Notting Hill Carnival London – Complete Parade Guide & Route

When you think of Notting Hill, the classic movie probably springs to mind but did you know that Notting Hill is also famous for its incredible carnival?

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Notting Hill Carnival London

Is it your first time in London or have you lived there your whole life? Maybe you happen to find yourself there over the bank holiday weekend where the Notting Hill Carnival will be happening.

If you aren’t sure what it is or what you need to know about it, you’ve come to the right place.

The Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, is one of the must-do experiences if you are able to attend.

It’s a chance to celebrate African-Caribbean heritage, and if you are an avid carnival goer, this will be a bucket list event for you to attend.

Notting Hill Carnival London Guide

If it is your first time in London, here are a few London travel tips to get you up to speed on anything you might need to know before visiting.

Notting Hill Carnival Parade: The Need-to-Knows

As one of the main things to do over the summer Bank Holiday is August, the Notting Hill carnival attendance is around 2 million people each year.

Below you’ll find an extensive guide with all the need-to-knows when visiting this spectacular festival.

What is the Notting Hill Carnival?

What is the Notting Hill Carnival

The history of the carnival is tied to Trinidadian human rights activist Claudia Jones, who is credited with planting the seeds for the Notting Hill Carnival.

With a live broadcast on BBC in 1959, she spread the word about a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ taking place in St Pancras Town Hall.

Moving from the Town Hall, the first outdoor festival took place on the streets in 1966. Organised by a social worker and activist, Rhaune Laslett, she created a space that children could enjoy. Not only that, but she also wanted to include local West Indian residents.

The carnival’s goal was to bring the local Caribbean community together. The tradition of the Steelpan procession started with a well-known Trinidadian musician, Russell Henderson, who agreed to play at the 1966 event.

Best Place to Stay for Notting Hill Carnival

The costumes worn in the parade go back to the emancipation of slavery. The previously enslaved Africans would mimic the masquerade system and gowns worn by slave owners.

This carnival has become a global celebration of the Caribbean culture. It represents the resilience and cultural diversity of the Caribbean community. They do this by providing a space for all communities to come together.

Notting Hill Carnival Organisers

Notting Hill Carnival Limited organises the carnival with support from the Mayor of London.

It also includes other partners such as Samsung, Carnival Manager, Digicel and others.

They also have venues that support the carnival, like the prolific Abbey Road Studios and Royal Albert Hall.

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    Where is Notting Hill Carnival

    The carnival takes place along the vibrant and famous streets of Notting Hill an area of Kensington in London.

    The streets throughout the area are filled with musicians, visitors and food vendors.

    Notting Hill

    When is the Notting Hill Carnival

    The Notting Hill Carnival takes place every year on the last weekend of August – over the Summer bank holiday with Monday being a public holiday.

    The best part? Carnival tickets aren’t needed as the entrance is free, giving you plenty of chances to use that extra money to indulge in all the tasty treats.

    But if you want to attend the epic after-party then you’ll need to pay for that entry.

    Notting Hill Carnival Schedule

    Notting Hill Carnival Parade Need to Know

    The official Caribbean carnival starts on a Sunday. However, the UK National Panorama Steelband Competition is hosted on Saturday evening.

    Sunday is considered the ‘family day’ of the carnival, but children are welcome for the entire weekend.

    It opens with the Jouvert (“opening day”), a traditional procession where individuals cover themselves in mud or paint.

    On Monday the grand finale Notting hill parade takes place, and you’ll spot hundreds of dancers, street performers and musicians.

    What Time Does the Notting Hill Carnival Start?

    Buses to Notting Hill Carnival

    The National Panorama Steelband Competition on Saturday evening starts at 18:00.

    The Family day procession starts at 06:00 and finishes around 09:00 with steel bands and African drummers parading through the streets.

    The parade aimed at children starts at 09:00 on Sunday Morning. The massive carnival finale parade starts on Monday at 09:00 with a long day of dancing, music and food ahead.

    What Time Does the Notting Hill Carnival Finish?

    Notting Hill Carnival Route

    The Steelband competition finishes around 24:00 giving you just enough time to catch some sleep before the activities of Sunday start.

    Sunday’s family day ends at 19:00 but that doesn’t mean that the party ends there. There are a number of unofficial after-parties on Sunday around London to keep the party going.

    The grand finale parade will also finish at 19:00. Once it’s finished the official after-party will begin and takes place until the early hours of the morning.

    Best Day to Visit Notting Hill Carnival

    Visit Notting Hill Carnival

    The Monday bank holiday is the best day to visit, with the grand finale parade taking place.

