The Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest street festival of its kind in the whole of Europe. If you’ve never been before, don’t miss the chance to witness this year’s spectacle on the August bank holiday weekend. Book a room in one of our London Hotels early to make sure you’re staying in the capital to join in the festivities.
The highlight of the whole festival is the main Floats Parade that takes place on bank holiday Monday. With an amazing array of colourful costumes, characters, bands and floats, the parade will march through the streets of Notting Hill for most of the day. Beginning at 9am on the Great Western Road, it makes its way along Chepstow Road, to Westbourne Grove before ending up on Ladbroke Grove. For the full carnival experience, join the crowds and follow the parade as it winds its way around.
There will be 40 different Stationary Sound Systems set up around the festival area, where you can listen to a mix of traditional Caribbean music, like Soca and Calypso, as well as contemporary R&B, reggae, house, dub and more. Although the festival officially takes place on Sunday and Monday, Steel Bands compete in the Panorama Steel Band Competition on Saturday, and this is a great chance to hear the best of steel drum playing.
Notting Hill Carnival isn’t just known for its sounds–it’s also famous for its smells. The entire festival area is full of food stalls selling all sorts of Caribbean cooking. The Carnival Village is the place to find the widest selection, from jerk chicken to curried goat to various delicious types of rice and beans.
Sunday, August the 25th is dedicated Children’s Day, so if you’re bringing the family along, this is the day they’ll love most. Help the kids get dressed up in the most creative outfits and they could win special prizes. There’ll be costume parades, children’s play areas, and events and shows aimed towards the whole family.
The Paraiso School of Samba will provide free music and dancing in the Royal Festival Hall. But actually, most of the dancing will be happening out there on the streets, so if you’re wearing your dancing shoes, or just want to watch others who are, station yourself on Ladbroke Grove and feel the ground shake.
After the parade on “Adults’ Day” Bank Holiday Monday, things are only just beginning, as this is when the real partying happens. After Parties are widespread and will keep you up and dancing until the small hours of the morning. If you don’t know any locals, or haven’t scored yourself an invite for the after party of the century, don’t worry. Monday evening is all about making new friends and most people just (politely) wander uninvited into the one that looks the most fun.
If you think the carnival is going to be chaos, just imagine what the traffic is like trying to get there. Public transport is a better bet than attempting to drive, but if you really want to arrive stress-free, walking is by far your best option and gives you a chance to see what’s happening in the streets too.