This famous market may be oversaturated with tourists (I include myself in that term) but somehow it manages to retain all the beguiling charm that has drawn shoppers for many many years and draws us there still.
Perhaps it’s the lure of being in such a lovely neighborhood, the cloud-dotted blue skies beaming over cheery homes and buildings. Or the street lined as far as the eye can see with stalls stuffed with overpriced trinkets, amongst which must surely be hiding some sort of treasure. Perhaps it’s the global aspect, in which one can encounter people from nearly every corner of the globe, all on one street and sharing in the same purpose.
I remember sighting a first edition John Buchan as I strolled past a bookseller stall, attempting to bargain for it with the owner (this is huge for me as I never bargain. Ever. I have the hardest time doing it!). He refused to come down any in price and I didn’t have the £10 extra he wanted (thanks to a polka-dotted coin purse and a yummy crepe which had caught my eye first). He ended up offering me two other Buchan books for what I could give him, and I was satisfied. After all, they were vintage British editions and still a perfect find from a perfect, typical and yet not so typical tourist experience.
My Portobello Road market tips:
Arrive early. I got there around 8 a.m. on a bright summer morning and the weather was deliciously cool and the streets uncrowded. As the day went on, it got warmer and very crowded.
No need to eat breakfast as the market is full of succulent food stalls. I bought a crepe that was huge and so satisfying that I didn’t need lunch. I think it was only £3.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a price reduction. As stated above, I don’t bargain. But I did ask if the seller would take less and ended up with some good buys even though I didn’t get what I first wanted.
Watch out for junk. Overpriced, useless souvenirs that will be a burden to pack and take home. Look out for truly meaningful items that will bring a smile to your face every time you see it. For me, books are that perfect item. That said, I have heard that treasures can be found here, just know your items and pricing so that you can shop wisely.
No buying is really necessary. If you want to save money, just stroll up and down the street, enjoy the magnificent people-watching opportunity and take in the quintessentially British surroundings.