The history of the world-famous Portobello Road is a fascinating one. Like most of London, its notorieties and origins are surprising, and a great many people from all over the world have contributed to making it what it is today: one of London’s most popular areas of interest.
What’s in a name?
Portobello is an admittedly unusual word, and it has absolutely nothing to do with mushrooms. The road gets its name from a farm which stood on the land in the 18th century when the area was known as Green’s Lane. The farm, which would have been a 40-minute walk from where our Kensington Hotel in London now stands, was named to celebrate the capture of the Spanish-ruled town known as Puerto Bello. This is now in modern-day Panama. Puerto Bello translates to ‘beautiful port’.
Dedicated followers of fashion
With over 150 years of history in one of the most fashion-forward cities in the world, it’s no surprise that Portobello Road has been noted by designers such as Stella McCartney as a huge influence on their work. Londoners come for miles to shop at the Portobello Road vintage market, which has always been a source of inspiration for the movements that have shaped London fashion. Music and fashion often go hand in hand, and that was never more apparent than in ‘70s and ’80s London, where the punk scene was born. A mural to Clash frontman Joe Strummer still adorns a Portobello street wall; a bold tribute to the area’s subversive history.
Portobello pop culture
As one of London’s most famous and diverse areas, Portobello road pops up every now and again in pop culture. From a song and dance number in Disney’s 1971 feature film Bedknobs and Broomsticks to a few shots in 1999’s romantic comedy Notting Hill, the iconic market area has been immortalised in film often. Every August since 1996, film-lovers can attend the Portobello Road Film Festival, which shows and supports work from many independent filmmakers, perfect if you’re looking for things to do close to our hotels near Gloucester Road.
Icons of literature
Portobello Road’s relationship with literature has endured for even longer than film. A variety of ancient texts can still be seen filling its market stalls; it’s so well known for selling weird and wonderful books that it’s the reason the characters of Bedknobs and Broomsticks find themselves here in the first place. The market is definitely a great place to find a holiday read for your stay at our Kensington Hotel in London. Many authors have lived in the houses which line its streets; for example the hustle and bustle of 1920’s Portobello Road is said to have inspired some of George Orwell’s early work.
London is full of fabulous places to grab a bite to eat no matter what your tastes or budget, and Portobello road boasts many of London’s most exciting restaurants. The fresh produce available at Portobello Road Market means that restaurants in the area are well stocked with local ingredients, or you can always grab a few pieces to take home and cook yourself.