Europe Hints & Tips

Europe’s biggest street festival: Notting Hill Carnival

Every summer, party-goers gather from all over to join in the festivities of the Notting Hill Carnival. This explosion of music and colour is an annual event, coinciding conveniently with the August Bank Holiday weekend, the last weekend of the month. Sunday and Monday sees the surrounding streets closed, as floats lead groups of dancers along the parade towards the judges panel. This year, we went to check it out.

The Good

We rocked up early, thanks to a conveniently located hotel and a touch of jetlag. The parade route was very well patrolled, with stewards along the edges of the crowds. The music was pounding, I felt the vibrations through my chest and into my ears. All sorts of Caribbean sounds filled the neighbourhood. The parades were made up of men, women and children, all dressed in extravagant and colourful costumes. The wings and plumes of feathers were amazing, they had their faces painted and their dancing shoes on. When we finally broke away, the street vendors selling their delicious eats drew us in. I would have liked to have glitter on my face, but the queue to get it done was outrageous. We bought a meal deal of rice and jerk chicken and sat on the pavement, cocktail in hand, without a care in the world. We were loving it!

The Bad

Now I don’t want to sound like a typical Brit moaning about the weather, but it was so hot. Granted, much rather sunny and warm than wet and miserable. But the sun was beating down on us, and the performers struggled to find the energy to keep dancing, so very often they just shuffled by, sipping their drinks and looking exhausted. Which isn’t really in the spirit of carnival, but probably couldn’t be helped considering the 30+ degree heat. As the day wore on, loud and obnoxious behaviour was on the increase. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just don’t have the patience to laugh it off like I used to. Drunk and disorderly conduct in public places, especially on what’s considered to be ‘Family Day’ is unacceptable. Also, £3 to use a port-a-loo? I don’t think so. I’d rather head out of the area to somewhere where I can use a proper -clean- toilet, for free.

The Ugly

Every street café and shop was boarded up, presumably to save them from vandalism and other antisocial behaviour attracted by the festival. This made it impossible to drop in somewhere for a bit of window shopping or a bite to eat in a sit-down venue. Crime is insanely high, and arrests this year were for things including possession of offensive weapons, use of psychotic drugs and grievous bodily harm. Lastly, I have never seen such dirty, litter-strewn streets as I did there; every step I took seemed like a risk and the stench of vomit and urine was nauseating.

Worth It?

Absolutely. I happened to be in London anyway, and it was quite an experience. But I can’t emphasise enough; go early in the day. Be there by 11 and leave by 2, then you catch the best of it and leave the rest for the latecomers. Would I make the journey specially for the carnival? No. Would I come again? Probably not. Any regrets? Never!


Have you been to the Notting Hill Carnival? What did you think? Tag us on Instagram @whistle_stops to show us your favourite pics from Carnival. 

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