    This is for the true carnival lover (and people with strong knees and lots of energy) with over 60 bands weaving their way through the streets of Notting Hill.

    Let’s not forget about all the floats and thousands of performers snaking their way through West London.

    Notting Hill Carnival Family Day

    Sunday is family day where everyone brings their kids to watch the children’s parade. This is the best day if you are wanting to go with your family and enjoy the atmosphere in the more toned-down version of the carnival before the wonderful craziness on Monday.

    However, children are more than welcome to attend on the Monday.

    Sound Systems Notting Hill Carnival

    Notting Hill Carnival Schedule

    These aren’t the typical sound systems that spring to mind when someone mentions them.

    They were a basic version of the PA sound systems seen in America in the ‘40s and ’50s.

    Consisting of a turntable, home-built amp and preamp, along with the biggest speakers that they could find mounted into homemade wardrobe size speaker cabinets.

    These systems are something more than just for playing music, it is a method for Londoners to maintain the cultural connection to their roots.

    When it comes to the sound systems at the carnival, not much has changed with the systems still being built in massive cabinets with as many speakers as possible. Think, ‘Back to the Future’ with Marty standing in front of a wall of speakers.

    That is what a sound system at the Notting Hill carnival looks like. And I love it, I grow up with these kinds of system and you can feel the music in your bones

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      These systems have been a part of the carnival since its early days being officially invited to join in the carnival as a discipline in 1973.

      The various sound systems and their owners have developed a loyal and almost cult-like following over the years.

      With every system playing different genres of music, each having become specialists in their own way.

      Notting Hill Carnival Route Map

      Notting Hill Carnival Parade

      The carnival route takes the same course every year and leads you on a tour of West London through several neighbourhoods.

      The parade starts and ends at Canal Way, Ladbroke Grove W14. The route takes you onto Kensal Road before taking a left onto Elkstone Road.

      Next, take a turn down Great Western Road along to Westbourne Park Road before turning right onto Chepstow Road.

      It goes right again onto Westbourne Grove before finishing at the Ladbroke Gardens.

      Getting to Notting Hill Carnival

      Timing is key so make sure that you go to Notting Hill early to grab a spot for yourself. The best views are near the judge’s platform. But the best place to be is in a ‘band’, if you can.

      There are a few ways of getting to the carnival, but public transport is your best option when it comes to arriving and leaving.

      Buses to Notting Hill Carnival

      Extra busses are normally added on during the carnival weekend, but these are also diverted away from the carnival route.

      Make sure to check the Transport for London website to plan your journey.

      Getting to Notting Hill Carnival 1

      Parking Near Notting Hill Carnival

      There are many Notting Hill Carnival road closures that happen during the festival meaning almost no parking is available.

      Driving in is not the best option, especially given the already small number of free parking available in London.

      Residents of Notting Hill sometimes have signs up on how much they charge for parking, but you didn’t hear that from me.

      When it comes to railway travel, there are a number of Notting Hill carnival tube stations that will either be exit access only, closed early or entirely during the carnival.

      Some of the Notting Hill carnival tube station closures include Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road that closes at 23:30

      What to Wear for Notting Hill Carnival

      Where is Notting Hill Carnival

      Now there is no need to go out and get yourself a mardi gras costume, leave that to the performers and dancers.

      Wear comfortable clothes that are breathable, especially if that heat does come in. You will need it with the crowds around you as well.

      Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a few drinks poured on from bumping into others, and this goes for your shoes as well.

      What to Wear for Notting Hill Carnival

      Make sure that they are comfortable shoes to walk in for hours at a time but wouldn’t shed a tear if they were destroyed from a few spilt drinks.

      But just because you aren’t throwing on all the sequins and feathers doesn’t mean that you can’t get into the spirit of the carnival.

      What Time Does the Notting Hill Carnival Start

      Wear bright clothes and put on some body glitter, face paint, neon lycra, booty shorts – the shortest ones you can find, cycling shorts, crop-tops or whatever makes you feel sexy.

      This carnival is all about celebration, expression and being creative so the brighter and louder you dress, the better. You’ll feel right at home.

      Parking Near Notting Hill Carnival

      Best Place to Stay for Notting Hill Carnival

      If you have the chance to, the best play to stay would be in the Notting Hill area itself. Be prepared to pay extra as the prices for hotels near the Notting Hill Carnival will be inflated because of the event.

