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Everything You Need to Know About Notting Hill Carnival

by Laura M

If you’ve never attended Notting Hill Carnival, you’re in for a treat. The three-day London carnival is an attraction in itself, with over one million people hitting the streets for a massive neighbourhood party over the Bank Holiday weekend. Here’s what you need to know about Europe’s largest outdoor festival.

If you’re looking for things to do in Notting Hill the last weekend in August, there’s only one thing that should be on your list – carnival! Before reaching your destination, you’ll be greeted by a sea of cheerful people of all ages ready to take on carnival. Spectators cheer on the dancing mass bands decked out in vividly-coloured costumes as they hype up the audience. Floats decorated with paint, sparkling glitter and bold feathers drive through while moving their bodies to upbeat soca music. Attendees take to the side streets to join in on the fun and dance to steel bands playing calypso as the air is filled with the sounds of people everywhere you turn.

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History of Notting Hill Carnival

Londoners have been celebrating Notting Hill Carnival, an inclusive, community-led celebration that pays homage to Caribbean culture, art and music since 1966 when it was first organised by Rhaune Laslett, a resident looking to promote diversity in the area. But back then, it was a mere walk that attracted approximately 500 people. Fast forward to today, and the cultural event has over 70 performing stages, 10 steel bands, a whooping 15,000 costumes and so much more. It’s safe to say that the carnival has become an iconic part of summertime in London.

Notting Hill Carnival Dates

Notting Hill Carnival 2022 was a vibe but this year’s celebration is bound to be even better!  The festival will kick off on Sunday, 27 August and wrap up on Monday, 28 August. The show starts roughly around 10:30 and shuts down at 7 pm due to the noise curfew – the festival takes place in a residential area!

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What can one expect?

While many people visit the carnival throughout the weekend, Monday is undoubtedly the busiest and most popular day. As Sunday is considered a family day, with a range of shows catering to families, it also tends to be slightly calmer. A children’s carnival also takes place with its own family-friendly children’s parade. On Monday, on the other hand, the party is on, with floats taking to the streets with millions of people devotedly following behind while soaking up the joyous atmosphere.

Is Notting Hill Carnival free?

Yes, it’s completely free to attend the street party, but if you’re planning on going to an after-party, chances are you’ll have to pay unless you end up at a house party.

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How to get to Notting Hill Carnival

By now, you should have a good understanding that the festival gets busy, so you should expect to run into large groups of people taking different routes to get there. The London tube map is overwhelming, but we’re here to help! To head to West London, take the central line (red line) to Notting Hill Gate Station, Bayswater Station, Ladbroke Grove Station or Westbourne Park Station, and walk towards the festival area.

How long is the Notting Hill Carnival parade route?

The carnival route is 3.5 miles long, and you can choose to walk the entire path or jump in wherever you’d like.

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Will there be food at the carnival?

Around 300 food stalls are present at the carnival providing attendees with a range of food to grub on. Whether you’re craving some jerk chicken with plantains or a mouth-watering oxtail stew with rice and peas, you’ll be able to take a break from the fun and enjoy Caribbean delicacies in the sun.

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10 Things to know before visiting Notting Hill Carnival

Wear comfy shoes

There will be a lot of walking even if you don’t plan on walking the whole route, and you’ll find yourself making frequent stops due to large crowds. And as with any festival, you can expect to find broken glass here or there that someone dropped, so if possible, avoid open-toe sandals and stick to light shoes.

Pick a meeting point ahead of time

Did I mention that it gets busy? Anything can happen that weekend – you might even experience a London tube strike. To avoid losing your friends, aim to go together or meet at a designated meeting point by the station of your choice. It will be far more difficult to locate them once you’ve reached the festival area. With mobile phones often losing service, there’s a big chance that your calls and messages won’t reach them.

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Don’t forget about your sunscreen

Notting Hill Carnival tends to be fortunate enough to have great weather during the Bank Holiday weekend. The beaming sun will leave you with sun-kissed skin! Protect it by carrying sunscreen, as you’ll be out for hours or until the wee hours of the morning if you’re an afterparty type of person. Just remember, night tubes in London only run on the weekends and do not apply to all lines.

Plan your journey but expect travel changes

Tube stations can sometimes close temporarily to avoid overcrowding. Be sure to check your travel journey before getting on the train – you might need to find another route.

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Bring wet wipes and hand sanitiser

You’ll touch a variety of things, and after a while, you might want to freshen up. Wet wipes are your friend, but if you’re out of it, at least bring your sanitiser.

Dress up!

Notting Hill Carnival is a party! Before even reaching the festival area, you’ll quickly realise that nothing is too much for this jovial celebration. Bring out your most colourful pieces of clothing and enjoy the party in style!

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Stay hydrated – bring water

We don’t want you to be dehydrated during carnival! Bring bottled water to quench your thirst as you’re absorbing the heat.

Carry cash

Bring as much cash as you think you’ll need for your visit to avoid the long queues at cash points. Many vendors have accepted cash payments in the past, but the effect of Covid might result in a different outcome. Either way, carry some cash as they might come to use.

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Buy your alcohol beforehand

Vendors around the festival area sell alcohol, but the best place to get your favourite drink is at any supermarket near the station. It will be cheaper as you can purchase a bottle of your choice as opposed to a single drink from a stall. Going to the store also means you’ll get to avoid the long queues by the festival area.

Use the toilet before getting to the festival area

Portaloos are placed around the festival area, but the queues are often long! We recommend leaving the festival area to find a coffee shop that will allow you to use their toilet. You sometimes find residents who allow attendees to use their toilets for a fee.

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