Female carnival dancer in colourful outfit Female carnival dancer in colourful outfit

Guide to Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe, and it's a celebration of Caribbean culture, music, and food. The carnival takes place in Notting Hill on Sunday and Monday over the August Bank Holiday, with a traditional steelband competition taking place the day before. It's a party that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds, and it's an opportunity to experience a unique and colourful event that has been going on for over 50 years, originating in the 1960s as a response to the racial tensions and discrimination experienced by black communities in London. Today, Notting Hill Carnival attracts over a million visitors each year with its booming soundsystems, making it one of the most popular events in London's cultural calendar. Our guide to Notting Hill Carnival will give you everything you need to know to make the most of your visit.

In this guide
  1. What, when, and where
    1. UK National Panorama Steelband Competition – Annual steel pan showcase
    2. J'Ouvert Notting Hill Carnival – The Carnival's best-kept secret
    3. Children's Day Parade – Fun for the whole family
    4. Adults' Parade – The main event
    5. Sound systems and stages – Pump up the volume
  2. Where to stay if you're visiting from out of town
    1. Onefam Notting Hill – Find your carnival fam
    2. Inhabit Hotel – Post-carnival recovery
    3. The Hayden – Stay at the pub
  3. Where to get your fill of Caribbean food
    1. Cottons – Rum and vibes
    2. Jay Dees Catering – Budget-friendly Caribbean food
  4. Other Carnival-related events
    1. Brixton Jamm – Carnival on the beach
    2. Ministry of Sound – Keep the party going

What, when, and where

UK National Panorama Steelband Competition

Annual steel pan showcase

The Carnival proper takes place on the bank holiday Sunday and Monday, but the fun starts on Saturday. In Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, the traditional starting point of the Carnival, the best steel pan players in the country show off their skills and compete for the coveted title of Panorama Champions at the UK National Panorama Steelband Competition, the most respected such event outside the Caribbean. Street food vendors and all sorts of Caribbean entertainment are available as well.

J'Ouvert Notting Hill Carnival

The Carnival's best-kept secret

Named after the French expression for “opening of the day”, J'Ouvert is the traditional Caribbean start of the Carnival, but due to its early hour, only the most passionate and dedicated revellers are likely show up. The steelband floats convene next to Ladbroke Grove Station just before sunrise, heading out along the parade route when the day breaks. Meanwhile, revellers douse themselves and each other in paint and powders in happy, colourful mayhem. Things usually wind down around 9 am.

Children's Day Parade

Fun for the whole family

Following the J'Ouvert and the official Notting Hill Carnival opening ceremony, Sunday, the first day of the Carnival, is dedicated to children and families. In addition to a range of family-friendly events and activities throughout the Carnival area, including a dedicated family-friendly live music stage and sound systems, the next generation of mas bands parades along the traditional parade route, dancing in their costumes.

Adults' Parade

The main event

The climax of three days of revelry and colourful mayhem, the parade on Monday is the event that brings hundreds of thousands of partygoers to West London. Starting at Westbourne Park Station and heading down towards Westbourne Grove, the floats then go up Ladbroke Grove until they hit the canal and circle back to the start. The Notting Hill Carnival is an explosion of colours, costumes, music, and merrymaking, and you're encouraged to wear a costume of your own and make some noise even just as a spectator.

Sound systems and stages

Pump up the volume

Throughout the main Carnival event on Sunday and Monday, massive stacks of loudspeakers blast out reggae, hip-hop, dub, and other bass-heavy music. Found at various locations around the Carnival area, the soundsystems are no less an iconic and traditional part of the event than the main parade, providing a more static alternative to following the parade around (though mind the evening curfew). Live music stages are also set up.

Where to stay if you're visiting from out of town

Onefam Notting Hill

Find your carnival fam

If you're embarking on a solo adventure, this West London hostel is the perfect spot to meet other like-minded travellers. Situated in the heart of the iconic Notting Hill neighbourhood, renowned for its incredible markets, the Onefam hostel is also conveniently located within walking distance of the impressive Kensington Palace, Portobello Market, and Hyde Park.

Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Paddington – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens Inhabit Hotel Paddington
Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens
queensgardens.inhabithotels.com
Inhabit Hotel Paddington
southwick.inhabithotels.com
Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens Inhabit Hotel Paddington

Post-carnival recovery

The Inhabit Hotels offer wellness-focused accommodation that seamlessly blends British design with Scandinavian style. Guests can elevate their stay by requesting a custom aromatherapy scent for their room, enhancing the tranquil ambiance. The hotels boast a kitchen, snack pantry, and a spa complete with treatment rooms. The plant-centric menu is designed to nourish and delight the taste buds.

  • 25-27 Southwick Street, Paddington 1-2 Queen's Gardens
    Inhabit Hotel Paddington
    25-27 Southwick Street, Paddington
    Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens
    1-2 Queen's Gardens
  • Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens
    queensgardens.inhabithotels.com
    Inhabit Hotel Paddington
    southwick.inhabithotels.com
    Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens
    020-729 898 00
    Inhabit Hotel Paddington
    020-772 377 23
  • Inhabit Hotel Queen's Gardens Inhabit Hotel Paddington

The Hayden

Stay at the pub

Nestled in Notting Hill, The Hayden is a charmingly decorated pub offering boutique-style accommodation alongside delectable food and drinks. The menu showcases a diverse range of global favourites, including burgers, quesadillas, steaks, and tacos, along with classic brunch options and indulgent Sunday roasts complete with all the trimmings.

Where to get your fill of Caribbean food

Cottons

Rum and vibes

Experience the vibrant flavours of Caribbean cuisine at the Notting Hill branch of Cottons, where the ambiance is infused with tropical vibes, colourful artwork, and lively music. With over 300 types of rum available and a range of vibrant cocktails, the bar is an excellent place to start or finish your carnival journey – they've even set up their own sound system for past editions. The menu offers a variety of traditional dishes, including curried mutton, jerk meats, stews, and seafood.

Jay Dees Catering

Budget-friendly Caribbean food

For an affordable and authentic Caribbean meal, head to Jay Dees Catering, a small West London takeaway spot. Treat yourself to a generous portion of charred jerk chicken with rice and peas, or savour the flavourful curried goat paired with a side of saltfish patties. If you're hosting a special carnival event and want to impress guests with delicious Caribbean cuisine, Jay Dees Catering also offers catering services.

Other Carnival-related events

Brixton Jamm

Carnival on the beach

Boasting an artificial beach, the Brixton Jamm venue seems tailor-made for carnival vibes, and its programme doesn't disappoint. On Sunday, they're hosting the Jamm Carnival Clash, a day and night afterparty with music, food, and a whole lotta positive vibes across the venue's various spaces.

Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound
Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound
Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound
Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound
Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound
Ministry of Sound – Notting Hill Carnival 2024
Ministry of Sound

Ministry of Sound

Keep the party going

One of the most legendary nightclubs in London, Ministry of Sound annually hosts the biggest Carnival afterparty on Monday. Expect big crowds and a range of music genres across the venue's state-of-the art floors, from hip-hop, grime and R&B, to house, DnB, Afrobeats, and more. The music is complemented by lasers, massive LED displays, confetti and more, including hot food vendors.

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Editors

At Thatsup, we have extensive experience of guiding our readers to a city’s hidden gems. Since 2008, our editors have been writing insightful guides covering restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, and hairdressers, among other things. Our guides consist of carefully selected tips based on our local knowledge and are regularly updated with the help of our focus group, where we collectively discuss selections and content. We are constantly working to inspire and provide you with the best possible experience, no matter where you are or what you are looking for.