A rite of passage if you’re in London over the August bank holiday is to spend either the Sunday or Monday at Notting Hill Carnival. Officially Europe’s largest street festival, there are typically around two million visitors to the carnival each and every year. Having gone a few years ago only to party in the drizzling rain, I thought I’d try again now that I officially live in London. Luckily, this time around the sun was out in its full glory.
What is Notting Hill Carnival?
Notting Hill Carnival is an annual street party that celebrates London’s Caribbean communities. Dating back to 1966, the carnival brings together colourful traditions and culture over two days. It should be on any visitor to London’s bucket list. Taking place in London’s affluent Notting Hill neighbourhood, carnival goers can expect party parades, live reggae and dub music, as well as floats, steel bands, costumes, and amazing Caribbean food. You can catch the parade through the postcodes of W10 and W11, along Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. We decided to begin our boozy day at Notting Hill Carnival by first grabbing some brunch from Darcie & May Green in Paddington.
Brunch in Paddington, London
Looking for somewhere outside of Notting Hill to dodge the emerging crowd, I met my friend Alice in Paddington. We stumbled across Darcie & May Green by spotting the pop art colours of the barge on the water outside of Paddington Station on the Grand Union Canal. What’s not to love?
We hopped onto top deck in the sun and ordered a couple of Bloody Mary’s to get the day kicked off. Darcie Green offers an Aussie style brunch menu that’s relatively nutritious and very tasty. They also offer a bottomless brunch menu throughout the week.
I went for the smoked salmon royale on dark rye with avocado, poached eggs, hollandaise, and house made chilli pesto and it was delicious.
Alice went for the fancy bacon roll with poached eggs, crispy onions, bacon, holy f*ck mayonnaise and an add-on of bacon, all on a paratha roti. Both were delightful, and the perfect setup for a day ahead of partying at Notting Hill Carnival.
Getting to Notting Hill Carnival
We opted for brunch near Notting Hill so that we could walk directly to the carnival after. More often than not, there are travel disruptions around Notting Hill due to the sheer volume of visitors. If you’re planning to arrive by Underground, several tube stations will be shut or offering a restricted service. These are Ladbroke Grove, and Notting Hill Gate, Royal Oak, and Westbourne Park which are usually exit only. High Street Kensington, Queen’s Park, Shepherd’s Bush, Bayswater, and Paddington, however, typically offer a regular service.
One of the first things you’ll notice when arriving at Notting Hill Carnival is that supermarkets remove a lot of stock and replace it with alcohol. No milk to be seen in the Tesco above! It’s a fun vibe where the police are often there to look out for carnival goers and even join in occasionally. I don’t remember drinking publicly in front of the police in Canada.
Partying at Notting Hill Carnival
We began by fuelling up with a few Jamaican Red Stripe before cruising along with the carnival. It’s so bizarre seeing the affluent boutique shops and restaurants of Notting Hill being boarded up. The whole area completely shuts down to allow for the party and parades.
We danced to reggae and dub, following the parades around and chatting to others. There are plenty of stalls along the way to buy rum punch, curried goat, and jerk chicken. Smells filled the air and the sun shone bright.
The Sunday of Notting Hill Carnival is typically Family Day, so you’ll spot more kids in the crowd. It’s a little quieter than the crazy party on Monday. We meandered around some of the bars, stopping off to dance and buy more drinks along the way. Just don’t forget to take change in case you need to swing by a local loo during your carnival experience!
A wonderfully sunny carnival experience that trumped my last one in the rain. Let’s hope for plenty of sun for next year’s too!
How do you enjoy Notting Hill Carnival? What are your top tips for making the most of the Carnival? Share yours below!