I realize I might stand alone on this, but I wasn’t a fan of the movie Notting Hill. While I have a fondness for romantic comedies, this one never got me weak in the knees. So I’m not one of the many girls who flock to London’s Notting Hill neighborhood in search of The Travel Book Co. or the house with the blue door. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find reasons to make my way to this picturesque neighborhood. Notting Hill is infinitely charming not due to, but in spite of, the 1999 film. Here’s a walking tour to help you while away the day in one of London’s quaintest locales.
Portobello Road is where much of the filming of the movie took place, and as you stroll past the rows of pastel homes, it’s easy to see why. Take a few snapshots of the colorful dwellings, but don’t get too distracted – there’s so much more to come. Instead, make your way to Farm Girl, an adorable little cafe with a brightly-colored interior and a tiny outdoor courtyard. I’m going to call Farm Girl exactly what it is: a trendy, Instagram-friendly cafe where you’ll find a Charcoal Latte and gluten-free Apple Pancakes on the menu. The cafe focuses on using fresh ingredients to offer healthy fare without compromising on taste.
Portobello Road Market
Once you’ve downed your Hibiscus Matcha, continue down Portobello Road towards the Portobello Road Market. A variety of stalls line the street, and which ones you stumble upon will depend on which day you visit. Saturday is the market’s biggest day: stalls peddle everything from antiques to fruit to vintage clothing. If you plan on making your way out on Saturday, note that it can get maddeningly crowded so go early for the best selection. I much prefer going on Friday, the market’s second busiest day, when it’s bustling but not stifling. Pick up a rare book or a cashmere scarf. And keep an eye out for local artists like Charlotte Reed. Her charming illustrations carry positive messages, which started out simply as a way for her to cope with depression. Her Portobello stall sells individual prints as well as her book, all of which make wonderful gifts.
If you’re feeling peckish at this point, pop into the Hummingbird Bakery for a dazzling array of cupcakes and desserts. The bakery has since expanded to multiple locations in London and Surrey, but this tiny little outlet is its first. The Black Bottom Cupcakes are longtime favorites, but you’ll likely be pleased with any choice you make here.
Continue on Portobello Road to Electric Cinema, a boutique movie theater that happens to be one of the oldest working movie theaters in the country. Opened in 1910, it has survived two world wars, multiple changes in ownership and several nips and tucks. The interior is stunning, and it captures elements of its rich history. Whether you want to pop in for a movie, or a quick bite at the adjacent Electric Diner, this spot shouldn’t be missed. The movie offerings include a mix of current releases, re-runs, cult and classic films.
After you’ve checked out Electric Cinema, turn back around on Portobello Road and make your way towards Westbourne Grove. Stop to smell the roses at the island floral shop Wild at Heart, by renowned luxury florist Nikki Tibbles. Pop in to Daylesford to check out the organic market and cafe’s offerings. Then slowly make your way through the luxury boutiques, all the while enjoying prime people-watching at the sidewalk cafes.
If you managed to resist the goods at Daylesford, you might not be as lucky once you make your way to Ottolenghi. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi has a chain of delis which he operates with creative partner Chef Sami Tamimi. Ottolenghi and Tamimi met while working at Baker & Spice and forged a lifelong friendship and partnership, despite the fact that Ottolenghi is Isreali-Jewish and Tamimi is Arab-Israeli. Both grew up in Jerusalem on the opposite sides of the conflict, but found themselves united in their love of food. The deli offers inventive dishes and desserts, a marriage of the sweet and savory specialties of each talent.
Westbourne Grove Church ArtSpace
As you make your way along Ledbury Road, you might notice the stunning Westbourne Grove Church sitting on the corner across from the colorful storefronts. The church also houses a contemporary exhibition space in its towers, with the purpose of offering artists “the opportunity to exhibit diverse and challenging work without commercial restrictions”. Pop in to check out what’s on display.
It seems only fitting to end the day on a sweet note, so stop in to Melt Chocolates for exquisite hand made chocolates. If you’re looking for something to gift your friends at home (or something to gift yourself!), you’ll find no shortage of options here. There are truffles, pralines and bonbons made fresh daily. Or choose from their assortment of chocolate bars.
After putting together this little walking tour, I think I’ve nailed down one of the reasons I didn’t love that movie. It didn’t give enough screen time to the real star: Notting Hill itself.
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