Notting Hill Carnival 2023 Guide: When, Where And How To Do London's Caribbean Festival

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Notting Hill Carnival 2023 Guide: When, Where And How To Do London's Caribbean Festival

Never been to Notting Hill Carnival? Need a refresher? If you're heading to Carnival 2023, read on for all you need to know to about one of London's (and Europe's) biggest parties.

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: A woman in a gold and red carnival costume featuring head dress, wings, and a bikini-style top.
Costumed dancers aplenty at Notting Hill Carnival. Image: Shutterstock

What is Notting Hill Carnival?

Notting Hill Carnival is a huge, free street festival celebrating the Caribbean community. It's Europe's biggest street festival, and the world's second largest carnival (Rio takes first place) — bringing bangin' beats, lashings of street food (jerk chicken is a solid fave), razzle-dazzle costumes and utterly fabulous parade processions.

It's been taking place since 1966, though it took a break in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid. It returned last year, with people thrilled be back out on west London's streets — more Mas bands and sound systems than ever before. We expect things to be equally as electrifying in 2023.

When is Notting Hill Carnival 2023 and how many days does it last?

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: a head and shoulders photo of a woman wearing lilac feathers and fishnet gloves, smiling at the camera.
Expect colourful costumes galore at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. Image: Shutterstock

Notting Hill Carnival takes place on over the August bank holiday weekend. Officially, the main action happens on Sunday and Monday — that's when the parade happens — but there is an extra event, Panorama, taking place on Saturday 26 August 2023, acting as a Carnival warm-up event. More details in our Notting Hill Carnival schedule, below.

Where is Notting Hill Carnival 2023? Where does it start and what's the parade route?

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: a view of a street completely packed with people at Notting Hill Carnival.
Expect crowds aplenty at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. Image: Shutterstock

Surprisingly, Notting Hill Carnival takes place in Notting Hill — although it also spills out into the streets of Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park, Westbourne Grove and Bayswater. Vast swathes of W10 and W11 are pedestrianised to cope with the sheer numbers of people. Follow the crowds, the music and the street food aromas, and you'll find it alright.

As for the parade route: it's over three miles long, starting near Westbourne Park station, wending down to Westbourne Grove, and back up towards Ladbroke Grove. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Notting Hill Carnival website hasn't been too well-endowed with specific information — the official app is the best place to look for maps and the like.

Is Notting Hill Carnival free?

Yes, attending the carnival, watching the procession, soaking up the vibes and joining in the fun is completely free, no ticket required. That said, there are plenty of food and drink stalls (over 300+!) around, where you can part with your pennies if you so choose.

How do I get to Notting Hill Carnival 2023? What's the nearest tube station?

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: People wearing carnival costumes including headpieces, in front of a London Underground roundel sign.
Note that certain tube stations may close due to overcrowding during Notting Hill Carnival. Image: iStock/pcruciatti

TfL knows how busy west London gets during Notting Hill Carnival, so helpfully avoids engineering works and closures on the tube lines people use to get there.

  • The Central line will be open for the whole weekend for Queensway, Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park, and the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines will be serving Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road, all of which are within walking distance of Notting Hill Carnival. BUT, be aware that these stations (and neighbouring stations) may be closed at any time due to overcrowding.
  • If you're coming by bus, be aware that roads around the carnival area will be pedestrianised, meaning that buses are rerouted and may terminate early.
  • Whatever route you're taking to carnival, expect it to be a bit of a party in its own right. Drinking alcohol is illegal on public transport, but this isn't particularly enforced when Carnival enters the equation. Though you didn't hear that from us.

Keep an eye on the TfL website for 2023 updates and last-minute changes closer to the time.

Notting Hill Carnival 2023 schedule

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: A street packed with people and stalls, with smoke from one of the food stalls blowing over the street.
Image: iStock/Mike Sheridan

Around 40 booming sound systems playing everything from house to calypso, and 80+ vibrant Mas bands are usually on the programme — though the organisers tend not to release specific details until the last minute. Here's a brief look at what we know is happening when for Notting Hill Carnival 2023 — keep an eye on the official website for the full schedule closer to the time.

Saturday 26 August

The event begins on Saturday evening with Panorama, a family-friendly event in Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, near Trellick Tower. You'll need a ticket for this one. This event kicks off Carnival every year with the UK National Panorama Steel Band Competition, the most respected annual steel pan event outside the Caribbean. Expect live music and an all-round Caribbean atmosphere.

Sunday 27 August - from 6am (!)

