How to Party the Hardest at Notting Hill Carnival 2014

The Notting Hill Carnival takes place from 9am-7pm, :Sunday 24th August – Monday 25th August 2014. The event is FREE to attend.

Residents of Westbourne Grove: We suggest you stock up on groceries early. Come August long weekend, crossing the street to buy a pint of milk will likely take you a good hour or more. Why? Because upon opening the front door, you will be greeted not by vintage shops and bohemian cafes, but rather one colossal Afro-Caribbean celebration.

Well, well, it seems you just might have stumbled across the Notting Hill Carnival 2014! This is held in the neighbourhood of Notting Hill, London.

Did we mention it comes complete with Calypso music, tempting food stalls, amazing floats, steel bands and some of the most flamboyant costumes you have ever seen?

We challenge you not to get sucked in. Here’s how to party hard with the upmost style at 2014’s bash…

What is Notting Hill Carnival?

For those who haven’t picked up on the hype, Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street party. And it’s back again in 2014, attracting more than 1.5million people from across the globe! Woah.

Every year since 1966, the streets of West London have come alive in celebration of the UK Caribbean population. All the action takes place on 23-25 August of the Bank Holiday weekend, during which time the streets are packed with revelers clad in glittering bikinis, feather headdresses, oversized wings and some of the most outlandishly striking costumes you could imagine.

That’s not to mention…

The food! You simply cannot attend Notting Hill Carnival without sampling the exotic Caribbean delights on offer. Food stalls lining the streets will introduce you to mouth-watering jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantain and curried goat alongside some quality rum punch. Make sure to bring an appetite!

The music! Music is the heart and soul of Notting Hill Carnival. This year, pounding contemporary beats from over 40 sound systems will merge with traditional Calypso, Soca and Samba tunes in a musical landscape that fills the air for miles around. Live stages will also feature performances from international acts which have included Jamiroquai, Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine and Burning Sphere.

Notting Hill Carnival Highlights

As a lead up to the main Carnival celebrations, Saturday 23 August is the free Panorama Steelband Championships taking place from 4pm-9pm at Horniman’s Pleasance Park. Here, the UK’s top steel pan bands will go head to head in a competition for the ‘National Champions of Steel’ title.

Sunday 24 August is CHILDREN’S DAY at Notting Hill Carnival. With the emphasis on family fun, bands and performers appearing on this day are all under 21 and Carnival sites are reserved for activities suited to a younger generation. Heads up adults… the next generation of Carnivalists are set to put on a show that more than rivals Monday’s entertainment!

Then for the big one… Bank Holiday Monday is the MAIN PARADE at Notting Hill Carnival. Thousands of feathered costumes, elaborately dressed dancers, drummers and musicians will showcase Caribbean culture as they process down the streets on a range of awe-inspiring floats.

Floats carry soundsystems, steel pan and calypso bands, while mas (masquerade) bands made up of costumed musicians and dancers take to the road on foot. You can line the street to watch, or dance along behind whatever soundsystem tickles your musical fancy.

Check the route for the closest tube stations to the parade.

Soundsystems

When Notting Hill Carnival started in the 1960s, it was all about the floats and parade. Static soundsytems, which turn roads into open-air clubs, started up in the ‘80s, and there are now around 50 at carnival every year. It’s a bit like having an invite to 50 free, amazing parties, but choose early as wandering between them at your leisure isn’t really an option – the crowds are huge, and those streets are narrow…

Music played ranges from reggae and ragga to house, garage, r’n’b, hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and dub – anything with a beat you can dance to, really! Here are three vids of popular soundsystems to help you choose…

Sancho Panza

Music: house
USP: Been going since ’94, the carnival’s only dance music outpost – unfortunately they will be taking a fallow year in 2014

Rampage

Music: Drum ‘n’ Bass, Garage, Hip hop, Rap Reggae
USP: gets the stars: Dizee Rascal, Sean Paul Mos Def, Ms Dynamite and Katy B have popped up in recent years.

Channel One

Music: dub reggae
USP: it’s been going since 1975 and was set up by legendary raggae artist Mikey Dread

Check out the full list of soundsystems and where to find them at Notting Hill Carnival 2014 here

Getting to Notting Hill Carnival

Thinking about driving to Notting Hill Carnival? Forget it! Considering how crowded the streets are going to be, your best bet is public transport – and even then you’ll need to allow extra time for your journey. Plot out your route via Journey Planner before you set out.

Remember, a number of tube stations are set to be closed or ‘exit only’ throughout the carnival.

Ladbroke Grove – closed
Notting Hill Gate – exit only from 11am-6pm on Central line (Circle and District lines will not stop here)
Westbourne Park – exit only from 11am-6pm
Latimer Rd – closed from 11:30am
Royal Oak – exit only from 11am-6pm. Closed from 6pm
Kensal Green – exit only from 4pm

Where to stay for Notting Hill Carnival

There are a range of cheap London hotels and hostels with beds still available over the August bank holiday weekend. Check availability here.

Fancy something a little more relaxed this long weekend? Check out our Top UK Bank Holiday Break ideas for inspiration.

Thanks to hoangnt, David McK Flit, xtyler, Davide Simonetti for the images off Flickr. Please note all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.

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