Multicultural London

“The whole world in one city” is how former London Mayor Ken Livingstone described his city. The United Kingdom may say "bye, bye" to Europe with Brexit, the entire planet is saying "hello" in the streets of its capital. We went to see it in several districts of this metropolis, where a third of the inhabitants come from elsewhere, and which never ceases to invite us on a trip… Head to Little Portugal, Banglatown, Little Lagos and Little Jamaica.

London feels good in its melting pot

The numbers speak for themselves: over 100 different languages ​​are said to be spoken in each of London's 33 boroughs (except Richmond, City and Havering). English is not the mother tongue of nearly 22% of residents of the English capital (out of 7,8 million Londoners aged 3 and over). In 2014, around 3 million Londoners were born abroad, or over 36% of the population.

Despite the post-Brexit impression of the capital of a country that would withdraw into itself, London continues to heal its multiculturalism as half of London's population is predicted to be foreign-born in 2031.

We find this melting pot in the works of several novelists, such as Zadie Smith or Tarquin Hall, in the films of Ken Loach, Stephen Frears or Gurinder Chadha. But not only in fiction: the municipal victory of Sadiq Khan, son of Pakistani immigrants and of Muslim faith, is undoubtedly the most striking sign of London's multiculturalism which can be seen in several foreign enclaves of the British capital. In London, strollers can find a getaway just a few tube stations away.

We stop in this report at Little Portugal, Banglatown, Little Lagos et Little Jamaica. But there are other neighborhoods that invite you to travel, like Little India and the largest Sikh temple in the UK, the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southhall (borough of Ealing, to the west near heathrow airport), the Orthodox Jewish quarter in Stamford hill ou Little Korea à New Malden with its hairdressers, churches, specialized food shops and karaoke restaurants.

Little Portugal, between Vauxhall and Stockwell

More than 40 Portuguese nationals are believed to be living in London. It's certain South Lambeth Road, artery stretching between the districts of Vauxhall and Stockwell, south of London, where you can best feel the Lusitanian influences.

All along the street, there are pastries that showcase appetizing bolo rei or the essential pastéis de nata (we recommend Casa Madeira or Lisboa Patisserie, which sells other Portuguese products), Bandeiras from Portugal flapping in the wind in front of restaurants (O Fumeiro, Grelha Douro or Three Lions Cafe) or bars (l'Estrela Bar which also serves as a restaurant or Casa Benfica, a football-bar, all dressed in red, dedicated to the Lisbon club) which warm up with each match of the Portuguese championship or the Selecção das quinas ...

They are said to be between 30 and 000 from a Portuguese-speaking country living in this area, even if gentrification very often drives the descendants of low-wage Portuguese workers to the London suburbs, who had flocked in the 35s and 000, or the newcomers who fled unemployment in the 1960s and the 1970 crisis.

Banglatown, between Brick Lane and Whitechapel

The East End has taken a big hit: to Brick Lane, everything seems to be thrift stores, street art, food markets and trendy bars. But as soon as we get closer to Whitechapel and Bethnal green, we find the oriental coloring of the district which had welcomed the main wave of Bangladeshi immigration from the liberation war of the country in 1971.

Street signs lined in Bengali, Indian, Pakistani, Bengali restaurants, exhaling a thousand spicy scents (for those who are not afraid of spicy dishes or noisy atmospheres, we recommend grilled meats from Tayyabs, Needoo Grill or Lahore Kebab House).

In 2011, there were over 220 Bangladeshis in the capital. Most now live in East London, Tower Hamlets ou Newham, but there still remains this important community of Whitechapel (the westernmost part of the borough Tower Hamlets). However, it seems a long time ago when real curry houses were scattered along Brick Lane.

Little Jamaïca in Brixton

Nearly 250 Londoners are believed to be of Jamaican origin. Their presence dates back to 000, after Great Britain decided to grant all citizens of its dismantling colonial empire the status of "citizen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth".

The MV Empire Windrush liner then landed in London several hundred Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Barbadians who settled in Brixton, Camden, Islington or to Notting Hill to work in major reconstruction works, health services or public transport. The Caribbean community is still particularly well represented during the Notting Hill Carnival, created in 1966 and which takes place the last weekend of August. 

Despite soaring rents, accelerated hipsterization (just take a ride on the Prince of Wales rooftop, at the Phonox club or at the O2 Academy concert hall) and the government's policy of “the environment”. hostile to immigration ”which provoked the scandal of the Windrush generation, Brixton (South London), which no longer has much to do with its riotous 1980s past, remains the central stronghold of this Jamaican and Caribbean community, although other enclaves have emerged in Tottenham ou Harlesden.

If you want to immerse yourself in the Caribbean atmosphere, a visit to Brixton Market (sold in 2018 to a consortium of real estate companies ...) in its indoor part (Brixton Village) with its colorful iron vaults and its glass roof stands out against a backdrop of reggae, ska and calypso. Exotic fruits, woven handcrafted artefacts, take-away, flea market… but also cafes and restaurants where young Londoners flock to the wind.