Sunday is family day at Carnival, so it's calmer than Monday — but it still gets very busy. The terrifyingly early J'Ouvert Carnival in Ladbroke Grove usually begins around sunrise at 6am (yes, that's 6am), with steel bands and African drummers parading through the streets.

The children's parade usually begins at 10.30am, immediately after that early opening ceremony, with younger performers dancing through the streets. Last year, the children's parade was led by members of virtual running community the Emancipated Run Crew, who wore green to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Family workshops usually take place at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, along with Caribbean food and drink stalls — keep an eye on the official website for details closer to the time.

Monday 28 August - from midday

Bank holiday Monday is the big one. More than 80 bands in spectacular costumes wander through the streets in the main parade, which usually begins at midday. The entertainment on the multiple stages continues from yesterday, and around 40 sound systems pump out huge tunes.

Taking kids to Notting Hill Carnival 2023

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: A toddler, holding hands with an adult on either side, wearing a costume featuring red and yellow feathers.
Costumes are very much encouraged at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. Image: Shutterstock

As mentioned above, Sunday is family day at Notting Hill Carnival, so if you've got children in tow, this is the day to go. That said, it still gets VERY busy, so keep them close to you at all times. We'd recommend packing snacks, as the food and drink queues can be long — as can toilet queues. Why not get them dressed up to get them in the spirit? Glitter (preferably biodegradable), sequins and feathers are all Notting Hill Carnival staples, the more the better — and the bright colours might help you keep track of them a bit easier.

Toilets at Notting Hill Carnival 2023

Toilets are dotted about in the form of porta-toilets but the queues are loooong. Something to think about before you have that third drink. The rush for toilets usually leads to some enterprising locals charging for entrance to their home, taking advantage of those who've had one too many cans of Red Stripe. It's also worth carrying your own tissue/hand wash options with you. The Notting Hill Carnival app has an interactive map showing toilet locations.

Food and drink at Notting Hill Carnival 2023

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: A woman working on a food stall, serving various curries.
There are plenty of food stalls, especially Caribbean cuisine, at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. Image: Shutterstock

More than 300 food and drink stalls are dotted around, focusing mainly on Caribbean food (curried goat, jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish) but other cuisines have crept in too, and there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Again, expect to queue in the main carnival areas — but it's all part of the fun.

How do I dodge the crowds at Notting Hill Carnival?

You're joking, right? This is Europe's biggest street festival with two million people attending every year — dodging the crowds isn't an option. If you need to bring a bag, make it a small one (the crowds and noise are a pickpocket's paradise).

If you're meeting someone, meet them well outside the Notting Hill area — once you're in the throng, you've little chance of spotting them.

First-timer Notting Hill Carnival tips

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: a woman wearing a gold costume, featuring a head dress, body suit and wings.
Sequins and feathers galore at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. Image: Shutterstock

Bring cash and cards — in the past, many of the food and drink stalls have only taken cash, and local cash points have long queues (or run out of dosh entirely). That said, with the move towards contactless payments during the pandemic, things may be different this year. Having both with you makes sure you're covered.

Dress for all weathers — sunshine and showers — and wear comfortable shoes for all the walking.

You won't have much luck with mobile phones — with so many people in such a confined area, the struggle for signal is real. We repeat: do not try and meet up with anyone at carnival itself. It's not worth it.

The official programme of events is great, but don't be a slave to it. Magical moments happen every year at Carnival from the unlikeliest of sources. That might just be a guy with a rickety looking sound system in the street, blasting out absolute bangers. It's not worth trekking across the Carnival and missing them if you're having fun right now. Go with the flow.

Notting Hill Carnival 2023: Two police officers walking towards the camera, with a thin crowd in the street behind them.
It's something of a tradition for police officers to be caught on camera dancing at Notting Hill Carnival. Not these ones, though. Image: Shutterstock

Also keep an eye out for that elusive Notting Hill Carnival classic moment: Police dancing to reggae (sometimes amazingly, sometimes not so much). Hits the headlines every single year (although we're praying the Met will up the ante and go for a lip sync battle instead one year).

Keep up to date on the official Notting Hill Carnival website, and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Notting Hill Carnival 2023 after-parties and other events

Get warmed up for NHC with Carnival Culture in the Park, a four-night festival of calypso and steel pan music at Opera Holland Park, taking place 16-19 August 2023.

Plenty of venues all over London host Notting Hill Carnival after parties, and other Carnival-themed events. We'll update this page once 2023 events have been announced, but these are the ones we know about so far:

Find out more about Notting Hill Carnival 2023 on the Notting Hill Carnival website and Carnival Village Trust website.

Last Updated 27 August 2023

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