Perhas you’re in London for the August Bank Holiday – or maybe you’re a Londoner yet to visit Notting Hill Carnival? Either way, here’s all you need to know before you go.

Is Notting Hill Carnival free?

notting hill carnival
Photo by Antonio Garcia used under CC

The main carnival is free and you don’t need to buy tickets. However, you’ll need to pay if you plan to go on to an after party.

What’s the Carnival route?

Photo by robertsharp used under CC

The Carnival celebrations take place in Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park, plus surrounding neighbourhoods. The main parade goes from Great Western Road, along Chepstow Road, Westbourne Grove and finishes at the north end of Ladbroke Grove.

Notting Hill Carnival App

You can also download the app for the most up to date info, including the locations of toilets, first aid stations, venues and follow the live locations of parading bands.

What time does Notting Hill Festival start?

The parade will kick off at 9:30 am on both Sunday and Monday, while judging starts at 6:30 pm. Notting Hill Carnival ends at 7 pm with a strict noise curfew (it is a residential area, after all). From then it’s up to you whether you go on to one of the after parties.

How do I get to Notting Hill Carnival?

notting hill carnival
Photo by Valters Krontals used under CC

The clue is in the whole ‘two million revellers’ thing: it’s going to be very, very busy. How you get there depends where you’re coming from, but in any case, make sure you plan ahead and check TFL (Transport for London) for regular updates.

Some local stations may be closed or exit only for crowd control, and buses will be diverted.

Main stations for Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Gate: Exit only, 11 am-7 pm both Sunday and Monday. District and Circle line trains will not be stopping at the station.

Ladbroke Grove: Closed all day Sunday and Monday.

Latimer Road: Closed after 11:30 pm Sunday and Monday.

Royal Oak: Exit only after 11am Sunday and Monday, and closes at 6pm on both days.

Westbourne Park: Exit only from 11am-6pm Sunday and Monday, closing at 11:30 pm both days.

Queen’s Park, Shepherd’s Bush, Holland Park, High Street Kensington, Bayswater and Paddington will be open—but may be busier than usual.

It’s also worth noting that if a station is too crowded, you might not be able to touch out on your Oyster card or contactless, but your fare should be auto-corrected afterwards or you can claim a refund.

notting hill carnival
Photo by Valters Krontals used under CC

Can I take kids to the Carnival?

Absolutely, though you’re best off going on Sunday, which is Family Day. You’ll still need to expect massive crowds and a whole lot of noise, but it’ll be much safer and more kid-friendly than Monday. Head down as early as possible to find a decent spot. Bring all the usual stuff you need for a day with the kids: water, sunblock, snacks, etc. plus travel potties for tiny ones to avoid painful portaloo queues and ear defenders, as the drums and sound systems are very loud.

What can I bring to Carnival?

Avoid large backpacks; they get in the way and will hamper you getting through the crowds (as well as making you very unpopular). Be as hands-free as you can: carry money and phones in pockets (ideally ones you can fasten) or money belts, small bags etc. Take plenty of cash – apart from the refreshments you’ll want to buy, you may need to barter with a friendly local for the use of their bathroom as portaloo queues can take a long time. You can bring your own food and drinks — just no glass – but there are over 300 food stalls to choose from, and nothing says Notting Hill Carnival like some expertly cooked jerk chicken.

notting hill carnival
Photo by Valters Krontals used under CC

What should I wear to Notting Hill Carnival?

You can leave the spangly carnival costumes to the parade or ‘Mas bands’ (as in masquerade). But consider glitter, face paint, colourful clothes, whistles and comfortable footwear that you don’t mind getting beer spilt on. Cool natural fabrics are always a bonus – it’s going to get sweaty.

Where are the after parties happening?

The party vibes continue both in west London and beyond. The official Carnival after party kicks off from 10 pm at Ministry of Sound in Elephant & Castle and goes till 6 am, but there will be a huge range of events at bars and clubs around the area.

Cheapo Hack

If you’re planning on going to the Ministry of Sound after party and your birthday is between August 20th and September 2nd you can claim a FREE Ticket! Just text ‘Carnival BDay’ to 07590834117 and wait for their reply.

Notting Hill Carnival history

The streets of the west London borough of Kensington and Chelsea have been hosting an annual street festival since 1966 when it was known as The Notting Hill Street Festival, founded by local activist Rhuane Laslett-O’Brien, to promote cultural diversity in the area. The event evolved into Notting Hill Carnival and has been led by the British West Indian community since 1976. It’s always on during the August bank holiday weekend (Sunday and Monday), with a massive parade, live music including reggae, dub and salsa, as well as over 30 static sound systems and steel bands plus lots of Caribbean food, hot and cold drinks, rum and beer.

There’s also a Saturday carnival warm-up with a competitive steel band event called Panorama at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park from 4pm-midnight.

Anything else to know?

With that many people, it’s a good idea to set a meeting point in advance in case you get separated from your mates. No carnival comrade gets left behind!

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