Notting Hill Carnival, London’s most anticipated summer event, returns to West London this year from the 25th to the 27th August. Expect colourful costumes, music pouring out of around forty huge speakers, food stalls, floats and some pretty epic dancing.
Europe’s Biggest Carnival
Proudly holding the title of ‘largest carnival in Europe’ the event attracts thousands of people from all over the world.
The Carnival, which dates back to 1966, grew out of two separate events; the first a hippy festival which was the first organised street party in the area, and the second a Caribbean carnival that was initially held at St Pancras Town hall in 1959 following the Notting Hill Race Riots. The two were merged together to show cultural unity in the heart of London.
The Carnival plays out over two days, bringing the streets of Notting Hill to life with the sounds of reggae, dub and salsa blasting out of 37 sound systems, along with plenty of steel bands thrown in for good measure! Floats glide along and dancers in flamboyant outfits shimmy along the streets.
Join the 3 Day Party!
The festival takes place over 3 days, with each day having a slightly different feel to it. Whether you’re looking for a chilled time or a party vibe, there should be a day to suit you.
Panorama – Saturday 25 August
The festival warms up on Saturday evening at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park (Bosworth Road W10). With a steel band competition and lots of Caribbean-themed outdoor entertainment and street food to enjoy, this is a great way to get a taste of the festival before experiencing the rest of the festival – which can be quite intense! Entry is free and things will be happening from 6pm – 10pm.
J’Ouvert and Children’s Day – Sunday 26 August
The Sunday of the festival is a family focused day, but no less spectacular. If you’re an early bird then you’ll want to head down to the traditional Caribbean carnival opening J’Ouvert. Starting at 6am, Carnival revellers wind through the street covered in mud and colourful paint. Spectators are encouraged to join in with the parade, jiving along the streets to African drums or steel bands. The procession kicks off and ends at Canal Way (Ladbroke Grove W10).
Later on the Sunday is Children’s Day (or the Sunday Parade) which has a slightly more chilled feel to it than Monday’s festivities. Young performers take to the streets, dancing and swirling to show off their elaborate costumes. Live music will be happening on the stage at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance park and Powis Square and there’ll be a range of delicious food offerings and family friendly activities.
Grand Finale – Monday 27 August
This is where the party really happens! The proceedings really liven up from mid-morning when the massive crowds start pouring in from all over London and further afield to celebrate the culmination of Europe’s biggest street party. Eighty groups of street performers will shake and wiggle their way through the buzzing streets of Notting Hill with mobile sound systems and street bands in tow. If you’re hungry after all the dancing you’ve likely been doing then there’s no shortage of food stalls where you can grab some traditional Caribbean grub, or just a hot dog if you’re playing it safe!
If you want to carry on the party into the small hours, then there’s also a whole load of pubs, bars and clubs putting on after parties. Some of these are ticketed so it’s worth checking on this beforehand.
Top Tips for having the best day
Check your route
Make sure you plan your journey to the carnival ahead of time as the area will be extremely busy and some tubes may be closed around the festival site. Extra buses will be running for festival goers. Check the festival website for further details on your best route to Notting Hill.
Pack the essentials
There’s a whole lot going on at Notting Hill Carnival so it’s best to be prepared for every eventuality. Pack tissues in case the portaloo has run out, bring plenty of water to keep hydrated after hours of dancing! Grab one of the carnival route maps so you can find your way round and avoid any closed roads. And of course, suncream and sunglasses if the British weather gods bless us with sunshine!
Tuck into Caribbean Cuisine
You’ll never be far from the delicious smells of smoking barbecue at Notting Hill Carnival. Embrace the experience and tuck into a traditional jerk chicken and rice (just go easy on the hot sauce if spicy is not really your thing!) Other flavourful dishes on offer include goat curry, ackee and salt fish. For the veggies keep an eye out for vegetarian patties, curries and chips. Our mouths are watering already …
Plan a meeting spot
Notting Hill carnival can get very busy. If you’re meeting friends, plan to meet somewhere else and travel to Notting Hill together as it can be difficult to find people once you’re there. Keep your mobile phone handy in case you lose friends, or in case of an emergency.
As with any big event, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and keep your wits about you. Keep your valuables safe as pickpockets will be operating in the area. Steer well clear of any streets that seem over-crowded or congested. Lastly, whilst it’s tempting to get into the party spirit with lots of booze, keep your sensible head on and drink in moderation and drink plenty of water in between your pints!
Planning your trip to London for Carnival?
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