An insider’s guide to Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival

Photography: Cristiano Betta

Is it just us, or is summer in London beginning to feel like one big party? First there was the Diamond Jubilee, then came the Olympics with its rousing opening and closing ceremonies. But this bank holiday weekend is the biggest and best of all, it’s annual return of London’s biggest street gathering: Carnival.

For two days (Sunday 26th and Monday 27th August), the streets of Notting Hill will be filled with floats, soundsystems, street food stalls and one massive party atmosphere. However, with large crowds, drinks-a-plenty and the odd safety concern, it’s important to plan it carefully. So…

Choose the day for you
Sunday is the day to go if you want to avoid the crowds – its ‘children’s day’ so tends to be slightly less busy, plus there are lots of colourful kids’ floats to keep little ‘uns entertained, if you decide to take yours. In contrast, Bank holiday Monday tends to be more of an all-day knees up, and is not for the faint-hearted!

Aim for quieter areas
Instead of entering Carnival from Notting Hill or Westbourne Park  (which can suffer from serious over-crowding), consider avoiding the crush and accessing the area via Queen’s Park and the Harrow Road. Experience Carnival around Middle Row instead, and you’ll find the infamous Good Times soundsystem, as well as whistle-happy Sancho Panza.

Get comfortable
Choose your spot wisely. If you’re drinking, anchor yourself near to a pub, or hunt down a handy block of flats that will rent out their loo at a pound a pop. Failing that, hold back on the Red Stripe. Oh, and bring your own loo roll and hand sanitiser in case the essentials are in short supply…

Make the most of the food!
As a celebration of all things West Indian, Carnival offers plenty of mouth-watering food options. But, if you want to try something other than jerk chicken, hunt down The Roti Stop which sets up on Golborne Road serving the Trinidadian specialty Roti – curry wrapped in flaky bread package.

Don’t forget the after-parties
Once the street chaos is over, head to one of the many after parties hosted across the City. Try Sancho Panza’s Carnival Top Up at The Regent in Kensal Green or Ninja Tune Presents at The Paradise. However, two of this year’s biggest post-Carnival bashes are happening out of west London, so Carnival phobes can get their fill too. Hit the Horse & Groom in Shoreditch for sets from garage veteran Wookie and his chums, or dancehall vibes at The Heatwave party at Electric, Brixton.

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