Notting Hill Carnival takes to the streets of west London just once a year, so here’s everything you need to know if you’re going to do it properly.
Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest street party in Europe, attracting over two million visitors every year. This year, Carnival is celebrating its 69th anniversary, and everyone will be partying harder than ever before. So, whether you’re a seasoned Carnivanimal or you’re heading there for the first time, here’s the ultimate guide to when, where and what the hell is going on at Notting Hill Carnival.
When is Carnival?
Notting Hill Carnival takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, on Sunday 26th and Monday 27th August. Festivities officially start at around 10am on both days, and music will be blaring until 7pm when, due to a strict curfew, the noise has to stop. (Not to worry, there will be a ton of after parties in the area.)
Where is Carnival?
Notting Hill Carnival will take over W10, spanning across Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. The parade is three and half miles long, and you can track it via the shiny new Notting Hill Carnival 2018 app, available on both Apple and Android. You’ll also find a parade route map over on their website.
Which day should I go?
This really depends on what kind of vibe you’re after. Sunday, as always, is Family Day, so it’s a bit more relaxed. Monday, on the other hand, is for the hardcore party people. Here’s what to expect:
Saturday 25th August
Although Carnival officially starts on Sunday, things will kick off on Saturday evening at Panorama, the UK’s largest steel band competition. This takes place at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park on Bosworth Road from 6pm until 11pm. Tickets cost £5 and we recommend buying them in advance.
Sunday 26th August
The morning will start with J’Ouvert (a word stemming from the French ‘jour ouvert’ meaning ‘opening of the day’), which is Carnival’s best kept secret. It’s the first parade of the weekend, starting at 6am (yes, really) and finishing at around 9am. That’s about when the Children’s Parade will begin – featuring bright costumes, steel bands and sound systems – before everything comes to a halt at around 8.30pm. Meanwhile, in Powis Square, the World Music Stage will be putting on a whole range of performances, including calypso and soca from the Association of British Calypsonians. (Check the app for lineup announcements and stage times.)
Monday 27th August
Monday is when the party really starts. The parade will be prancing about all day, so grab a spot along the street (if that’s your plan, make sure you arrive early) or chase the route. There’ll be plenty of Sound Systems dotted about the streets, too, which is where most of the dancing will take place – check the app for their exact locations. Live music will also be playing all day, from 12pm–7pm, in both Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park and Powis Square. (Again, check the app for lineup announcements and stage times.)
? There will also be a 72 second silence on both Sunday and Monday at 3pm, as a tribute to the victims of the Grenfell fire. Carnival goers are all encouraged to wear something green to reflect peace, love and unity. ?
How to get to Notting Hill Carnival
? By tube
Nearby stations, including Notting Hill Gate* and Westbourne Park and Royal Oak, are likely to be very busy during Carnival. You are advised to check TfL’s Twitter accounts on the day for live updates, as these stations are liable to sudden, though temporary, closure. Ladbroke Grove will be closed on both days. The nearest stations that aren’t as likely to be affected by major disruption are Bayswater and Paddington, Holland Park and Latimer Road (but, again, check TfL’s website for updates as some of these may be – or become – exit-only).
*District and Circle line trains will not stop at Notting Hill Gate between 11am–7pm on Sunday or Monday.
? By bus
TfL will be running extra services on routes 2 and 36, but no services will enter the carnival area on Sunday or Monday (they will continue from the first service on Tuesday morning). On Sunday and Monday, buses will start from both Notting Hill Gate and The Prince of Wales on Harrow Road. Night buses are also subject to disruption. It’s always best to keep an eye of TfL’s website for the latest information.
? By car
A lot of roads will close for the weekend, from as early as 7am on Saturday 25th August until the morning of the 28th (Tuesday). These are: all the roads extending north from Notting Hill Gate to Harrow Road, and from Latimer Road, St Mark’s Road and Clarendon Road in the east, to Porchester Road and Queensway in the west. These roads will reopen on Tuesday morning, as soon as it is deemed safe. Kensal Road (along with its adjoining roads) will also be closed from midday on Saturday 25th August, but will reopen on Saturday night as soon as it is deemed safe enough.
What and where can I eat?
One thing’s for sure, Carnival ain’t short of jerk chicken. (Rumour has it, they shifted five tons of the stuff last year.) But, if you wander about the streets, you’ll also find classics such as curried goat, fried plantain and rice and peas.
Your go-to drink for the day will most likely be Red Stripe or, of course, rum. There’ll also be plenty of coconut water about if you’re gasping for some hydration sans the booze.
What should I bring?
Rain or shine, you should always come prepared.
- Top of the list: a funky outfit. Glitter, sequins… it’s quite literally your time to shine.
- Bring plenty of water as there may not always be shops that are open (or that have any left in stock).
- Cash for street-side Red Stripe and rum punch.
- Suncream, raincoats, a jumper… all the things your mum would tell you to bring.
- Wet wipes might be a good idea. Jerk chicken + no running water = unhappiness.
- Also, tissues. You’re likely to be using a portaloo all day and, if you’ve ever been to a festival before, you’ll know that they run out of toilet roll faster than you can say “drip dry”.