This is where you’ll find the real bargains away from the masses (a pair of Gina shoes were spotted on the day we visited). It’s lined by eccentric second-hand interiors stalls, and a custard tart from Lisboa Patisserie will see that you never queue for a cupcake again.
Avoid arriving without plenty of cash: the only cashpoint along the main drag is always inaccessible due to outrageous queues. Similarly, don’t bother entering the Market Bar on a Saturday if you’re in need of a quiet sit-down away from the hordes outside – you’ll find it mobbed.
Despite the guaranteed queue outside the Hummingbird Bakery , many travel far and wide for one of its coveted cupcakes. Grab a quick organic bite mid-rummage at Roly’s café in Portobello Green and don’t miss Ottolenghi on Ledbury Road for an upmarket salad selection.
Portobello’s top stalls
You’ll soon see why this vintage clothing stall is called Decadent, lavishly decorated as it is with a few too many feather boas, but look past the fluff to find a wealth of beautifully handcrafted one-of-a-kind pieces. Based under the Westway (their stall often moves to different pitches), the feisty mother-daughter duo who run it specialise in selling a flock of heavily sequinned 1920s flapper dresses and bold 1980s prom gowns, all for bafflingly affordable prices.
Set back from the throng of street traders, nestled next to the Portobello Star, is a signless crescent arcade harbouring unique and thrilling trade. Set apart from its sensible and starker older brother, the nearby Admiral Vernon Antique Market, Portwine exudes a warm familiarity with its busy interior, selling everything from musical instruments to headwear – with a sign urging you to ‘Try on for Fun!’.
Situated opposite Portobello Green under the Westway, masked martial mannequins lure you inside this shop-like stall. On parade here are the sharp, masculine lines of original, pre-1914 jackets and excellent historical footwear and accessories – and the wartime brogues are bang on-trend.
Olivia Rubin, a fashion designer (www.oliviarubinlondon.com), who regularly visits Portobello Road market for buttons and trimmings, vintage clothing and ideas and inspiration.
When should you visit Portobello Road?
‘Arriving about 10am on a Saturday morning gives you a chance to have a proper wander before the crowds arrive. It winds down about 4-5pm, although I always prefer to go in the morning – it’s more alive!’
‘Julia’s stall – she’s an artist who has an eclectic mix of vintage clothes, homeware and bric-a-brac that she hunts for at car boot sales. She’s based under the tent by the Westway. Kay’s brooch stand is a wonderful small stand at the top of the market in between Chepstow Villas and Elgin Crescent. She sells a vast variety of antique brooches and costume jewellery, mainly animal brooches – a great source of inspiration for my collections. At the back of the tent area is Buttons and Haberdashery, a stand that sells an array of vintage buttons, beads and embroideries that was my usual haunt when I was a student at Central Saint Martins.
Goldie is an up-and-coming fashion label that makes handmade tops and dresses out of lace, chiffon and trimmings. Head to the fresh fruit and veg market at the end of the day for bargain boxes full of fruit for only £1!’
What should you avoid?
‘Avoid the “new goods” section at all costs – with such a choice of vintage clothes and antiques it’s best to concentrate your time in these areas.’
‘Head to the Electric, one of my favourite brasseries, on Saturday after you’ve conquered the market. Its a great place to revive before heading up the road to explore antiques.’
Portobello Rd, W11 (www.portobelloroad.co.uk). Notting Hill or Ladbroke Grove tube. 8am-6.30pm Mon-Wed; 8am-1pm Thur; 8am-6.30pm Fri, Sat.
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