      Best Day to Visit Notting Hill Carnival

      If you can afford it and want to be immersed in the carnival vibe then this apartment for you and a few friends is your best option. It’s situated in the heart of West London.

      If that isn’t an option and you’re on more of a budget, there are cheaper options in the area. One of these apartment suites located in West London for you and a friend are perfect. I mean you only really need a bed to sleep in at night anyway, right?

      Is Notting Hill Carnival Safe?

      Although it’s a fun and welcoming event, the carnival isn’t without its difficulties. As with any big event, pickpockets are the main issue – keep your valuables close and out of sight. I recommend a cute bum bag. If you run into any issues, inform a police officer.

      Unfortunately, with that amount of people, you can’t control them all, especially if alcohol is involved.

      There is bound to be an odd fight here and there but as long as you are aware and vigilant you will stay out of trouble.

      IMG 1907

      It can be easy to get lost so if you’re in a group or with family. Arrange a meeting point if you do get split up or to meet after you go your different ways to explore all the carnival has to offer.

      Also, your phone service will be delayed a lot during the carnival, you won’t be able to get messages immediately.

      So, have a plan if you get lost and don’t panic have a rum and cold and wait things out next to a sound system.

      Weather for Notting Hill Carnival

      August in London is normally a warm time of the year so expect sunny hot weather for the festival.

      It is London though; pack a small umbrella or a warm coat in case the weather does take a turn. Packing a reusable water bottle is a good idea to keep you hydrated and avoid dehydration.

      Notting Hill Carnival Food – What to Eat

      IMG 5072

      The exotic treats on display are one of the major attractions of the carnival and a chance to immerse yourself in some of the best Caribbean cuisines.

      Traditionally, the emphasis is on a wide variety of Caribbean food with the Jamaican jerk chicken being a firm favourite.

      There will always be a number of stalls selling it, each with their own different taste based on the way they season and sauce the meat.

      Jerk chicken isn’t meant to be spicy but everyone makes it differently so maybe ask how spicy it is before you buy it if you aren’t sure.

      Keep a keen eye out for the doubles, the perfect snack to keep you going. This sandwich comes together with two pieces of fried flatbread.

      Notting Hill Carnival Food

      It’s then filled with channa (curried chickpeas), mango and a shado beni. Of course, no doubles are complete without a healthy amount of pepper sauce.

      With over 300 stalls to choose from, the carnival caters to all. For those who aren’t too fond of spicy food, the carnival also offers food from around the globe.

      There are even stalls that offer vegetarian and vegan options for those who have diet preferences.

      Carnival Inspiration Itinerary

      What to Wear for Notting Hill Carnival Guide

      Before the parade, it’s time to get yourself into the carnival spirit. Meet up with your friends the day before over a bottomless brunch in East London and plan your route, while daydreaming and scheming about what outfits to wear.

      The next morning, it is on. After getting your glitter on, meet up with everyone and get into the mood and spirit of the parade.

      Head along to some of the sound systems and dance away, before taking a break.

      Now is the time to refuel and rest in order to prepare yourself for even more dancing. Grab yourself some of the amazing Caribbean food on offer and a beer to quench that thirst while watching the parade of street performers and floats go by.

      Carnival Inspiration Itinerary

      Tips for Attending the Carnival in the UK

      Before getting carnival ready, here are some things you can consider for your weekend spent soaking up the culture and merry atmosphere.

      Tip number 1: Come with people that match your energy. Some people prefer to stroll around the streets and soak up the energy; others choose to be the life of the party. Depending on what you prefer, get yourself a crew that you can enjoy all the festivities with.

      Tip number 2: It is highly recommended to bring a handheld fan to this event. August in England is generally wonderfully warm and being at a crowded carnival means you’ll be building up a sweat. Don’t forget to bring your travel camera either!

      Tip number 3: Don’t spend all your time in one place. Spend the weekend venturing downside streets and stopping at stages with different sound systems and live music performances.

      Notting Hill Carnival – A Must-See Attraction

      This is one of those must-do events if you live or find yourself in London in August. It is a chance to celebrate a culture and experience a place where the Caribbean culture comes together to remember its heritage and showcase it to the world.

      Just remember, the carnival is a marathon and not a sprint. Take time to soak up the atmosphere by visiting various stages and watching the parades go by.

      Struggling with knowing what to do in London?


        Grab this hassle free checklist of the top 110 things to do in London from a local, includes:

        ✅ Top Free Things To In London

        ✅ Cool Touristy & Non-Touristy Things To

        ✅ Epic Free Viewpoints

        ✅ Cute Instagrammable Places in London

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