You will continue on theElectric Avenue (for the outdoor part with stalls of fabrics with Caribbean motifs and retro objects) sung by reggaeman Eddy Grant. Finally, at Windrush Square is the Black Cultural Archives, a museum dedicated to English African and Caribbean history, created in 1981 and which took up residence in its current building in 2004. Exhibitions and conferences on Afro-Caribbean culture are regularly organized there. 

Little Lagos to Peckham

Peckham, in south-east London, is called " Little Lagos " or " Yorubatown ' as the influx of Nigerians from the Yoruba ethnic group was massive from the 1970s.

In 2001, 7% of Peckham's population was of Nigerian descent. This percentage fell as the district grew more festive (CLF Art Cafe) or art galleries with rooftop terrace and café (the South London Gallery but also Bold Tendencies and its Frank's Cafe with its stairs repainted in pink that are photographic joy of Instagrammers). We therefore observe a shift of this diaspora to the east, to Barking ou Dagenham, and even outside of London, in Essex.

If the younger generation speaks more English than Yoruba, we can nevertheless find this Nigerian fragrance on Queens road, Choument Road (even if the facade doesn't look pretty, let yourself be tempted by the tuwo shinkafa, rice pudding served with soups, from the traditional restaurant, buka for purists, Lolak Africa), Peckham rye (at Café Spice, order some of their specialties, often salty and spicy we warn you, displayed in the window and enjoy them at Peckham Rye Park) or Rye lane. Hairdressers specializing in Afro cuts, shops selling foufou (a paste made from boiled flour), packets of chin chin (a kind of aperitif cakes), African pistachios (egusi), plantains or rooty vegetables with improbable shapes and shops 10 in 1 that offer Nollywood DVDs, prepaid cards or money transfer ...

The district is patronized by its mosques (Peckham Islamic Center, Peckham High St Islamic & Cultural Center) and Nigerian churches, but also by the Peckham Library, a library that won the Stirling Prize in 2000 for its angular, glazed architecture.

Note that tour operators organize trips in Little Lagos (£ 25) to discover hairdressing salons, jewelry and textile workshops, offering tastings of local products.


Find all the tips, addresses and useful information in the London Routard in bookstores

Consult our London online guide

Visit London

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How to get there ?

- By train: with Eurostar from Paris-Nord (2 h 15), Lille, Brussels and Marseille.

- By plane: London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports are served by Air France from Paris-CDG and British Airways from several French airports. Low cost flights also with EasyJet and Ryanair to Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports. Find your plane ticket.

Or sleep?

The Half Moon Pub: 10 Half Moon Ln, Herne Hill, London SE24 9HU A 15-minute walk from Brixton is The Half Moon Pub, a boutique hotel that occupies a superb brownstone house in Herne Hill. On the ground floor and during the summer, the bar-restaurant (whose interior is classified for its magnificence and its historical importance), with the distant past of prescriptive concert hall, opens its garden and its outdoor kitchen for steaks night, barbecues and plays on trestles (Romeo and Juliet in 2019). The two floors have 12 carefully decorated rooms of different sizes. From £ 150 (in August) for a cabin room.

Crashpads: there is an alternative to hotels and Airbnb, mini-lofts, perfect for a stay for two (although the mega version is also on the market), offered by Crashpads, the collective in charge of the Z Hotel Zanzibar. Designer furniture (we quote Ligne Roset and Philippe Starck), brick wall, board games, color bias and vintage mismatch, the ideal spot to discover Brick Lane and Shoreditch. From £ 100 per mini loft.

69TheGrove: 69 Vauxhall Grove, Vauxhall, London SW8 1TA. Less than 5 minutes walk from Vauxhall Park, a clean and practical Bed & Breakfast for exploring the Portuguese and Caribbean enclaves further south. Five bedrooms (some in the basement) more suited to couples (one single room, however). From £ 100.

Where to eat ?

Gunpowder: 11 White's Row, Spitalfields, London E1 7NF. Located in Spitalfields, here is an Indian canteen (its little sister, in seniority but not in number of covers, exists in Tower bridge) of quality, between the high end and the street-food that does the job. Names of dishes that snap like in a slam improvisation and that do not disappoint once on the plates? It is rare and all the more appreciable. Kerala-style lamb chops and beef fry send heavy and spicy. 

Obalende Suya Express: 43 Peckham High St, Peckham, London SE15 5DL. A suya is a typical Nigerian grilled meat. You just have to enter the Obalende Suya Express to be immediately in the mood. A strong smell of barbecue (we were warned), an original menu (we thought we read shark) and colorful dishes with Wolof rice.

Negril: 132 Brixton Hill, Brixton, London SW2 1RS. Not far from the Windmill gardens, Negril hides his terrace behind trellised greenery. In this Caribbean restaurant, we find the traditional Jamaican jerk chicken seared in a mixture of spices that burns the corridor, but also savory donuts with plantain and other kinds of Caribbean cod fish.

Audio Video Multicultural London
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