Notting Hill Carnival guide

Dancing, music and masquerade — make the most of Notting Hill Carnival with out guide to all the info, dates, timings, travel details and tips.

Notting Hill Carnival © mubus/Shutterstock

Given that an estimated 2 million people attended last year, Notting Hill Carnival totally deserves its reputation as Europe's biggest street festival. The annual event is a vivid and thrilling spectacle that celebrates and showcases London's rich, varied and magnificent multicultural past and present. And for any party lover's, the Carnival weekend is a vital date in the calendar.

Still, the sheer size and excitement of Carnival can be overwhelming, especially if you're unsure of exactly what you should be doing. So, to get totally prepared and ready for the celebrations, don't go anywhere without reading our guide, which includes invaluable information, tips and travel details about Notting Hill Carnival 2018.

What is Notting Hill Carnival?
A yearly celebration of London's Caribbean communities, their culture and traditions, which has been taking place since 1966. The Carnival takes places over two days and features a parade and fantastic live music, including reggae, dub and salsa. There are also 37 static soundsystems, soca floats, steel bands and a whole lot of delicious Caribbean food.

Where does Notting Hill Carnival take place?
The Carnival spreads throughout W10 in West London, with celebrations taking over the areas of Notting Hill (obvs), Ladbroke Grove and Wesbourne Park. The main parade begins on Great Western Road, moving its way along Chepstow Road, before leading on to Westbourne Grove. It then travels down Ladbroke Grove.

When does Notting Hill Carnival take place?
Traditionally, the Carnival takes place on the bank holiday weekend at the end of August. In 2018, the dates of the festivities are 26-27 August. The timings of the parade, which takes place on both days, will be announced closer to the time.

What's the best way to get there?
Travel in the area is usually very disrupted over Carnival. It's worth consulting with our travel guide before you set off so you know how best to plan for your arrival and departure. Keep updated with TFL, too.

Should I take the kids to Carnival?
Lots of people take their kids to Carnival, especially on Sunday's 'Family Day', which is traditionally a little quieter than Monday's party. Of course, it's worth preparing you day so that you and your little ones can have the best time possible. We'd recommend arriving early to beat the crowds and definitely bring travel potties where appropriate, as the queues for the toilets can be unforgivingly long. Similarly, pack snacks and water to avoid hanging around, because as you probably know kids and queues don't often make good bedfellows. While mobile signal can get a little congested due to the sheer amount of people. it's definitely worth writing your mobile number on your child's arm so that if you do get separated they can contact you.

Here's a quick checklist if you're going with kids:
1. Visit on Sunday or 'Family Day'. It's still busy (and noisy), but it's much more kid-friendly than the main parade on Monday.
2. Beat the crowds and arrive early to get a good and comfortable spot.
3. Bring ear defenders for you little kids as things can get pretty loud.
4. Check your travel route! See which stations are closed and how best to plan your arrival and your return journey. See our travel guide and keep updated with TFL.
5. Bring travel potties for very young children, as portable toilets will have huge queues.
6. Bring easily transportable food and water for your kids (and yourself, to be honest), just in case you struggle to buy anything while you're there.

RECOMMENDED: Find more London events in August.

Notting Hill Carnival 2018

Essential Carnival info

Essential Carnival info

Download your Carnival map
Music

Download your Carnival map

Warm-up and afterparties
Clubs

Warm-up and afterparties

Notting Hill soundsystems
Music

Notting Hill soundsystems

Notting Hill Carnival features

50 things you didn't know about Carnival
Music

50 things you didn't know about Carnival

Here are 50 facts you might not know about Europe's biggest street party

A spotter’s guide to Carnival
Music

A spotter’s guide to Carnival

There are some things you only see at Carnival. Keep your eyes peeled for this lot at Notting Hill Carnival 2016

Top tips from Carnival experts
Music

Top tips from Carnival experts

Ms Dynamite, Gabriel Heatwave, Treble T, Dominik Prosser, Bernard Jackson and more provide their tips to enjoying Notting Hill Carnival

How to speak like a Carnival pro
Music

How to speak like a Carnival pro

Know your wine from your lime, with this handy glossary of Carnival vocab.

