Notting HillThe neighborhood now known as Notting Hill was previously an industrial area for piggeries (large open fenced-in areas of nasty pig raising and slaughtering) and pottery makers, with a massive lake of pig "run off" (we know what that really means), making this a very difficult area to live then.
It was considered rural (which is mind boggling given the sprawl of London today) until about 1820 when an individual named James Weller Ladbroke bought up a lot of it and started plotting it out for housing and a horse race course.
The race course failed, as did his dreams for many rich families to move to the area, but it did become quite a large upper middle class suburb and the markets started to move in (which is now the reason one goes here).
After the early 1900s and the introduction of mandatory pay and taxation on pay for servants, many of the middle class gave up their homes, which were split into smaller sections, becoming tenements and the incoming immigrants from the West Indies were driven into the area by social and economic pressures from the rest of London. This consolidation led to racial tensions as the skinheads in the area found them an easy target and there were several riots and murders in the 1950s through 1970s.
In the early 1970s they built a highway through the slums, razing them, and the area began to gentrify. Houses that used to go for 10,000 pounds now go for millions. Many of the West Indies populace was dislocated but they still hold a fabulous Carnival every year celebrating their time and influence.
Now the home of Bohemian rich and endless rows of eclectic shops that have grown from the markets that never left the area once founded, it's an astounding way to spend a Saturday (the day with the most open shops) or a Friday (the 2nd most popular day), relieving you of quite a few of those pounds in your pocket.
The Arrival - Notting Hill Gate TubeTook the underground Central Line to the Notting Hill Gate Tube station. I found this the easiest way to get there during my travels. There are plenty of signs pointing you towards Portobello Road, which is the focus of the market (but not the only place to see). The signs will guide you on the correct exit to take of the 4 available from the Tube station.
Portobello RoadThis is really a middle-class experience, the rich or the poor don't really seem to participate in it. It's probably a First World type protected experience, but I'm not here to judge. It's a very interesting and awesome place to get necessities and non-necessities alike.
It is broken into areas (as shown below) of Antiques, Farmers Market, Fruit Market, Rare Goods, Street Food (this was severely limited during my visit) and the area for real potential bargains, the Flea Market.
SummaryFree to see, and odds are you're going to find things you want. The hard part is figuring out how to get them home. Generally the answer to this is "in luggage" (they sell used pieces there also).
Saturday is the main event, Friday is the runner up. The other days, I wouldn't bother unless you have immutable plans already on the weekend, and if you do, change them.
This can become a sea of people and drivers who are trying to traverse the area get a little annoyed, so... steer clear of them! Everything supposedly starts at 9am, but I'm saying it doesn't really get going until 10 or 10:30, so time accordingly.