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The Notting Hill Carnival 2019 Guide: Our Top Tips

The biggest street festival in Europe, the Notting Hill Carnival, is nearly upon us! Even if you’re a regular attendee to the festival, there’s so much going on that it pays to plan ahead – so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you get started.

What is Notting Hill Carnival?

A free street festival of epic proportions, the Notting Hill Carnival is a vibrant celebration of London’s varied culture, diverse communities and their traditions. The two-day spectacle takes over the W10 and W11 postcodes in West London, with events from Notting Hill to Westbourne Park, and features live music, eye-catching costumes, amazing parades, and delicious street food (the jerk chicken is unmissable).

Since 1966 the Carnival has been the highlight of any August Bank Holiday weekend spent in London. On Sunday 25th August, the festivities kick off with steel drumming from dawn (well, almost – 6 am!); on Monday 26th August, the famous parade starts at 10 am. There’s a noise curfew in place from 7 pm, meaning that everything winds down at a civilised hour, too!

Of particular note in 2019 is the special commemorative event which will be held at 3 pm on both days: 72 seconds of silence in memory of each of the victims of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

Notting Hill Carnival 2019: Our Tips

Plan travel carefully

As one might expect, with so many people descending on a relatively small area, the roads, buses and trains can get very congested. We recommend checking the official Transport for London website before setting off on both days to ensure that you stay ahead of any problems.

The roads around the Carnival area are closed to vehicles for the duration, meaning that bus routes are subject to change.

  • The roads around the Carnival area are closed to vehicles for the duration, meaning that bus routes are subject to change.
  • Though the Central and Hammersmith & City tube lines will be running as normal over the weekend, Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park, Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road stations are expected to be extremely busy – and they may be closed at any point to avoid overcrowding.

Take the family – but come prepared

The Carnival is definitely kid-friendly: Sunday is the traditional ‘Family Day’, making it the perfect opportunity to have fun with the whole family. However, if you’re planning to come with children, there are some things to bear in mind. If you’re travelling with little ones, it makes sense to arrive early and beat the crowds; you should also bring some key items with you, like travel potties (the queues for the portaloos can be enormous), and ear defenders to protect young ears. It’s also worth making sure that your child has a copy of your mobile number (you could write this on their hand) in case they lose you at any point.

Bring provisions

In addition to the ‘child-friendly’ essentials we mentioned above, there are a few other items to add to your packing list:

  • Easily transportable food.
  • Water.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Tissues (if you do need to use a portaloo, it’s worth bringing tissue in case they’ve run out!).
  • Cash. Most of the food and drink stalls don’t cater for card payments.
  • Sunglasses (in case of Caribbean-style summer sunshine).
  • Raincoat (in case of England-style summer showers).
  • A Carnival route map.

Arrive early and bag your spot

Location is key at the Notting Hill Carnival – and if you arrive early enough you’ll be able to have your pick of the many possible viewpoints. Standing near the judges’ platform will guarantee a great view of the different parade groups giving it their all; but there are also quieter sections and prime positions along the main route itself (or spots that are closer to food stalls or the toilets!). Choose wisely according to your preference!

Meet friends beforehand

During the Carnival, the streets of W10 and W11 are extremely lively and busy, meaning that it can be difficult to meet up with friends once you’re in the thick of it. Instead, we highly recommend choosing a location away from the Carnival where you can meet friends and travel on together. You might also want to designate a specific location (by a particular food stall or stage, for instance) within the Carnival at which to meet if you happen to get separated.

Dress appropriately

The Carnival is all about standing – and, more importantly, dancing! Choosing the right footwear is therefore paramount: go for flat, comfortable shoes with closed toes to protect against stomping feet (those who make the mistake of wearing open-toe shoes or sandals might end up with lots of bruises!).

That said, though it’s a good idea to play it safe when it comes to footwear, there are no rules about the rest of your outfit: it’s a party, after all! Bright colours, striking headwear, and accessories (like flags and whistles) are highly recommended. Have fun!