What The Hell To Do At Notting Hill Carnival

Our comprehensive(ish) guide to London's ultimate bank-holiday weekend bash

What the hell is it?

Beginning in 1964, the Caribbean communities of London threw a parade to celebrate the best their culture has to offer and it grew and grew, evolving into Europe’s biggest street festival, a massive bank holiday knees-up sprawled across West London involving outrageous soundsystems, incredible outfits and all kinds of delicious grub. Simply put, it’s the perfect way to send off your summer.

When the hell is it?

August 30th (this Sunday) and August 31st (this Monday). This weekend, basically, so if you made any alternative plans, cancel them.

Where the hell is it?

Notting Hill, obviously. If you’re still in need of directions, it’s in the W11 postcode London (England (United Kingdom (Europe))).

How the hell do I get there?

Notting Hill Gate, Royal Oak and Westbourne Park are the tube stations that fall directly within the carnival, though these will be exit only until around 6-7pm on both days.

If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, head towards White City (West), Shepherds Bush (South West), High Street Kensington (South), Bayswater (South East), Paddington (East), Warwick Avenue (North East) or Kensal Green (North). Do check TfL’s website for updates and information.

Buses will not enter the Carnival area and you’ll likely have to walk so far away from the site to find anywhere to plonk your bike, you might as well have just walked in the first place.

What the hell will I do there?

There’s a goddam parade of floats featuring properly wicked bands, superb dancers sporting colours more vivid than your television set could handle and a whole bunch of other surprises. The main parade – culminating in a grand finale – takes place on the Monday, until around 8.30PM.

And that’s really, really not all. There are more soundsystems that you can shake 37 sticks at – by which, we mean, there are 38 official static soundsystems, playing everything from old-school reggae and dancehall, to hip-hop, garage, jazz-funk, funk, dub, jungle, D&B and Latin groove. Of the systems we’d most recommend swinging by: Norman Jay’s legendary Good Times bus in Southern Row has been a long-time favourite, the Rap Attack stage in All Saints Row will be throwing out old skool classics of the 70s and 80s, while Rampage in Colville Square will be putting on a Radio 1Xtra’s top DJs.

Be warned, there’s a strict noise curfew of 7pm where the systems have to be turned down on both days, but there are plenty of after-parties to head to across the city if you’ve still got the burning desire to shake your shit long into the night.

What the hell is there to eat and drink?

So much, especially if your palate’s of the Caribbean persuasion. Jerk chicken, jerk pork, roti, curried goat, sumptuous corn, patties and plantains. If you can’t find anything to eat at Notting Hill Carnival, you’re almost certainly going to be fired from your position as your brewery’s in-house piss-up organiser.

Speaking of which, there’s a range of tipples to whet the driest of whistles; from coconut water (in actual coconuts) to tin-of-choice Red Stripe, Guinness Punch and, of course, Rum. Banging.

Where the hell will I be able to pee?

We don’t know. In fact, if you’re reading this, and you do know, please get in touch, because finding a free toilet during the carnival is like finding a needle in amongst several thousands of haystacks, which all have bursting bladders for some reason, in a world where needles have long stopped being made and now command a huge fee. You’ll almost certainly find yourself torn between the ethical dilemma of bowing down to chancing locals renting out their loos for between £1-£5 a leak or just pissing yourself in the street.

Who the hell will I see there?

Probably not that mate you only made a vague plan to “see you in there” with, because the entire area almost immediately overflows with revellers like an overstuffed suitcase brimming with booze, vomit and urine. That clumsy analogy makes it sound a lot worse than it is, but also just as bad as it actually is, so now you won’t be disappointed. We’re good to you.

What the hell is the weather going to be like?

Maybe not so great... August, usually the one relatively consistently warm month of British summer, has been the most erratic of this year thus far and there’s the possibility of a thunderstorm on Sunday… Keep an eye on both the forecasts and the clouds, because you might want to bring a brolly.

Cool. Do I have to pay?

No.

Will we run into each other there?

No.

Will Hugh Grant be there?

No.

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