So, if you’re considering coming to London for a short break and staying in the salubrious environs around Hyde Park (perhaps at accommodation such as the Grand Royale hotel London?), then you simply must take the time and effort to explore the districts that are Bayswater and Notting Hill, both of which would be on your doorstep…
Brimming with beautiful stuccoed terraces, chic flats and squares full of greenery, Bayswater was, surprisingly, considered the ‘wrong side’ of Hyde Park for many years – at least by those who lived on the other side in Knightsbridge and Kensington. Today, though, that’s far more of a parity, with Bayswater’s property looked on as highly desirable and the area as whole then hugely aspirational for many.
Its rather louche status stood in contrast to the illustrious likes of J. M. Barrie and Winston Churchill calling it home, but somewhat shady it was in the mid-20th Century with ladies of the night working Bayswater Road and notorious society osteopath Stephen Ward kicking off the political scandal that rocked a government when in an Orme Street flat in 1961 he introduced the then Secretary of State for War John Profumo to Christine Keeler, a mistress of a Soviet naval attaché (i.e. a Soviet spy).
But none of that seediness is anymore; it’s more than a pleasure to stretch your legs and walk about Bayswater – not least as the gloriously charming and family-friendly greenery of Kensington Gardens is just the other side of a long stone wall on Bayswater’s southern side.
Lying due west of Bayswater is the richly intriguing and ethnically diverse district of Notting Hill. Most famous perhaps for two things, the Carnival that winds its way around the area’s streets every August Bank Holiday weekend (featuring as it does so much vibrancy, colour and noise and driven by the district’s West Indian, Latin American and Asian communities) and, of course, 1999’s blockbuster romcom movie, Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, which was primarily set in Portobello Road and, at the turn of the millennium, inevitably helped the immediate area’s property prices zoom through the stratosphere.
Then, of course, there’s the well-known Portobello Road Market; a mainstay of this one-time non-trendy, primarily working class area and, nowadays, one of the best markets in all of London. The top end of its long, stretching line of numerous stalls focuses on antique emporia; especially appealing to serious collectors. Beyond this you’ll come across all the vegetable stalls and beyond them lie the wares of all the vendors looking to shift vintage goods (records, clothes, jewellery, shoes and handbags and so on) – many a bargain to be found here, no doubt!
Trendy outlets abound in the area now, what with Portobello Green serving up Sasti (handmade kid’s clothes), Poppy Valentine (bags and vintage fabrics), What Katy Did (vintage lingerie) and Roly’s Café (an ice cream emporium), while on Westbourne Park Road you’ll discover The Cow, the Victorian gastropub run by celebrated chef Tom Conran; one of the many excellent restaurants near Bayswater. And, finally, why not check out the nearby Kensal Green Cemetery? For here – one of the capital’s seven 19th Century burial grounds – are buried both the literary greats William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope and Charles Blondin (who he? He crossed the 1,100 ft Niagara Falls Gorge on a tightrope and ended his days in the West London suburb of Ealing).