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A Notting Hill Carnival travel guide – fabulous floats, calypso sounds and dancing in the streets

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Be part of Europe’s largest street festival on a Notting Hill Carnival holiday in the streets of west London. Book Notting Hill Carnival hotels early and experience the wide diversity, shimmering colours and Caribbean sounds of the capital’s unbeatable sunshine party.

Float parade

The two-day carnival is a summer highlight and the culmination of a year of preparation. More than 100 decorated floats parade slowly along the carnival route. Dancers in flamboyant costumes lead whistle-blowing carnival-goers through the infectious rhythms of calypso, soca and steel band music. Bring the kids on Sunday, which is Children’s Day. The crowds are smaller and there’s more room to move.

Carnival sounds

True to its Caribbean roots, calypso and steel bands are the soundtrack for the colourful dancers in the carnival parade. Floats and stages entertain thousands of revellers, while street corner sound systems keep the crowds moving to ska, reggae, hip-hop, soul and house music. Official guides map the layout of the sound systems. Or just let your ears and feet guide you. Check who’s performing live – international acts often appear free.

Food and drink

Tempting aromas of authentic Caribbean cuisine and international dishes spill out from hundreds of street stalls. Barbecued jerk chicken, well seasoned in a spicy marinade, is a carnival favourite, while roti and fried fish, curry goat and rice and peas are perennially popular. Cool off with fresh fruit juices, ice cold beers or refreshing rum punch.

Practical information

Arrive early to beat the crowds: carnival entertainment begins at 10 a.m. Go with the flow of the crowd, not against it. Carnival routes are well policed and crowd control ensures things run smoothly. If you’re taking the children, keep hold of their hands and avoid the busiest areas.

When: The last Monday in August and the Sunday before it
Where: The streets around Portobello Road in Notting Hill, west London