A Guide to Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s Biggest Street Party!

Notting Hill Carnival is one of the most exciting & colorful events worldwide. For 2-days millions overtake west London for Europe’s biggest street party.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

Days to start

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▷ What is Notting Hill Carnival?

When summer comes to an end in London and the sale of glitter increases 321% it can only mean one thing….It’s carnival time in London!!! Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street party in the whole of Europe. Notting Hill Carnival is the most chaotic and colourful event to take place in London. Every year over two million people attend this two-day celebration of Caribbean culture

Unlike other local festivals Notting Hill Carnival has absolutely nothing to do with English culture. Nor is it a part of the religious carnival season associated with Catholic Lent. Instead Notting Hill Carnival is a Caribbean Carnival that celebrates London’s Afro-Caribbean community.

Notting Hill Carnival first began in 1966 and has been held annually ever since. The carnival is organised by key members of London’s West Indian and Afro-Caribbean community.

Notting Hill Carnival is the time of year when the whole of London comes together. Notting Hill Carnival embraces unity and cultural diversity. It doesn’t matter what your age, race, country or culture is, everyone is welcome at Notting Hill Carnival!.

Notting Hill Carnival Carnivalgirls smeared with paint

▷ When is Notting Hill Carnival?

Notting Hill Carnival happens every year on the Sunday and Monday of the last weekend of August.

Notting Hill Carnival 2020 dates will be Sunday, 30th August and Monday 31st August, 2020. Carnival Monday always falls on the August bank holiday.

The Notting Hill Parades will commence at 9:30am on both days and finish at 7pm sharp due to strict noise restrictions. However, there are numerous carnival after-parties in the area for those who wish to keep celebrating.

▷ What to expect at the Notting Hill Carnival?

As Europe’s biggest Caribbean Carnival you can expect huge crowds, lots of exotic food, Caribbean music pumping out from every possible speaker, non-stop dancing, and celebration of Caribbean Culture.

The Notting Hill Carnival travels around west London and the streets are filled with colourful costumes, dancers, masquerades, floats, live music and cars with sound systems attached to the back of them. Sizzling food stands line the streets selling delicious traditional Caribbean foods.

Notting Hill Carnival officially starts on the Saturday evening before the parade days. It kicks off with a steel band music competition. Sunday is Children’s Carnival which is a family friendly day with a children’s parade. Monday is the big day of partying and features the main parade.

▷ Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s Biggest Street Party

Notting Hill Carnival beating the drum

In terms of sheer size Notting Hill is second only to Rio Carnival. It’s so big in fact, that is the equivalent of 11 Glastonbury festivals. Over 30km of west London’s streets are filled with people celebrating Caribbean culture. At the end of all the celebrations London’s economy is about £100 million better off.

Some 50,000 performers will parade in Notting Hill Carnival. Over 70 performing stages are setup to host live music and DJs. 40 static street sound-systems are also set up all over West London. 10 steel pan bands will perform and around 16,000 records will be played during carnival.

▷ Notting Hill Carnival Caribbean Foods and Drinks

The food at Notting Hill Carnival is to die for! Exotic aromas fill the air and can be smelt all over London. There are over 300 Caribbean and West Indian food and drink vendors who can be found on practically every corner.

Barbecued Jerk Chicken is the one thing that everyone eats during Carnival. Other carnival favourites are curries, goat, rice and peas, fried plantains, roti and fried fish. During Carnival over five tons of chicken will be sold. As well as 30,000 pieces of corn, and one ton of peas and rice.

Five million drinks are also sold during carnival weekend! And of course it wouldn’t be Notting Hill Carnival without lots and lots of rum punch. An impressive 25,000 bottles of rum is consumed over carnival weekend, which is sure to induce a few hangovers. Guinness punch and an abundance of local and Caribbean beers also flow freely.

For anyone craving something more refreshing grab yourself some fresh coconut water straight from its shell. When attending Notting Hill Carnival it’s a must to try a cool glass of carrot juice. A Caribbean specialty and carnival favourite with over 70,000 litres of carrot juice consumed during carnival.

▷ Notting Hill Carnival Costumes

Notting Hill Carnival parade of people

It is anything but a grey day in London during Notting Hill Carnival. Everywhere you look it is an explosion of vibrant colours. The Notting Hill Carnival Costumes are extravagant. These head turning and colourful carnival costumes are a huge reason why Notting Hill Carnival is such a visual spectacle.

The Notting Hill Carnival costumes worn by the performers are the traditional Caribbean carnival outfits. Sexy, bright coloured, flesh baring, bikini top outfits, that usually features lots of feathers, diamantes, masks, capes, tassels or streamers. They are usually accompanied by large headdresses, colourful makeup, face paint and lots of glitter and sparkles.

Over 15,000 costumes are handmade each year just for Notting Hill Carnival. This adds up to about one million man hours dedicated to creating these masterpieces by hand. It is estimated every year that about 30 million sequins, 15,000 plumed feathers and 30 litres of body paint are used to make carnival costumes.