A look at Notting Hill Carnival history

21 vibrant pictures of Notting Hill Carnival
Music

21 vibrant pictures of Notting Hill Carnival

Feast your eyes on some fabulous pictures of Carnival in all its multi-coloured, feathery and sequinned glory. 

What we wore to Notting Hill Carnival
Music

What we wore to Notting Hill Carnival

See our archive photos and read memories from four generations to see just how much the fashion of Carnival has changed.

Notting Hill Carnival from the Time Out archive
Music

Notting Hill Carnival from the Time Out archive

Take a trip down memory lane and explore some photos and pictures of Notting Hill Carnival from 1975-1990.   

This one time at Notting Hill Carnival…
Music

This one time at Notting Hill Carnival…

Carival dancers, Shy FX, Toddla T and The Heatwave tell us their favourite Notting Hill Carnival memories.

Explore Notting Hill

Notting Hill area guide
Things to do

Notting Hill area guide

Notting Hill is the perfect place to spend a weekend. Whether you're into shopping, eating, film, or plain people watching, Notting Hill is a great place to spend some time

Notting Hill restaurants
Restaurants

Notting Hill restaurants

Brimming with great cafés and restaurants, Notting Hill will always have the perfect meal to suit both your tastebuds and budget. From simple fish and chips at Geales to modern cuisine at the Notting Hill Brasserie

Portobello Road Market
Shopping

Portobello Road Market

Best known for antiques and collectibles, this is actually several markets rolled into one: antiques start at the Notting Hill end; further up are food stalls; under the Westway and along the walkway to Ladbroke Grove are emerging designer and vintage clothes on Fridays (usually marginally less busy) and Saturdays (invariably manic). Browse more of London's best markets

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Notting Hill bars and pubs
Bars and pubs

Notting Hill bars and pubs

With some of the poshest and poorest communities in London, Notting Hill is a melting pot, and this diversity gives it an atmosphere all of its own

Comments

25 comments
Chibueze K. I

i want to get contact of notting hill carnival organizers to help me organize carnival by December to share traditional values in exchange.contact me via facebook with this name:kisslove media and global entertainment company

FloA tastemaker

I went to Notting Hill Carnival yesterday and as usually it was a fantastic day out, full of colours, feather, music, red stripes and Jerk chicken.

This was my 4th time at the Carnival and I still enjoy it. 

Getting my ways around the crowd gets easier as I know a bit better where I'm going now. 

For the newbies to Notting Hill carnival, I'd definitely recommend downloading the TimeOut map (really clear and helpful, especially to find toilets!!)

Of course it is essential to have a look at the parade but make sure you're also stopping by a few soundsystems. The atmosphere there is electric and worth experiencing.

One more thing, get there early! (In my opinion starting around 11.00AM and leaving by 4.00PM is ideal).

dee n

MYTH - that Carnival is enjoyed by the locals.  SO - why do they leave London at this time?

Why do shops barricade their doors and windows?   Why do local houses with front gardens barricade their gate?   Because carnival visitors use any accessible garden as a toilet, because many of them steal;  because residents fear the violence.  


LINDA:   Yes, it is as awful as it seems, in fact much worse than is reported.  And avoid the food!

Linda A

Nottinghill Carnival!

Yesterday I kept thinking how comes no one is mentioning how many people attended???? Because when you proportion it out it does not make good new. Sorry it is then not as awful as it seems. I'm not saying I condone violence I don't. I have seen the ugly side of carnival, I just hate the very skewed vision that is sold with everything black related!

Two million people in two days, which park could u hold that in! Sometimes I hate this bloody country and how they demonise our events.

76 arrests at creamfields 40,000 capacity.

Leeds festival this year one death. 75,000 capacity.

20 arrests so they say at reading, 87,000 capacity, reading has a well known tradition of bottling, where acts have been historically bottled off the stage but I guess this is ok. I spoke to a young man who said he would never go to reading again as there are not enough police and there are groups of boys rolling around looking to fight. Oh and anyone on Twitter may have been exposed to a awful video of 4 men urinating on their very drunk friend. These bits are not news as they are not of the racial mix that the mud does not stick.

