Sunday is Family Day, and a slightly gentler affair. If you have children, take them to the opening ceremony, J'Ouvert, where a procession of brightly costumed kids sets the tone for the weekend’s festivities. The main parade is on Monday: an overwhelming spectacle of dancers, bands and floats, and definitely one for those of us more inclined to party.
But there’s so much more to Carnival than the parades: booming sound systems are spread out around the surrounding streets, along with food stalls, bars and hawkers (look out for the legendary Roti King). Last year's 'Sound Systems' highlights included Rappatank and Gaz’s Rocking Blues, a staple of Carnival since 1981 – but it doesn’t matter if you can’t find exactly what you're looking for when half the fun is wandering around, following your ears.
There’s no denying that the crowds and noise can get pretty intense, and you need some kind of refuge. Ideally, you have a W11-dwelling best friend with a rooftop and an icy jug of home-brewed punch (not to mention a clean loo). If you don't have that luxury, never fear: things are usually calmer around Portobello Road, and the Carnival stretch has any number of pubs to pop into if you fancy a rest or a cold one. We recommend the Portobello Star, Walmer Castle on Ledbury Road, The Lonsdale on Lonsdale Road, Ground Floor Bar on Blenheim Crescent, and The Elgin on the main parade route of Ladbroke Grove.
As far as practical advice goes, there are a few key considerations to bear in mind to make the most of your Carnival. It’s vital to have a pre-arranged meeting point in case you get separated from your friends, because the sheer concentration of people can mean that mobile phones don’t always work. What's more, leave the tube map at home: most stations in the area will be closed, so buses and walking are your best bets.
Avoid open-toed sandals, as there's a fair amount of broken glass. Make sure you bring plenty of cash for the food stalls, because the local cash machines will have run out before the party is over. Lastly, stay away from the Rampage Stage, where there tends to be trouble.
Adults, take note: warm-up parties and afterparties are BIG – keep an eye out for some of the city's best jazz, funk, soul and afro-pop outfits, which flock to Ladbroke Grove for the occasion. London's nightlife is also in the loop: legendary gay club Heaven put on a four-room afterparty to remember last year, with everything from soca to club anthems. Seven hours long, it was trumped only by West Side Story's twelve-hour epic at the Mason's Arms in Kensal Green.
Sound good? Get ready to go out and paint the town red – just don't forget your glitter.
|What||Notting Hill Carnival 2019|
|Nearest tube||Ladbroke Grove (underground)|
24 Aug 19 – 26 Aug 19, 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|