▷ Panorama- Saturday 24 August 2019

Notting Hill Carnival actually kicks off on Saturday evening with a live steel band music competition. It takes place between 6-10pm at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park. The event costs £5 entry is full of Caribbean entertainment and street food.

This event is a must see for all those steel band lovers out there. For an entire year all across the UK steel bands have been rehearsing to enter this competition. Panorama is one of the largest steel band competitions that exists outside of the Caribbean. A total of eight steel bands will play a ten minute composition, and no sheet music is allowed.

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▷ Carnival Sunday – Family Day and J’Ouvert – Sunday 25 August 2019

Carnival Sunday is family day. Sunday sees the Children’s Parade take place. The Children Parade kicks off at 9am and features young kids dressed in costumes parading through the streets of West London. While family day is not as wild and chaotic as Carnival Monday. Children’s day still attracts large crowds.

At Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park there are plenty of family friendly activities taking place. There are plenty of fun family activities, live music and Caribbean food and drink stalls.

▷ J’Ouvert – Sunday 30th August 2020

J’Ouvert is French for day break and it’s a tradition that originates from the famous Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. If you want to experience how a traditional Caribbean Carnival opens then you must get up early on Sunday morning and experience J’Ouvert at Notting Hill Carnival.

J’Ouvert begins when the sun rises at 6am. The Parade marches through west London with steel bands and African drummers making a lot of noise. You can join the parade or watch on as the revellers throw mud and coloured paint at each other.

▷ Grand Finale – Monday 31st August 2020

Notting Hill Carnival houting with joy

Grand Final Monday is the big day! Two million people head to the west London suburb of Notting Hill for a day full of dancing, steel bands, street performances, delicious Caribbean food and drink stalls, and of course the highlight of carnival, the Notting Hill Grand Parade.

The Notting Hill Grand Parade starts at 8am on Great Western Road. The parade route continues along Chepstow Road and Westbourne Grove. The parade then eventually moves to Ladbroke Grove, and finishes at 8.30pm.

The Notting Hill Grand Parade is huge with over 60 bands, 100 elaborately decorated floats, and thousands of costumed dancers roll along the carnival route. Community groups and clubs make up the bands.

▷ Notting Hill Parties

Due to noise constriction The Notting Hill Grand Parade will finish in the early evening. However, there are plenty of Notting Hill Carnival parties being hosted all over London. Some of the top parties are held at the Ministry of Sound, The Macbeth in Hoxton and Tropicana Beach Club in Covent Garden.

▷ Where is Notting Hill Carnival?

Notting Hill Carnival takes place in west London W10. This area covers Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. The main parade stretches over 30km of west London’s streets.

The main parade starts near Westbourne Grove tube station at 9.30am and travels down Great Western Road, slowly winding its way down to Westbourne Grove and then up to Ladbroke Grove.

▷ What is the History of Notting Hill Carnival?

The origins of Notting Hill Carnival can be traced back to the large influx of immigrants mainly from the Caribbean that moved to Britain from former colonies after WW2 to help rebuild the country after the war.

However, in the late 1950s race riots devastated race relations in London. Notting Hill Carnival started because it was a way to bring together the multicultural community of Notting Hill. The carnival was about promoting cultural diversity and was instrumental in helping to bridge racial divides in Britain.

▷ How to get to Notting Hill Carnival?

With many road closures London public transport is the best way to travel to the Notting Hill Carnival. It is best to check the London Transport website for information before you travel, for the latest Notting Hill Carnival transport information. 

▷ What to wear to Notting Hill?

Wondering what your Notting Hill Carnival outfit should be? Well the parades are colourful AF, with women dressed in colourful Caribbean Carnival outfits with feather headdresses and bejewelled bras. However unless you are in the parade, you do not need to wear a Caribbean Carnival Costume as your Notting Hill Carnival outfit. 

The Notting Hill Carnival Street Style is one of the few occasions when you will see the streets filled with sequins, bright colours, neon, glitter, face paint or something that shows off a lot of skin. Not only is it ok to wear these items, it’s highly encouraged! Make your Notting Hill Carnival Outfit as flamboyant as the floats you’ll see! 

However, it’s important to remember that The Notting Hill Carnival is so spread out over West London. It’s likely you will spend the day doing a lot of walking so it is a must that you wear comfortable shoes with your Notting Hill Carnival Outfit.

As for your Notting Hill Carnival Makeup this is the day when you will see a lot of bright colours, pinks, blues, yellow, oranges, purples, all the colours that you can’t wear into work at the office. You will see a lot of people use Glitter in their Notting Hill Carnival Makeup and why not. This is the one day when you can really go all out with your Notting Hill Carnival makeup!

Get a little creative and wacky with your outfit.Why not wear some playful pieces that will help you stand out from the crowds. Choosing your Notting Hill Carnival Outfit is that one time of year when you can let your imagination one wild and get creative and wear something fun, you can check out some cool Notting Hill Carnival outfits here on Amazon. Remember though to wear comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet all day long! 

▷ Where to stay?

Check out some accomodation options here. 

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland

Before you go!

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