Hidden amongst London’s most bustling neighbourhoods are quaint village-like pockets which bring the tranquillity of the countryside to the capital. With pastel-coloured townhouses, rustic pubs, dreamy bookshops and verdant, flower-filled parks, these picturesque enclaves have all the charm of a British village just a couple of roads from some of the city’s busiest districts. From Notting Hill and Little Venice to Highgate and Primrose Hill, here are our favourite pocket villages in London.
Achieving worldwide fame in 1999 thanks to the movie Notting Hill, this colourful area of west London is known for its pastel houses, high-end boutiques, elegant eateries and weekly antiques market. While millions of tourists have come here to follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill has managed to hold onto its charming character despite its fame. Running through the middle of the ‘village’ is Portobello Road, which is flanked by stylish bars, restaurants and boutiques selling antiques, vintage wares and souvenirs. Visit on a Saturday to enjoy the buzz of the Portobello Road Market, one of the world’s largest and most famous antiques markets.
When it comes to picturesque villages in London, few are more photogenic than Little Venice. The neighbourhood is set along Regent’s Canal, which is usually filled with colourful houseboats. Overlooking the river are pretty houses, bars, restaurants and gardens, while bobbing on the surface of the water is a floating café and a puppet theatre. As Little Venice is so close to Maida Vale, home of the famous Maida Vale studios, the peaceful waterside village has long been a favourite of musicians – singers such as Robbie Williams, Noel Gallagher and Björk have all bought houses here.
An upscale neighbourhood surrounding a hilltop park, Primrose Hill is one of the trendiest villages in London. In the ’90s, it was home to celebrities including Jude Law and Kate Moss; nowadays, it’s noticeably calmer but just as desirable. Rows of millionaires’ mansions (owned by the likes of Jamie Oliver) surround the park, and from its grassy pinnacle visitors can discover some of the best panoramic views of the capital. Back at ground level, the Regent’s Park Road area is filled with trendy eateries, independent art galleries and upscale boutiques.
Chelsea is an affluent area that has been highly coveted for hundreds of years, long before the television show Made in Chelsea hit the country’s screens. The neighbourhood, which borders the River Thames, is notoriously exclusive and features rows of magnificent white townhouses and a magnitude of excellent restaurants and bars. As the former heart of the swinging sixties, it’s also full of shopping potential.
If you have the time to venture north, make sure to visit Highgate. The stunning hilltop neighbourhood is filled with quintessential English cafés, historic pubs, gorgeous parks and giant mansions owned by affluent Londoners such as Sting and the late George Michael. Highgate also houses one of England’s most picturesque burial places, Highgate Cemetery, where hundreds of influential people have been laid to rest. Far from spooky or macabre, the grade I-listed site is a beautiful nature reserve with some of the finest funerary architecture in the country.