From the timings to remember to what it's actually celebrating...
This weekend sees Notting Hill Carnival return to London, with the annual summer event taking over the streets of Notting Hill, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, over August bank holiday weekend since 1966.
As one of the world’s largest street carnivals, Notting Hill Carnival sees almost a million people attend the two-day festival every year, celebrating Caribbean heritage on the streets of Notting Hill.
The highlights? Caribbean dancing through the streets in a parade, reggae music and street food from jerk chicken to barbecued corn on the cob.
The festival is such a huge deal in fact that in 2006 it was added to the famous list of icons of England.
But what do you need to know about this year’s event?
When is Notting Hill Carnival?
Notting Hill Carnival takes place over August bank holiday each year, with this year’s celebration running from 25-27 August. The main days however are Sunday and Monday, so if you’re planning a visit, those are your best bets.
What’s on the programme at Notting Hill Carnival 2018?
Saturday 25 August
Notting Hill Carnival kicks off on Saturday with Panorama in Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park. What can you expect from the event? A steel band, Caribbean food and a lot of family-friendly fun.
Sunday 26 August
Sunday at Notting Hill Carnival is family day, with the Jouvert Carnival kicking off at 6am from Ladbroke Grove. From 6-9am, you can expect Caribbean music and steel drums, but from 9am onwards the children’s parade takes over. What can you expect? Family workshops and Caribbean food.
Monday 27 August
Monday is the most popular day of the carnival, so if you’re not one for crowds, Saturday or Sunday should be your festival days. The Monday sees a parade through the streets, 60 bands, Caribbean get-up, and reggae blasted from the World Music Stage.
How much is Notting Hill Carnival?
Notting Hill Carnival is completely free – you don’t have to buy tickets in advance or pay to get in, but you will need to bring cash to pay for food and drink when you’re there.
How can I do Notting Hill Carnival like a local?
Wear water-resistant make-up
‘You’ll need it to protect you from rain and flying drinks! Urban decay makeup setting spray is ace at keeping your makeup intact. It’s carnival so pile on some glitter so you dazzle as much as the carnival queens.’
Do not travel into Notting Hill
‘Although most people would think to travel to carnival via Notting hill, you’re better off going to a quieter station and walking in to avoid the crowds. Westbourne park is a good one as they don’t usher you away from the entrance so you can meet the rest of your party there. Plus there are some decent toilets there complete with taps and mirrors so it’s a good idea to use those before you head towards the dreaded port-a-loo only zone. I would suggest meeting your carnival crew early and traveling in together.’
Plan your exit ahead of time
‘Remember that most stations are exit only during the day so plan your route ahead of time. The police may reopen or close the stations on the outer perimeters depending on crowds. The important thing is to get out of the main carnival area to the back streets before 7pm so you don’t get stuck in the crowds.’
Stay on the sides
‘Avoid being in the middle of it all. Stay on the side in case there’s a rush in the crowd which often happens.’
How can I get to Notting Hill Carnival?
The streets are usually very crowded around Notting Hill Carnival, so if you’re planning on getting the bus, keep in mind that the roads around the carnival area will be off limits, so the buses will be driving on different routes, and terminated early. Tube-wise, the Central line will be open all weekend, with Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park (the closest stations) open and providing easy access to the carnival.
We’ll see you there.