Portobello Market is a must see on any trip to London. Even though I am a true lover of antiques, there is much more to Portobello Market than just antiques. Read my article on Buying Antiques In England. So after you finish your antique shopping, venture on down to the other markets.
Portobello Market, Last of the Major Antique Markets
Unfortunately, the Portobello Market is about the last survivor of the major London antique markets. Camden Passage and Bermondsey are just a shadow of their former glory because of new construction. But, thank goodness, Portobello Market is still a fun place to be. Let me warn you, if you are one that hate crowds, this may not be the place for you. But I am one that just loves the hustle and bustle of London.
Speaking of crowds, when is the best time to arrive at the antique market. Many of the guides tell you to arrive very early on Saturday morningto get the best selections. So on our first trip we got up at the crack of dawn and arrived just after 6 AM. Big mistake, the whole place was nearly empty. A better time would be around 8AM, and even a little later would be OK. It really starts getting crowded between 10:00 and 11:00. They start shutting down about 4:00. The street vendors and many of the indoor markets are open only on Saturday, but there are some shops open daily.
What Can You Find at Portobello Market
Maybe a better question would be, “What can’t you find at Portobello Market?” You can find a little bit of everything at this famous market. But like everything in London, be careful about the prices. They can be higher here than other places. Having said that, I have made some great buys here that I have done well when reselling them. You will also see some things here that you probably will see no where else. A good example of this is something I just love to look at, because I have never been able to afford to buy one. That is antique tortoise shell tea caddies. There is a store here that specializes in them. I don’t remember how many they had in that store, but the quality of these caddies were unbelievable. Yes, it is illegal to bring tortoise shell items back to the US. But this store can actually get you a certificate to bring them into the States legally. It is rather expensive and it takes a week or longer to get it done. Their prices are expensive, but their caddies are fabulous.
Be sure you know what is legal and not legal to bring with you back to the US and get through customs. Ignorance is no excuse and they will confiscate items that are illegal, even if you paid $5000 for a tortoise shell box. Many of the dealers will not tell you that an item is illegal to take back to the states.
You can find nearly any antique or collectible at the Portobello Market. And bartering over prices is encouraged. Like with any antique shopping, know what you are looking at. Some dealers will mix in new and repro items with the old ones, this is especially true with jewelry. So let the buyer beware. Some of the dealers that I buy form at my tow favorite shows also set up here. We usually come here on our last day in country, so it is mainly just a fun outing.
I love the food here. There are some good street vendors and also some great places to sit down and have lunch, or just a coffee and a snack. I always try to experience the food anywhere we go. To me that is part of the fun of traveling. I don’t understand people who will not at least try some of the local favorites.
I mentioned earlier some of the other markets that are part of this giant market, one of the most famous street markets in the world. The movie, Notting Hill, even made Portobello Market even more famous. There is a food market, full of vegetables and fruits, they will surely test you. But again, don’t try to bring them back with you. There is also a clothing market with both new and second hand clothing.
If you want to know how to get to Portobello Market, of course any cab driver will know how to get there. But by tube, if you want to start with the antique market, the closest tube stop is Notting Hill Gate Station, and then follow the crowds. If you are early, there are some signs pointing the way, but you have to be careful to spot them. On the way you will pass a Starbucks and get a great glass of iced tea, something hard to find in England. They like their tea hot and not cold.
We love to come here just for the experience and atmosphere, and the good food. You can usually find better buys outside of London. But sometimes, travelers are here for only a few days and don’t have time to shop outside of London. But don’t forget their excellent train system here. You can take a day trip to many places to shop for the day. Some even hop on the train and take the Chunnel to Paris for a days shopping. For other shopping tips, see other articles on Buying and Selling Antiques. Next time you are in London on a Saturday, check out the Portobello Market.