Looking to spend an alternative day in London but can only find the typical touristy recommendations online?
This is our new series that creates unique days out in London based on your passions and interests, not on standardised itineraries.
So, lovers of local markets, hidden gems and music, listen out. Here’s one of our favourite 1 day in London itineraries.
MORNING IN NOTTING HILL
Although being one of the most popular tourist destinations in London, Notting Hill is still a very local area, run by local antique dealers, jewellers and art galleries and one that very few tourists know well.
The best days to see Notting Hill are Fridays and Saturdays, but you can still enjoy the area any other day (but better if you have a guide showing you around during the week as otherwise, you won’t see most of its secret spots). Particularly on a Saturday, the sooner you arrive the better it is, as it’s market day and it gets pretty busy.
Locals in fact go to the market from 6:30 am to 10:00 am, to avoid the crowds of tourists that arrive later in the day. We’d recommend arriving around 9:00 am on a Saturday and 10:00 am on any other day.
Start by walking from Notting Hill Gate towards Portobello Road. Should you wish to start with a nice breakfast we’d recommend Farm Girl at 59A Portobello Road, on your way to the antique market, which starts at the cross with Chepstow Villas and ends at Elgin Crescent.
Along the road, you will find the gorgeous Alice’s antique shop, where Paddington Bear and the first Italian Job from 1969 were shot.
Right after Alice’s watch out for a unique mural made by the world-famous Vhils, the pioneer of street art carved into concrete walls.
Continuing along Portobello Road you will find The Portobello Print & Map Shop by William, a very unique shop, especially if you love maps and history, offering a large selection of genuine antique prints and maps from all over the world. Further along, Atlam is another antique shop not to be missed, where you feel transported back in time amongst pocket watches, chronographs, repeaters, Havana cigars and engraved cases.
Continuing always on Portobello Road what may seem like a series of antique shops from the outside are actually an intricate labyrinth of arcades, where you can find a big vintage selection of sports equipment, luggage, silver, porcelain, old records, cameras and a lot more. So make sure you go in and explore!
The Notting Hill Bookshop
As you walk along the road you will see a bunch of tourists taking selfies and pictures at 142 Portobello Road, now a gift shop. This is the location used for William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant’s) Travel Book Shop in the movie. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this was just fictional, as there has never been a bookshop here. The real bookshop that you see in the film is located at 12-15 Blenheim Crescent, just a few minutes walk away.
Along Portobello road on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday you will also find many stalls with a selection of food from all around the world. Some of them are bread stalls, cakes, fishmongers, oils, olives, gourmet cheese, meat, seafood and other local produce. This is also portrayed in the Notting Hill movie when Hugh Grant walks along the market whilst different seasons go by. Should you be a gin lover you can’t miss out on the Ginstitute, a gin distillery offering thoroughly interactive gin experiences, from gin lessons to tastings, to the chance of creating your own gin.
Electric Cinema & Street Art
Always along Portobello Road, on your left, you will find the Electric Cinema. This is one of the oldest working cinemas in Britain dating back to 1910, ideal for a lush and romantic evening at the cinema, where you can also be served food. It is also part of the famous club Soho House.
After the cinema at the cross with Lancaster Road lookup on your right and you will see a beautiful mural depicting a modern geisha by Irish artist Fin Dac. This is part of a collection of modern geishas using pop colours around the eyes as if they were wearing a mask.
Vintage Market and Street Food
Portobello Fashion Market is a vintage market that is open from Fridays to Sundays, where you can find a huge selection of clothes and music stalls.
After the vintage market on your right, you will find another street food market, the Acklam Village Market, open from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm every Saturday (all year) and Sunday (April to September) and offers only vegan food. Next to the Market, there is a huge space with live music, where you can sit and chill.
There are so many more secrets to discover in the area, but we can’t spend the whole day here, so let’s move on to our second alternative destination.
If you wish to go deeper into the culture and history of the area and discover more street art, including a hidden Banksy graffiti, Catman, Dotmaster and Trust.icon, enter historic record shops and hear stories of Bob Marley, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Adele, The Clash and David Bowie in London book into an Unexpected London Notting Hill experience and feel part of the area in a new and authentic way.
Now you can head back towards Notting Hill gate and go from London’s first Afro-Caribbean community (as Notting Hill is where Jamaicans first moved when they arrived in London in the ‘40s, and this is why the Notting Hill Carnival takes place here), to today’s biggest Afro Caribbean Community: Brixton.
AFTERNOON IN BRIXTON
From Notting Hill Gate get the central line to Oxford Circus and then the Victoria Line to Brixton and in 20 minutes you will find yourself in a completely different dimension.
