Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street party occurs in west London every August Bank Holiday Weekend. Notting Hill Carnival is attended by over 1 million people and London comes alive in colour and chaos. Follow these tips to make sure you have the most brilliant time!
Trust us when we say you will want to plan your journey to and from carnival in advance. As this is Europe’s biggest street party, all the roads around the Notting Hill area will be closed off and even many tube stops like Ladbroke Grove.
Meet your friends before entering the carnival area because it is nothing but crowds and chaos, and will be an absolute nightmare trying to meet up once you are there. Plus it is highly unlikely you will get a phone signal because of the huge number of people. So it is also advisable to set a meeting spot in cased you loose each other.
Pack Carnival Essentials
There is absolutely no point relying on google maps during carnival so we recommend brining a map! There are often people handing maps out of the festival so try and grab one. Definitely pack some tissues because the portaloos run out quick.
Also bring some tissues or wet wipes, sunscreen, and even a water bottle. Also bring enough cash with you because finding an ATM at carnival could be referred to as finding a needle in a haystack. If you do find one than expect big queues and big fees! Also bring some change with you.
For those not family with Caribbean Carnival, J’ouvert is a huge part of it. It is an early morning celebration that is more spontaneous than the parade. Its also quite messy! Expect to get covered in paint, chocolate or colourful powder. J’ouvert is French for day break, and the celebrations usually take place around sunrise. It is a lot of fun and we highly recommend it!
You don’t have to be a spectator of the parade, you can actually participate in it! When you play mas, you join a mas band.
What is a Mas Band?
If you are not familiar with Caribbean Carnival a mas band is an organisation of people who wear the same costumes.
The costumed participants parade and dance together through the streets along with steelpan bands, soca bands or even a DJ. This is what is known as playing mas.
Watch the Parade!
If you don’t want to be part of the parade we still recommend you watch! Because even if you just spectate from the sidelines you are going to have so much fun. The parade is lively and filled with beautiful colourful costumes and the Caribbean tunes make everyone dance.
Watch the UK National Panorama Steelpan band competition
For the entire year, all across the UK, steelpan bands have been rehearsing for this very important competition. In fact this is the largest steelpan band competition outside of the UK. The competition sees eight bands play a ten minute composition from memory, absolutely no sheet music allowed. It is such a fun and great event to watch!
Attend a Pre-carnival Party!
There are a huge number of pre-carnival parties on. For an authentic Caribbean carnival experience attend a soca party. There is a huge number of Soca fetes on before carnival and we highly recommend attending at least one to get yourself in the carnival spirt. Plus they are always wild and fun events!
Wear comfortable footwear
Definitely no heels, sandals or any open toe shoes! Trust us you will be jumping all day long and there are huge crowds of people so you may get trampled on. There will also be loads of broken glass and rubbish about so protect your feet!
Eat lots of delicious Caribbean food!
One of the best things about Notting Hill Carnival is the incredible Caribbean street food! Smells of Caribbean food fill the air. You must try some jerk chicken, goat curry, rice of the day, ackee and salt fish, vegetarian patties or corn on the cob. Also enjoy some delicious Caribbean rum or some refreshing carrot juice.
Experience the sound systems
One of the best parts of Notting Hill Carnival is the sound systems in all the side streets. There are over 40 sound systems throughout the area planning everything from reggae, calypso, soca to hip-hop and house.
Do your research figure out which ones interest you. Also arrive early because some of the sound systems are so popular that there is even crowd control. There is nothing more liberating than dancing in the streets with strangers, it is what carnival is all about.
Follow a steel band playing live music
For an authentic Caribbean carnival experience, follow one of the steelpan band trucks for some awesome live music. One steelpan band to check out is UFO – Urban Fox Orchestra. The truck is covered in beautiful artwork that has been created by children in local schools.
Join the afterparty
If you have the stamina and you don’t want the party to end early than attend an after-party! There are so many to choose from and filled with secret DJ sets and more.
Notting Hill Carnival is such a fun celebration but it is a huge event and there is lots of drinking going on so there may be some craziness, but there are also loads of police officers monitoring the crowd and making sure no one gets to out of hand. Also be aware of your valuables and keep them out of sight because there is a bit of pickpocketing! Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in.
Read more about Notting Hill Carnival here in our guide.