London is one of the largest cosmopolitan cities in the world, where different races are not only welcomed but celebrated. The influences of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean are felt throughout the city’s food, fashion, music and art.
Here are some ways to get a feel for the global influences in London in just a weekend.
Eclectic Music and Food
London’s premier neighborhood is filled with pubs, cafes and restaurants. And what better way to learn about the oldest multicultural neighborhood than through its food? When immigrants moved into the area, up until the late 1600s, Soho was known as London’s “French Quarter,” and cheap eateries, small theaters, brothels and music halls crept in. It is also where the bohemian arts scene took off.
London Food Lovers offers 3–4-hour-long walking tours filled with colorful stories of Soho’s writers, poets, artists and historical figures. Along the way, you will stop to taste some of the best bites in town. From smoked bacon sandwiches grilled on lava at Kua’Aina; tender and juicy jerk chicken accompanied by crisp hush puppies at the Rum Kitchen; to the best chocolate drinks and desserts made with cacao sourced from Cuba, Tanzania and Ghana at Italian chocolatier SAID – you will go home with a content belly.
Return in the evening to Kinoly Court for blues, jazz, afrobeat or salsa. You can see fire eaters and fortune tellers at the circus-themed nightclub Cirque Le Soir, or transport yourself to a postwar 1940s underground tube station at Cahoots.
Banned Books, Movies and Walks
Black History Walks offers guided walking tours of 2,000 years of London’s black history. Historian Tony Warner has identified nine neighborhoods and spaces integral to the city’s black culture, including the Nelson Mandela Statue, African and Caribbean War Memorial and the Mangrove Restaurant, which was a meeting place for the Black Panthers. The tour lasts 2.5 hours and the information spans hundreds of years of history.
They also host screenings of banned movies and talks on banned books through their African Odysseys series. Upcoming features include Best of Nigeria short films and African Superheroes Day. Hear from filmmakers, actors and leaders and get a behind-the-scenes look at the city that most travelers often miss.
International Bites and Architecture
You can’t come to London and not taste real English cuisine! Eating Europe takes you back in time to savor the best bread and butter pudding, fried fish and chips with homemade peas, and British hard cider at old-fashioned neighborhood pubs.
Wander the streets of London’s eclectic East End neighborhood to discover ancient Roman burial grounds, Georgian-style mansions built from the French silk trade, hidden synagogues and the most vibrant street art in the world. Stop at Old Spitalfields Market for global fashions and vintage arts and crafts. Lastly, settle on one of the 56 South Asian restaurants on Brick Lane for the national dish of the UK: chicken tikka masala.
East End is also home to many black writers, including former slaves brought from Nigeria — James Albert (aka Ukawsaw Gronniosaw) and Olaudah Equiano (aka Gustavus Vassa) — and is the backdrop of the Sidney Poitier movie “To Sir with Love.” It is said that the area of Tower Hamlets in East End was also known as the “Harlem of London” because of its black settlement and rich cultural identity.