Notting Hill overview
What’s it all about?
Notting Hill has long held something of a bohemian reputation, which is still evidenced in its candy coloured houses, offbeat music venues and trove of antiques shops. Its association with the arts and artists dates back to the early 20th century, but it was in the 1960s and 1970s that the reputation it has today began to flourish. Attracted by Notting Hill’s Caribbean influenced counter culture and blues music scene, as well as the popular nearby arts college, musicians, artists and hippies flocked to the area. These days the idealised neighbourhood of Richard Curtis’s romcom Notting Hill paints a more accurate picture of the area. Curtis portrays his own neighbourhood warmly, filled with eccentric characters, quaint shops, cafes and beautiful communal gardens. The area still attracts those in the arts, and the mix of local and international residents means there’s a cosmopolitan air. Thanks to a large Portuguese and Brazilian presence this really is the best place in London to get a pastel de nata (custard tart). Portobello Road is a mecca for tourists, stylists and vintage shoppers, and negotiating the crowds is easy once you’ve discovered the wealth of lovely quiet cafes dotted along side roads. Recalling a heritage of Caribbean settlers, once a year the Notting Hill Carnival rolls to town. Residents deal with the chaos in one of two ways: pack up the car and head to the seaside for the weekend or get involved and have a party.
- Ladbroke Square Gardens is the largest private garden square in London.
- The house Hugh Grant’s character inhabits in the 1999 film Notting Hill was scriptwriter Richard Curtis’s own home. After the film’s success he sold the house to a woman who later became so fed up with tourists turning up on her doorstep that she sold the iconic door at auction. However, this hasn’t stopped the knocking as people assume it’s still the original door with a fresh coat of paint.
- Held annually since 1965, the Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe.
Architecture and property
Architect Thomas Allason designed the concentric circles of streets around Ladbroke Grove as part of his grand vision for Notting Hill, in which these streets surrounded a circus. This circus never materialised, but in 1837 a racecourse was built around the hill on Ladbroke Grove. The course was closed in 1841, but the streets around it still make up the beating heart of Notting Hill. These include Lansdowne Road, Stanley Crescent, Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent. The beautiful terraced homes that line them have access to communal gardens and are some of Notting Hill’s most desirable properties. The semi detached and detached homes along Pembridge Villas are some of the largest in the area, while some beautiful flats in modern builds can be found along St Luke’s Road and Westbourne Gardens.
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Eating and drinking: The sheer variety of restaurants and bars in Notting Hill makes it impossible to select the area’s best establishments, but with two Michelin stars, The Ledbury comes with a sky high reputation. Its Modern French menu and glamorous atmosphere are worth chasing a reservation for. The Rum Kitchen, Electric Diner and Ottolenghi all rate highly as well. Jamie Oliver’s Recipease restaurant, Ricker Restaurant and Hereford Road are also popular choices with the locals and visitors of W2 and W11.
Carnival: Every August Bank Holiday Notting Hill’s quiet, understated streets come alive in a blur of colourful costumes, thumping sound systems and wide eyed tourists. Although some locals see Notting Hill Carnival as a time to flee the city, most get involved in the festivities and enjoy having the action so close to home.
Culture: The Notting Hill Arts Club has an intriguing array of music and arts events, featuring everything from photographic exhibitions to electronic music nights. The Electric Cinema and The Gate Cinema are local favourites, showing the latest blockbusters and a selection of arthouse films, while The Coronet is currently undergoing an exciting renovation as it joins forces with The Print Room, a fringe theatre. The Gate Theatre describes itself as ‘a home for anarchic spirits’ and its performances are some of London’s most innovative. Mode is a unique late night venue in Notting Hill renowned for gigs and arts and cultures enjoyed by many who live in or visit the area.
- The main Notting Hill shopping street is the famous Portobello Road, which, even when it’s not teeming with competing stallholders peddling their wares on Saturdays, is a shopping hub. Shops range from vintage fashion outlet One of a Kind to hippie survivor Alchemy, and there are some great finds to be had at The Portobello Print & Map Shop. For CDs and vinyl of every musical hue, plus a lively programme of in store performances, head to Rough Trade.
- For designer stores locals make for Westbourne Grove and will use any excuse to pop into Daylesford Farmshop & Cafe to stock up on healthy ingredients.
- A popular new addition to Notting Hill’s culinary scene is the Provenance Village Butcher, voted New Butcher’s Shop of the Year in 2014. The owners dedicate themselves to bringing New Zealand farm quality meat to London.
- Notting Hill Gate Library on Pembridge Square offers a wide range of books, CDs and DVDs and classes for all ages.
- Notting Hill locals have an assortment of exercise facilities and leisure centres on their doorstep. The Library is an unusual gym come private members club where expert trainers offer personalised exercise and nutrition programmes.
In addition to the area’s characteristic communal gardens, which tend to answer most needs for green space, locals have unparalleled access to some of London’s most fantastic parks. The delights of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are just a short walk away. There, locals can visit the historic fountains and statues and take part in all manner of sporting activities including horse riding and swimming in the Serpentine Lido. To the south east of the station lies Holland Park with its colourful Ecology Centre.
In 2014 the council put forward plans for the significant redevelopment of Notting Hill Gate, as outlined on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website. Plans include improving the public realm and refurbishing or redeveloping sites at Newcombe House and Astley House. Notting Hill regularly sees new upmarket property developments, such as the nine new luxury houses at West Village, due for completion in 2016.
Tube: Notting Hill Gate station is conveniently located on the border between Zones 1 and 2 on the Central, Circle and District Lines. It’s seven minutes on the Central Line to Oxford Circus, while the Circle Line will take you across London to Tower Hill in 25 minutes.
Bus: Local bus routes serve Wandsworth (28), South Kensington (70), Golders Green (328), and Kensal Rise (452). Notting Hill Gate also has several 24 hour bus services, including the 27 (to Chiswick), 52 (to Victoria), 94 (to Piccadilly Circus), 148 (to White City), and 390 (to Archway).
Road: Notting Hill is a short drive from the A4, which leads to the M4 and the West of England in just half an hour.
Cycle: The 20 minute cycle from Notting Hill to Oxford Circus is a pretty one, running along the edge of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
Getting away: Locals can reach Heathrow in just half an hour as it’s only two Tube stops to Paddington and from there the Heathrow Express takes 15 minutes to reach the airport.
The quality of Notting Hill’s schools is a key reason why so many families choose to relocate here. Primary options include Colville Primary School and Avondale Park Primary School and for secondary education there is Holland Park School, which became an academy in 2013. Independent schools include Notting Hill Preparatory School, Wetherby Pre Preparatory School and Notting Hill and Ealing High School. International locals make use of the Southbank International School.
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