Originally set up by members of the West Indian community, The Notting Hill Carnival started on 1965 and since then it has grown so much that today is the World’s second largest street festival.
Every year more than 1 million people are expected to dance and join the Caribbean rhythm and soul of this particular Carnival. It is split over the Sunday and Monday Bank Holiday and although it may sound weird, Sunday crowds will not be as dense as on Monday.
In fact Sunday’s Carnival is also known as “Children’s Day” and has a far greater emphasis on family but there are loads of kids on both days enjoying the bright colours of the floats and the dancers’ feathered costumes.
Of course, music is the soul of the Festival and you will be entertained with an eclectic mix of Soca, Funk, Reggae, Dub, Steel Bands, Calypso filling the air of any place in the district! Most of the music is played on live stages with the great participation of local bands and international artists and musicians! Giant sound systems and steel bands are joined by over a million revellers of all ages into Europe’s biggest street party. It’s a huge area, and can get very crowded. Nearest tube stations like Ladbroke Grove Tube or Westbourne Park Tube may be closed or running skeleton journeys. Be prepared for an exhausting day out, but if you love a party, Carnival remains the absolute highlight of the London summer! The best time to arrive is around midday, in fact things start to cool off at about 7pm.
The epicenter of the 2-days Carnival is the Parade with groups from all around the world showing off their fantastic costumes and performing along the 3-miles long route through Notting Hill’s major streets. The procession route is along Great Western Road, Chepstow Road, Westbourne Grove and Ladbroke Grove. There will be plenty of occasions to get a real taste of what Caribbean is…from music, to dances , costumes and food! Try the delicacies on the stalls that literally pave the streets.
One of the best things you can do to help you survive the day, is to get info of the nearest bus and Tube services in the area. Allow plenty of time to leave the area. It may be slow moving through the crowds, some exit routes may be closed, and you may need to walk quite a long way to get to a Tube or bus station which is open. Also check the maps on the carnival websites for the location of toilets and be very careful with your belongings.
For suitable accommodations in the area, we suggest the following youth hostels: Smart Camden Inn hostel, Smart Hide Park Inn hostel and the Smart hide Park View hostel. They all offer quality accommodations for the budget traveller in dormitories, but they also have nice and quite family rooms or private ensuite rooms. Prices starts from as cheap as 21 euros per person with breakfast. The location is just perfect as it is central and well served in terms of public transportation. It will be very easy for you to reach any place in London! Another good place is the extravagant Clink Hostel set in a former courthouse, the hostel offers such modern amenities as high-tech pod beds, equipped with reading lights and personal lockers, an internet café with wi-fi, a brand new kitchen and secure key-card access to every room. The avant-garde of London hostels, the Clink is centrally located in the up and coming vibrant neighbourhood of King’s Cross. Rates from only 25 euros per person per night.
London Notting Hill Carnival photo by Diliff