In Depth

Notting Hill Carnival 2019: when is it, what is the route and where are the best parties?

A guide to Europe's biggest street festival

Up to two million revellers are expected to descend on Notting Hill in west London this weekend for Europe’s biggest annual street festival, paying homage to the British West Indian community in the capital.

As well as music and dance, the event is also one of the “most significant weekends on London’s food and drink scene”, says the London Evening Standard, featuring “great food stalls and copious amounts of rum and Red Stripe”.

Here is all you need to know:

Why Notting Hill?

The carnival has been running annually since 1966 every August bank holiday, although The Guardian says the very first event was actually a few years earlier in 1964 and “was a fairly low key event, with just a few hundred people.”

The Notting Hill area experienced a huge influx of Caribbean Windrush immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. But since the 1980s, an increasing number of middle-class homeowners have gradually driven up house prices, pushing out many poorer residents, and changing the demographic of the area.

In 2002, a review set up by then London mayor Ken Livingstone recommended scrapping the existing circular route for safety reasons, favouring instead a linear route that would end in Hyde Park.

The suggestion was met with widespread opposition, with almost three quarters of black Londoners interviewed saying the event should remain within the neighbourhood.

Last year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan refused to move the carnival in the wake of the Grenfell Fire disaster.

When is Notting Hill Carnival?

This year the carnival will take place from Saturday 25 to Sunday 26 August.

The partying kicks off on Saturday with the event known as Panorama. Expect steel band music competitions, Caribbean-themed outdoor entertainment and street food. Entry is free with events taking place all day at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park.

Sunday opens at 6am with J’Ouvert, a Caribbean carnival tradition in which a parade of early risers covered in mud - or, more commonly in the modern era, paint, powder and even chocolate - announce the beginning of the carnival.

Sunday is also known as Family Day, offering a more laid-back vibe and a Children's Parade taking place from 10am.

Monday is the Grand Finale with colourful dancers, performers, steel bands and mobile sound systems filling the streets of Notting Hill.

What is the parade route?

The main parade begins on Great Western Road, going down Chepstow Road and then on to Westbourne Grove before travelling down Ladbroke Grove.

A map of the route can be found here.

How do I get there?

Carnival has plenty of information on its website to help people travelling to Notting Hill Carnival. Extra buses have been put on to take people from across all parts of London. Tube stations close to the Carnival, such as Ladbroke Grove, Latimer Road and Notting Hill Gate, are often closed or become exit only and there will be no Night Tube on Sunday and Monday nights, so it's worth checking on the TfL site to plan your journey.

What else do I need to know?

Get cash out before you get to Notting Hill. Most of the stalls and street food vendors do not take card, meaning there are always long queues for local cash points, which often run out of money entirely.

Toilet facilities are also famously hard to find at the carnival. Portaloos are dotted about, but the rush usually leads to some enterprising locals charging for entrance to their home, where you can expect to pay as much as £5 for the privilege.

You won't have much luck with mobile phones either - with so many people in such a confined area, the struggle for signal is real.

This leads The Londonist to issue perhaps the most important piece of advice: “We repeat: do not try and meet up with anyone at carnival itself, it's not worth it.”

Where are the best parties and after-parties?

Design My Night has compiled a list of the best Notting Hill Carnival parties and after-parties for those who want to keep the good vibes going, encompassing everything from techno bangers to brunch.

“Looking for one of the biggest Carnival after parties, in the heart of South London? Clapham’s Grand are once again outdoing themselves as they invite Get Busy for Carnival anthems and dancehall beats until the wee hours of the morning,” says the site.

Alternatively, it points to Trapeze in East London, which is also lining up a night of DJs and music.

The Ministry of Sound at Elephant and Castle will also be hosting an after-party.

If you're still hungry after all the Caribbean delights, head off on Day-Cation at Pitch, Stratford. Guests will be treated to brunch and giant jenga, plus ping-pong, school games and more partying.

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