3) Witness the parade
The spectacular, colourful parade is the central artery to the Carnival and features the best bands and most fabulous sequin-clad costumes you’ll see all year. Sunday is traditionally the slightly smaller and less hectic ‘children’s parade’ with more
kids’ floats and family-friendly activities. The biggie is on Monday, when more than 60 bands and mobile sound systems and countless flamboyant floats parade slowly through the partying crowds. If you want to catch a glimpse of the action up close, get there early to nab a spot near the front (and be prepared to stay there once the crowds descend). 4) Get your groove on
Carnival is all about dancing – even the police officers on duty can’t resist joining in (see ‘The best Notting Hill Carnival dancing policeman videos’ below). With around 40 static sound systems featuring world-class DJs pumping out dub, samba, reggae, house, soca, dancehall, disco, soul, hip hop, R&B and everything in between, just follow your feet and you’ll soon find something that gets you moving. The sound systems inside the parade route will be the sweatiest and most crowded, so if you want some space to throw shapes, find one a tad further out. There are also live stages dotted around, which are well worth watching. This year they’ll feature performances from Areej, Kaywavey, Niko & Friends (Peaky), Rotten Hill Gang, Shakka and more still to be announced.
5) Eat all the food
Food is an essential part of the Carnival experience so make sure you’re hungry. Start off by lining your stomach with some jerk chicken with rice and peas from one of the many stalls along the central streets. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choice, look for
Mama’s Jerk Station, usually on the corner of Portobello Road and Oxford Gardens, for some seriously delicious Caribbean treats. Vegetarians should keep an eye out for the stands selling vegan Rastafarian specialities. Once you’ve done some dancing and worked up an appetite again, it’s time for a snack of curry goat or fresh homemade patties (these are lighter in colour than the ones that come in packets – accept no imitations). 6) Drink responsibly
Before you hit the harder stuff, start with a hydrating fresh coconut from one of the stalls. If you’re planning on getting wavy, it’s much cheaper and easier to bring a cheeky supply of your own booze as the local newsagents make a fortune from selling overpriced lukewarm Red Stripe to thirsty revellers. If you’re sick of beer, go for an impressively strong rum punch, which will have you feeling totally tropical in no time. Just be warned, toilet queues can be painfully long so shorter drinks are advisable.
By Sonia Barber, Freelance writer 7) Stay out late
For some, Carnival itself will be enough of a party – and if you’ve been drinking all day it might be time for bed. But if you want to make the most of that extra day off, why not keep the celebrations going at one of the many after-parties on Sunday night? Everything at Carnival wraps up pretty promptly around 7pm once the sound systems shut down and it’ll take you a while to get anywhere so start moseying before it’s too late.
If you want to stay west, there are DJs until 3am at the
House That Jack Built at The Masons Arms in Kensal Green. For those heading to central London, make a beeline to Heaven in Charing Cross for dancehall, soca, Afrobeat and reggae at the Sun Baliante Hot Carnival Party.
South Londoners, dance your way down to the Bussey Building in
Peckhamfor Stevie Wonderland’s Carnival Afterparty with disco, afro, house, dub, jazz, soul and more.
If you’re heading back across the city, east Londoners are spoilt for choice with
Turn Up at The Macbeth and rum on the roof at Only Jerkin Sound System at NT’s bar in London Fields.
For drum ‘n’ bass fans, there’s only one place to be:
Metalheadz massive Carnival afterparty at Egg. And if you want to go to the biggest after-party in town, it’s got to be Ministry of Sound’s official afterparty on Monday night where you can keep the fun going until 5am. Think about booking Tuesday off though.