London Things to Do Tips by TheWanderingCamel
London Things to Do: 8,853 reviews and 14,858 photos
That'll be 3 quid, guv.
Carnaby Street, theatres, restaurants, pubs and clubs - these are the things that bring tourists to Soho - a maze of narrow streets bounded by Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Regent Street. Once known as London's sleaze and vice centre , nowadays the area is at the forefront of the city's television production, magazine publishing, and the funky side of fashion. Thankfully, it still retains its air of raffish charm and individuality with scores of independent shops, small cafes and restaurants and plenty of pubs. It's here that you'll find central London's only surviving fruit and vegetable market, open daily and still selling the freshest and cheapest produce to be had in the West End. As well as fruit, flowers and vegetables there's fish, bread and cheese to be had along with herbs and spices, fabrics and cheap household goods. Established in 1839 and still going strong, although much reduced in size, it's a taste of bygone London that the stall holders cherish as they joke with their customers in time-honoured London costermonger style.
Along with the market, Berwick Street was once just about kerb-to-kerb fabric shops, most of which have long disappeared in the face of cheap High Street fashions and today the few fabric and trimmings shops that remain are neighbors to music stores and good second-hand record shops - this is the place to come to look for that rare vinyl - a Japanese supermarket, and other small and quirky shops.
It's also where you'll find Flat White, home to what many see as the best coffee in London and one of the few places to serve a true Antipodean-style coffee.
Address: Berwick Street, London W1
Nearest tube stop - Tottenham Court Road
I've been visiting Portobello Road for more than 30 years now and, although it has changed a lot over that time, every Saturday morning that I'm in London finds me heading down the Road for a browse among the antique stalls, a coffee at 11 with a group of 'Road regulars for a "show and tell" session of their latest finds and a visit to the Travel Bookshop and Books for Cooks in Blenheim Crescent. Coming to the end of the antique section of the market we'll stop for a purchase of some fruit from a favourite stall holder and then it's time for lunch - what will it be? Something from one of the many street stalls that have sprung up in the last few years, a walk around to Ottolenghi's or a pub? Portobello Gold is one of our favourites, both for their good food and the gorgeous conservatory you eat it in.
So that's my Portobello Road experience, a ritual that has developed over many years. What brings the hordes that throng the Road every Saturday?
Hundreds of antique dealers operate in and around Portobello Road, selling their treasures (and some trash) out of everything from street barrows to some very posh shops indeed. Doorways on the street open into warrens of arcades crammed with small shops. Rickety stairs in some of them lead to basements and upper floors and more shops. Size and location is no indicator of quality - the funniest little stall in a tucked away corner can be selling exquisite porcelain or perfect small "objets de virtu" - the catch-all name for the precious trinkets of a by-gone age. Silver, jewellery, books, maps, prints, textiles, furniture, clocks, there is something for everyone here
Out on the Road, things are more mixed as more and more barrows are taken over by general bric-a-brac stalls, pashmina sellers, CDs and other odds and ends. There are still some genuine dealers out on the Road though, so don't dismiss it all as junk.
Don't just stay up in the antique end of the Road however. Once you've had your fill of antiques, keep on walking to the produce end with its colourful fruit, vegetable and flower stalls. Venture into some of the side streets too - Blenheim Crescent has some fabulous food shops as well as those bookshops I mentioned and Westbourne Grove is another great street with some of London's trendiest shops. There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants too - it's impossible to list them all, Notting Hill could qualify for its own dedicated site here on VT.
If you're a serious antique shopper, come early - especially on a fine day. The Road can get impossibly crowded.
The antique section of the market - including the shops in the arcades - is only open on Saturday. Everything else is open all week, though the food market has half-day closing on Thursday afternoon.
Address: Notting Hill, W11
Take the tube or the bus to Notting Hill Gate and follow the crowds.
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