A Vintage Lover’s Guide to Portobello Road

by Robin Turnipseed

Nothing is sweeter than a childhood dream coming to fruition. No matter the length of time that stretches between the formation of the goal and the achievement, the excitement level is still as significant, and the celebration just as grand. I experienced the excitement of crossing a childhood dream off my list this past week when my husband and I spent a whirlwind weekend in London. From the moment we decided to venture across the pond, I knew of the one place I longed to visit: Portobello Road. Portobello Road is a street near the Nottinghill neighborhood of London, which touts itself as the world’s largest antique market. That description alone would be enough to persuade me, but a different reason lay behind my eagerness to walk this well-known London street.  

A Disney Classic

Every Friday night of my childhood included a trip to our local video store. I poured over every item in the children’s section before handing my father the same movie I had chosen the week prior. My choice, the 1974 Disney classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks, stars a young Angela Lansbury and Ian Weighill and centers around a magical bedknob that enables a bed to fly. One of the first places the bed lands is on Portobello Road early morning as the vendors set up their wares.

The feature wouldn’t be a Disney classic without a song and dance number, so the gifted Sherman Brothers crafted one specifically for this location. For reasons unknown, my little brain locked in on that simple song about a magical road and added it to my “places to visit” list. So when the idea for a quick trip to London materialized, I prioritized visiting this market. 

A Final Note on Old Dreams

The Saturday of our visit, which began with rain, eventually became warm and pleasant, bathing the entire street in rainbows once the sun appeared. As I bounded from shop to shop, conversing with owners and soaking in the joy of a childhood dream realized, I had a thought: significant value lies in children witnessing their mother seek after her goals and aspirations. I want my children to carry the memory of a mother who not only encouraged them to chase their dreams fearlessly but also ran full force after hers as well.

Finally, if ever in London, head to Portobello Road to check out all the excitement. It can be overwhelming, so here’s a brief overview of each shop we visited and all we discovered.

A Vintage Lovers’ Guide to Portobello Road

Goldsmith Vintage contains quite an eclectic array of goods. Everything from retro jerseys, aged leather, fur, sunglasses, athletic shoes, and brightly patterned shirts all hang from hangers and wait patiently on tables to greet you.

Loot Vintage carries an assortment of timeless gowns and delicate slip dresses mixed in with traditional trench coats and wool blazers. The front-window display alone is enough to pique anyone’s interest. 

House of Retro proved my favoriteoffering colorful costume jewelry, classic designer handbags, playful berets, tulle skirts, lace dresses, and wild-patterned silk blouses. 

Monsoon Vintage offers a collector all the retro dresses they could ever desire, and don’t forget to venture downstairs for an array of old-school athletic shoes and boots. Do not worry about missing this unique shop. It’s painted bright orange and dominates the prominent corner of the famed road. Fun Fact: This shop started as a stall, or tent, in the primary market and now created a pop-up shop to celebrate its 50th anniversary!

Portobello Road Market is just a short walk down from the brick-and-mortar stores and is where you will find tent after tent filled with merchants selling all types of antiques. Be prepared for a variety of displays. Every booth reveals differing personalities in their set-up styles. My eyes pursued neatly organized tables of vintage sunglasses and pristinely sorted and arranged rings. At the same time, a glance to my left revealed exhibits that would require digging to find a treasure. 

At the market, expect to find a little bit of everything. These retailers sell anything from baskets, rugs, fabrics, dishes, scarves, porcelain dolls, the softest cashmere pieces, tea sets, brass kettles and cookware, totes, cameo pins, and antique cameras. I am not even touching the copious amounts of vinyl! I will honestly tell you that I mournfully retreated from a booth featuring nothing but classic records once I realized my suitcase lacked adequate space for all I wanted to bring home. I may still be grieving. Lesson learned. Next time, I will carry a spare bag.

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