Nottinghill Carnival – The London Kiwi’s Guide

How does one sum up an event quite like the Notting Hill Carnival?

As you head towards Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove you can cast aside your map as you are guided towards the chest-pounding beats of the bass, the tropical steel drum bands, the whistles and horns and excitement of the crowd. 

Getting closer, you can begin to smell the smoky barbeques, restaurants bringing our their wares to the curbside, the tang of beer and excitement floating on the breeze.

You round a corner, and it’s almost a riot on your gaze. 

Where do you look first? The effervescent costumes, the gyrating dancers or the grins of the crowd?

Settle into a spot for a while, and let the riotous colour, dancing and costuming assault the senses. Just enjoy the undulating chaos. And watch out for the people with buckets of paint, booze and chocolate. 

Have a bit of a boogie, catch a few bubbles.

Once there awhile, the smell of the cooking will probably lure you away from the dancers, and the only questions now are what to have, where to get it and where to eat it.

For me, there was no question. Hands down the winners were Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas, followed with beverage of choice Red Stripe Lager, all from a home vendor with a massive smile. Now, to find a place on the parade route to tear in and enjoy.

Is it cooked well? How spicy have they make it? Are the peas scrumptious? All I can say is winner winner, chicken dinner, done.

There will be a little bit of jostling, and natural movement from the crowds but just relax, keep a smile on your face and grab another drink. If you’re quick, you’ll be able to snaffle one from the float trucks that have their own onboard bars.


If you fancy it, you can wander into the carnival parade itself, just be prepared to be covered in paint/nutella/flour, to dance like you have a booty and have a fantastic time!

Ahhh, London you are a special city.


If you feel a little weary afterwards, see if you can jump onto one of the floats. How she rested, I actually don’t know!

  • Go early; the parade starts from 9am and goes continuously until 7pm both days
  • Avoid the busiest tube stations if you can; we walked from Edgware Road {because a) it was so lovely and quiet, b) the sun was shining and c) we are training for a charity half marathon,} but it meant we cut out most the of the chaos
  • Drink enough water to keep you grooving but balanced with the fact that the bathrooms can be a little yuck. Or you can pay to use bathrooms along the main route
  • We went on the ‘children’s day’ so it was a little quieter but there are still fabulous costumes, a lot of dancers grinding and some very daring costumes as the day went on
  • Be security-wise; don’t flash cash or jewellery, make sure your valuables are in zipped pockets and don’t keep anything on your back except your water bottle
  • Make some friends
  • Wear your brightest more fun clothes, fluoro is de rigeuer
  • Expect the unexpected!
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