Notting Hill is the site of Europe’s biggest street carnival and has become the embodiment of multicultural London. So it’s curious to think that, in 1958, this now-gentrified area was the scene of race riots, with white youths attacking Caribbean migrants.
But out of the ashes of those troubled times rose the phoenix of the Notting Hill Carnival, an event that built bridges between communities. Almost 50 years since its first outing, it is now a vital date on London’s calendar, taking place on the August bank holiday weekend and comprising a vast parade (30-31 Aug).
Notting Hill also featured in the 1999 romantic comedy of the same name starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. In 2004, another cast of characters moved in: Conservative politicians, including current Prime Minister David Cameron, had gravitated to the area and soon became known as "the Notting Hill Set." Not surprisingly it is one of London's most desirable areas to live, but also it's popular for visitors. The area is known for its handsome townhouses, plus independent shops, cinemas, cafes and restaurants.
Head to the Market
When it comes to a spot of shopping in Notting Hill, your first destination has to be Portobello Road Market. A variety of products are on sale, including fruit and vegetables, fashion, bric-a-brac and vintage clothing, but the market is best known for its wide range of antiques. From glassware traders to those trading wooden chests and jewelery, you’ll find more than 1,000 dealers on the street each Saturday. The street is also home to many antique shops open during the week. Nearby Ladbroke Grove also plays host to a second-hand vintage market on Sundays.
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See Brands from Bygone Days
The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising (which from October relocates to larger premises) makes for an evocative trip to the past. Here, you’ll find an evolving collection of everyday objects, which tells the story of more than 150 years of British consumer society. The museum is split into time zones, starting in the Victorian era and ending in the present day. Look out for Guinness, Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola, all of which have a universal appeal to visitors.
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Enjoy Edgy Sounds
The lively basement bar of the Notting Hill Arts Club is a big draw for the area’s trendiest clubbers. Expect a wide mix of house and hip hop-based music in addition to live music from up-and-coming bands. Former Arts Club guest DJs include Courtney Love and The Clash’s Mick Jones.
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Sample Caribbean Flavours
Inspired by the Caribbean’s beach shacks, The Rum Kitchen restaurant and cocktail bar serves tasty food from the West Indies. Traditional dishes such as jerk fried chicken and curried mutton can be washed down with a variety of rum-based cocktails. Be prepared – there are more than 100 varieties of rum from which to choose. Expect loud and funky music, from reggae to calypso with some afro-funk thrown in for good measure. It’s the perfect way to explore—and, of course, taste—the mix of cultures of Notting Hill.
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