Least we forget that the once very ethnic Nottinghill went through ethnic cleansing in the late 80's, oops no it was the cash for homes scandal! To gentrify the area and push up house prices.

The government make tonnes of money from the carnival that more than covers the cost of staffing it in whatever capacity. But just like anything else in this country we want to make more money so let's demonise it and scare everyone then they will agree to put it in a park then you will have to pay to attend. Great!

Jack W

@Linda A well I'll be there yet again for good music and good vibes :)

rob s

Hayley - I took the photograph that you have used for the lead article. More than happy for you to use it, and I've been a loyal follower of Time Out for years, it but I'd appreciate a credit please. 

Aimee C

I'm sure the Carnival is 3 days from Saturday to Monday and Is always in May or June. In August people are on holiday. I always go Carnivol

Vashti S

WAAAAAY I WANT TO COME TO CARNIVAL ! PICK ME UP OR EMAIL ME @ YOU KNOW MY ADDRESS IM LOGGED IN...SMILE

Isabelly Tastemaker

I'm sorry to say but I felt like Carnival this year depicted some kind of London dystopia. I was expecting colourful dancers with great plumes of feathers for lingerie, but alas I will not be ruffling anyone's feathers with this review. There were just a massive mob of eerily clad goths, trying to ambush everyone with selfie sticks and (suspicious looking) white body paint (although I do appreciate Batman in his Hermes t-shirt in this photo). And then there's the toilet issue - if would be alright if there was an obvious way to escape the abyss but you'd walk around the corner, and there would be ANOTHER mob surrounding by ANOTHER half-assed boombox, blocking your escape.

Modou

I wont to come but I don't know how to get their

bookmusic d

Your post is very nice to read and very informative. I love to here music and musical fest. Recently I had enjoyed the musical fest of http://www.bookmusic.dk. It has mind blowing and rocking performance. They had a very good band artist, light effect, sound system, stage lighting.

jack j

In your blog post you have given new information for me and help me to know about new thing. I was unknown to Notting Hill Carnival, but now I decided to go to join this festival after my tour by http://www.getbustours.com/newyeareve-tours/. I hope it will be a nice experience for me.

Robert A

hoping for  a good family day out at carnival just have to miss the gran prix or watch highlights

Mena B

I agree who ever did their research shame on you.

Mena B

You know the sad thing, not a lot of people of Caribbean descent know what the true meaning of Carnival is at all. SMH just like the researcher.

Alan R

Why do you put Reggae music as the main music of carnival. Please do your research and stop misleading people/readers, of course Raggae has a role but the main music for carnival floats costume bands is not reggae!

Lynda J

In order for The carnival to grow and be spectacular the Mas Bands (floats) need support by ordinary people participating very few bands receive funding from the arts council, if you would like to support a band that does not receive funding you can ask when you contact them if they do, did you know in Holland the local authority pays for the trucks for the bands on the road because they acknowledge the contribution the carnival makes to the country by the way of tourism and revenue! in London we get nothing, but generate millions (in excess of 100 Million) for London   don't forget you can make the show! so spread the love and support Europe's Largest street festival, remember without floats and costumes there is no carnival!

Lynda J

also have a read of the insiders view on this site.

diane

we went to the carnival on Monday, full or excitement and expectation of a wonderful and colourful day. instead we got glimpses of several trucks with nothing happening on them and a few people in front or behind them who looked like spare stand ins. the loud music was good plenty of people just going to party and drink which is good but as for the carnival, which is supposed to be what its all about was a let down. the day seemed to be about girls just shaking booty every two minutes with not much effort on costume and every one just their to walk about getting drunk not really taking much interest in the passing empty lorries grinding with odd booty shaker and waiting to just have more drink and dance at the after party's. one big street pub and restaurant and not much else!! at least the music and traditional curry goat made up for it.

Technicolor

Best carnival ever. Amazing parade, wonderful music. Absolutely delicious yummy food. Beautiful people, and the best soundsystems. A total blessing

bigsands

Yep! This is one of the best events in London each year and it all starts with the steel band competition on Kensal Road this Saturday evening. You can hear the vibrant sounds of bands with over 50 players and feel the energy and rhythm of real Caribbean steel bands. For more on steel band music and parties, follow on Twitter/bigsands