Notting Hill Carnival – Our Necessary Guide
Started in 1968 as a way to promote Caribbean identity in the wake of post-war immigration, Notting Hill Carnival quickly ballooned into the country’s biggest festival. Decked out in vibrant costumes, it’s a massive romp of sounds and styles, with dance parties that’ll include reggae, calypso, rumba, as well as house music. Now in its 52nd year, it brings a whopping two million people to deck Notting Hill out in colour, music and revelry—that’s both the UK’s biggest festival and the second largest street party after Rio’s.
The August bank holiday weekend of the 25th-27th, though most events happen on the Sunday and Monday
Sunday: considered the “family day,” this (slightly) less busy day has more child-friendly activities and shows. That said, it’s still a wild one!
Monday: the full extravaganza. There’s going to be over 50 bands and 37 massive sound systems, plus way more people.
On both days the parade starts at 9:30 AM, judging finishes at 6:30 PM, and the music cuts out at 7 PM.
It might be loud, it might be crowded, it might fly in the face of that typical London pragmatism, but there’s simply no better way to see the city’s vibrant multiculturalism in action than Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a celebration of everything that makes London unique. It’s the most fun you’ll have at a free event all year. Bring a hat, lots of water, but leave your inhibitions at the door.
How to Get There
Though it’s in Notting Hill, don’t try to get there using any of the neighbourhood’s stops—the Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park stations will be closed, and Notting Hill Gate will be a nightmare by the late morning. Instead, take the long way there: Queensway, Royal Oak, or Holland Park, or consider Knightsbridge for a more relaxed way through Hyde Park.
The Parade Map:
Some Final Tips:
What to Bring: colourful clothing, water, sunscreen, tissue or sanitiser for the loos, and ear plugs if you have sensitive ears.
What not to Bring: no glass bottles–for safety reasons.
With over 300 food stalls providing the best in Caribbean cuisine—from curried goat, plantains and, of course, jerk chicken—there’s no fear of going hungry.
After the parade there’s going to be a wealth of after parties, so keep an eye and ear out if you want to make your carnival last all night.
No drink speaks to a Caribbean Festival like good rum, so check out our guide to London’s best rum joints for inspiration (one’s even in Notting Hill!)