What to expect from the Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival is a fantastic weekend of fun, but it’s best to be prepared.

Going to the Notting Hill Carnival is one of those bucket list items that everyone just has to do at some point in their lives. While this colourful event, which takes to the streets over the August bank holiday weekend is indeed an incredible experience, it can be somewhat overwhelming. With this in mind, be sure to leave your serviced apartment in west London with a game plan. Here’s everything you will need to know.

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The lowdown

Seeing as it’s a bank holiday, the carnival kicks off on Sunday August 28th and continues into Monday 29th. The parade of floats and bands can be seen between 9am and 7pm both days. There are pre-carnival events and parties on the Saturday, however, so if you’re already in the capital and itching to get your dancing shoes on, there’s nothing to hold you back.

While known as the Notting Hill Carnival, the world-class event actually spreads out further across W10, with the areas of Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park hosting a lot of the action.

History

The Notting Hill Carnival has been held annually in August since 1964 and was set up for local Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their culture and traditions, as well as sharing them with a wider audience. Carnivals have been a feature of Caribbean islands, especially Trinidad, since the 19th century and were used as a way to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
This new freedom allowed them to party like they had been prevented from doing in the past and the origins of the over-the-top costumes come from mimicking the European fashions of their masters and essentially poking fun at them.

Top carnival facts

· Around two million people attend the Notting Hill Carnival every year
· It’s the biggest street party in Europe
· There are 70 stages, ten steel pan bands and some 40 static sound systems at Notting Hill Carnival
· Masquerade costumes were originally much scarier than they are today, having been influenced by West African mythology
· Carnival costumes can take all year to make and with 15,000 on display, that adds up to one million man hours
· It’s a tradition to smother melted chocolate on each other on the Sunday
· Sunday is particularly child-friendly, for those spending a family day at the carnival
· Five tonnes of chicken is served during the event

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Carnival music

Traditionally, the sounds of the Notting Hill Carnival have always been soca and calypso music, with steel bands featuring heavily. While there is still plenty of evidence of such music to this day, the carnival has embraced a number of other genres too. This means you’re likely to hear anything from reggae and dub to R&B and funk. Bands on this year’s bill include Bajan Revellers, Burrokeets UK and South Connections.

Refuelling carnival style

You won’t go hungry at the Notting Hill Carnival! In fact, the food stalls are all part of the experience, serving up delicious plates of rice and peas, jerk chicken, fried plantains and freshly made rotis. Look out for the likes of Mama’s Jerk Station and Roti Stop for some hugely satisfying traditional dishes. A wander along Talbot and Golbourne roads will give you plenty of choice. Wash it all down with fresh coconut water, Guinness punch or some good old Caribbean rum.

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Travelling to the Notting Hill Carnival

The roads along the carnival route are understandably closed to traffic during the event, which can make taking a bus or using Santander Cycles difficult. This means that the London Underground and a bit of walking is generally the best bet. Holland Park, High Street Kensington, Queen’s Park, Shepherd’s Bush, Bayswater and Paddington Tube stations are all relatively close by and once you dismount the train, you can follow the crowds heading to the parade route. Notting Hill Gate, Royal Oak and Westbourne Park will be operating restricted hours, so don’t rely on them to get back to your serviced apartment after a full day at the carnival.

Arrange a meeting point

Be sure to pick a prearranged meeting point if you’re going to the carnival as a group. It gets really busy and it’s easy enough to become separated from your party. Make sure this spot is near somewhere with things going on, as you could end up waiting for a while and won’t miss out on all the fun if your meeting point is near a band or sound system.

Don’t forget to pack…

In all the excitement of attending the carnival, it can be easy to leave your serviced apartment without the right gear. A pair of comfortable shoes are a must, as you’ll be on your feet all day and will probably end up doing some dancing at some point. It’s August and the British summertime is notoriously unpredictable, so be sure to have a mac or rain poncho, as well as sun cream. One thing is a certainly, however, and that’s the fact that temperatures will drop when the sun goes down, so layers are vital.

Looking for somewhere to stay during the Notting Hill Carnival? Try our Marylebone, Hammersmith, Covent Garden St Martin’s or Arne Street Apartments for the perfect accommodation while you enjoy the carnival!

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