Never been to Notting Hill Carnival? Need a refresher now it's back? If you're heading to Carnival 2022, read on for all you need to know to about one of London's (and Europe's) pengest party.
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 this year is the first IRL Carnival since 2019, due to Covid. With three years lapsing since the last event, the atmosphere is likely to be more electrifying than ever — with people thrilled be back out on west London's streets. Plus, there are more Mas bands and sound systems than ever before.
When is Notting Hill Carnival 2022?
Notting Hill Carnival takes place on over the August bank holiday weekend. In 2022, this is 27-29 August, although most of the action takes place on Sunday 28 and Monday 29.
Where is Notting Hill Carnival 2022?
Surprisingly, 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.
How do I get to Notting Hill Carnival 2022?
The basics you need to know are:
- 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. 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.
Here's a handy map of your travel options from TfL from the 2018 Carnival. Keep an eye on the TfL website for 2022 updates closer to the time.
Notting Hill Carnival 2022 schedule
38 booming sound systems playing everything from house to calypso, and 84 vibrant Mas bands are on the programme. Here's a brief look at what's happening when — keep an eye on the official website for the full schedule closer to the time.
Saturday 27 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 (not yet available) for this one. This event kicks off Carnival every year — expect live music and an all-round Caribbean atmosphere as the UK's largest and more important steel pan competition takes place.
Sunday 28 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 2022 begins at 10.30am, immediately after that early opening ceremony, with younger performers dancing through the streets. This year, the children's parade is led by members of virtual running community the Emancipated Run Crew, who will wear green to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire, five years ago.
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 29 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 begins at midday. The entertainment on the multiple stages continues from yesterday, and around 40 sound systems pump out huge tunes.
What's new for Notting Hill Carnival 2022?
Notting Hill Carnival goes eco-friendly this year: a fully-electric eco truck will be in use in the parade for the first time, funded by NHC partner Spotify. It made its debut at this year's Glastonbury, and aims to reduce the Carnival's carbon footprint, as well as "reducing noise pollution on the road" — though really, with the absolute scenes that go down at Carnival, will anybody notice the difference?
Taking kids to Notting Hill Carnival 2022
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, 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 2022
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 2022
Food and drink stalls are dotted round, focusing mainly on Caribbean food (curried goat, jerk chicken) but other cuisines have crept in too. Again, expect to queue in the main carnival areas.
How do I dodge the crowds?
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 of the Notting Hill area — once you're in the throng, you've no chance of spotting them.
Other Notting Hill Carnival tips
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.
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).
Notting Hill Carnival 2022 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 17-20 August 2022.
Plenty of venues all over London host Notting Hill Carnival after parties, and other Carnival-themed events. This year, they include:
- 229 The Venue in Fitzrovia
- Trapeze in Shoreditch
- The Joiner on Worship in Shoreditch
- Brixton Courtyard
- Lit in Brixton
- Carnival Boat Party, leaving from Temple Pier