Welcome to Jamaica!
Brixton is an explosion of energy, colours and flavours, a vibrant neighbourhood that offers a wide range of entertainment, local markets and many secret gems.
Saturday is a market day also in Brixton but any day of the week is good to visit the area (apart from Monday afternoon as many places close early).
Arrived at Brixton Station?
Great, let’s start with a couple of murals: David Bowie and Michelle Obama. David Bowie’s mural is in Tunstall Road and was depicted by Jimmy C with the pointillism technique before David Bowie passed away and has become a must-see for any David Bowie’s fun, as Bowie was born a few minutes away from here.
Fan of Michelle Obama? Then head to Dorrel Place and see a 30-foot mural made by Dreph, that marked the launch of her autobiography, ‘Becoming’. This mural is part of a collection of women who have given back to their own community and the artist wants to share his admiration for Michelle Obama for everything she has done for younger generations. As it stands on a very narrow road we’d recommend looking at it from the corner of the road and not standing right in front of it as the perspective is much better.
Brixton Station Road and Pop Brixton
Ok, now you are ready to get into Brixton’s heart and soul and you can start from Brixton Station Road. This is where you will find a selection of stalls with local produce (they vary based on the day of the week). If you are up for some nice Jamaican food you can’t miss out on the one and only Bushman, the oldest Afro-Caribbean take away in Brixton, that was opened 31 years ago.
Walk by the Recreation Centre, where even Mandela once stood with Prince Charles with thousands of people welcoming him. Then head towards Pop Brixton, a village made out of ship containers with local independent businesses and with food from all over the world. Here you often find live music and lots of entertainment too.
Michael John and Village Market
After Pop Brixton, you can walk to the Village Market that is only a few minutes away.
Just before entering the market you will see an impressive mural on your left by Dreph that depicts a Caribbean man wearing an Ethiopian scarf. This is the first mural of Dreph’s “Migration” series. The man in the mural is Michael John, who is a well respected local, who has been looking after the community for over two decades.
During the reopening ceremony of Electric Avenue in October 2016, he was presented with the ‘Keys to Brixton Market’ by the council and Dreph decided to dedicate him a mural to thank him for all he does for the community. He is an incredibly kind man and you might be lucky enough to spot him around the area.
You can now enter the Village market, where you will find many international shops with textiles, home decor, flowers, jewels and many eateries with a huge choice. It covers the majority of cuisines around the world, Chinese, Japanese, French (Senzala Creperie is definitely one of our top choices in Brixton, run by Claudia & Elieser with Brazilian influences), Thai, Mexican and all-day brunches (Burnt Toast Cafe is definitely one of the best for English Breakfast and brunches, served all day long).
Brixton is all about independent businesses, you might see Franco Manca and Honest Burger, the reason for this is because here is where they first opened their restaurants before their huge expansion in London.
Row Market and the Brixton Pound
From the Village Market go to the Row Market, which dates back to 1928 for another selection of eateries and shops.
Here, next to Franco Manca, you can find the world’s first local currency cash machine.
Oh yes, Brixton has even got its own money!
This is part of a mission to support local businesses and boost the local economy, aside from big chains and franchises, showing that a different high street is possible.
On the Brixton pound, you will find the people that have helped shape Brixton into what it is today, from David Bowie to Vincent Van Gogh.
“We are gonna rock down to Electric Avenue”, Eddie Grant used to sing.
Welcome to the first market street to be lit by electricity in the UK in late Victorian times!
Walk down the road and see a huge selection of butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers, as well as African, Caribbean, South American and Asian products. You will also see many wigs and hair product shops around the area.
Music in Brixton
If you are a music fan and love reggae music your three must-go stores in Brixton are Pure Vinyl, run by the one and only Claudia Wilson (who also often organizes jam sessions in the store, especially on a Monday night), Lyon Vibes and Universal Roots Records with the legendary Markie.
If instead, you are up for some live music you can find some fantastic concerts at the celebrated O2 Brixton Academy; for more intimate gigs instead check out Hootananny Brixton, Blues Kitchen and Upstairs at the Ritzy.
At the end of your Brixton itinerary, you can pick where to go and eat amongst the huge choice you have or head to one of the music venues for a live concert.
Should you decide to go deeper under the skin of Brixton we’d recommend seeing the area with our own Savio Los, who will show you many historical murals, as well as introducing you to locals and making you live the Brixton culture and history in a very authentic and unique way.
And for more alternative days in London keep tuned for our next articles and should you have any specific passions or interests let us know and we will consider them for one of our future articles, as travelling is all about who you are, not about standardised itineraries. So make your journey as unforgettable and personal as possible!