Notting Hill Carnival guide
Given that an estimated two million people attended last year, Time Out magazine says Notting Hill Carnival totally deserves its reputation as Europe’s biggest street festival. The annual event is a vivid and thrilling spectacle that celebrates and showcases London’s rich, varied and magnificent multicultural past and present. And for any party lovers, the Carnival weekend is a vital date in the calendar.
The sheer size and excitement of Carnival can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure of exactly what you should be doing. So, to get totally prepared and ready for the celebrations.
What is Notting Hill Carnival?
A yearly celebration of London’s Caribbean communities, their culture and traditions, which has been taking place since 1966. The Carnival takes places over two days and features a parade and fantastic live music, including reggae, dub and salsa. There are also 37 static sound systems, soca floats, steel bands and a whole lot of delicious Caribbean food.
Where does Notting Hill Carnival take place?
The Carnival spreads throughout W10 in West London, with celebrations taking over the areas of Notting Hill (obvs), Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. The main parade begins on Great Western Road, moving its way along Chepstow Road, before leading on to Westbourne Grove. It then travels down Ladbroke Grove.
When does Notting Hill Carnival take place?
Traditionally, the Carnival takes place on the bank holiday weekend at the end of August. In 2018, the dates of the festivities are 26-27 August. The timings of the parade, which takes place on both days, will be announced closer to the time.
What's the best way to get there?
Travel in the area is usually very disrupted over Carnival. It’s worth consulting with our travel guide before you set off so you know how best to plan for your arrival and departure. Keep updated with TFL, too.
Should I take the kids to Carnival?
Lots of people take their kids to Carnival, especially on Sunday’s ‘Family Day’, which is traditionally a little quieter than Monday’s party. Of course, it's worth preparing your day so that you and your little ones can have the best time possible. We’d recommend arriving early to beat the crowds and definitely bring travel potties where appropriate, as the queues for the toilets can be unforgivingly long. Similarly, pack snacks and water to avoid hanging around, because as you probably know kids and queues don't often make good bedfellows. While mobile signal can get a little congested due to the sheer amount of people. it's definitely worth writing your mobile number on your child's arm so that if you do get separated they can contact you.
Here's a quick checklist if you’re going with kids:
1. Visit on Sunday or ‘Family Day’. It’s still busy (and noisy), but it’s much more kid-friendly than the main parade on Monday.
2. Beat the crowds and arrive early to get a good and comfortable spot.
3. Bring ear defenders for you little kids as things can get pretty loud.
4. Check your travel route! See which stations are closed and how best to plan your arrival and your return journey. See our travel guide and keep updated with TFL.
5. Bring travel potties for very young children, as portable toilets will have huge queues.
6. Bring easily transportable food and water for your kids (and yourself, to be honest), just in case you struggle to buy anything while you're there.