Get the vibe and all the deets on Europe’s biggest street fest Notting Hill Carnival.

At the end of every August – on the bank holiday weekend – Europe’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival, descends onto west London.

Last year, the flamboyant festival attracted around two million revellers. It hosted 60 bands and 38 sound systems. One happy partygoer said of her experience in 2016: “The rhythm is absolutely stunning. I can actually feel it. Next year we are coming back.”

Here, we give you a taste of the Carnival’s vibe and gripping history. Its effervescent website,, will tell you everything else you need to know to make this year’s visit as safe and fun as possible.


The Carnival started life back in 1964 as a local festival set up by the West Indian community of Notting Hill, who wanted to celebrate the Afro-Caribbean culture and traditions. Around 500 people attended back then. The Carnival has grown dramatically since – now only Rio de Janeiro has a bigger one – as visitors from around the globe join the floats, colourful dancers, steel drum bands and countless Caribbean food stalls that cover over 20 miles of streets in and around the Notting Hill area. Through the Carnival of today, its organisers hope “to foster the creative development and enhancement of diverse artistic excellence”.


The Carnival serves up both traditional and contemporary music, as steel bands, Soca, Samba and Calypso merges with Reggae, R&B, Funk, House, Dub and even a little Rock n’ Roll. Over 70 live stages feature local bands as well as top international artists, including, over the years, Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Burning Spear and many others. Across the weekend, a staggering 16,000 different records are played.


The Carnival is a riot of flags, feathers and sequins. Over 15,000 handmade costumes are on display – and it is said to take a million man-hours to make and decorate them all.


Around 300 food stalls line the streets during the Carnival. A ton of rice and peas, five tons of chicken and 30,000 corn cobs are typically consumed over the weekend, as hungry partygoers refuel with jerk chicken, patties, curried goat, fried plantain and rum punch.

Updated August 2017