London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and you haven’t really experienced it until you’ve had a taste of its multicultural character.
From Irish to Indian, Afro-Caribbean to Eastern European, you can see the fantastic influence of so many cultures throughout the UK capital today. We’ve recently undertaken a survey of 1,617 British visitors to this incredible city to see how many are taking advantage of everything London has to offer, and it seems that many of us are missing a lot of highlights. For example, although almost two-thirds of visitors (63%) have dropped by Trafalgar Square on visits to London, just 28% have ventured multicultural centres like China Town.
The temptation to stay on the beaten track stretches beyond the places we visit. Most British tourists in London also miss out on the fantastic showcase of international cuisine that the city offers. Almost three-quarters (74%) say they stick to ‘traditional British food’ in the capital. The second most popular option is Chinese food, with 37% saying they’d tried the far eastern food in London. Less than a quarter (23%) said they’d sampled on London’s excellent Indian food whilst visiting.
Despite these low numbers, people are keen to visit multicultural locations, restaurants and events. Half (47%) of British visitors to London said they’d be more likely to visit multicultural elements of the city if they were more aware of them. To help build this awareness, we’ve pulled information together in our multicultural map and summarised key data for you below.
London’s Important Influences
In 2011, 55.1% of London’s population did not identify as White British, showing just how diverse the city is. There are significant communities from every corner of the earth and in every borough, who influence the culture, cuisine and feel of the capital. Some of the largest living in London, identified by the 2011 census are:
- Arabic (106,000)
- Bangladeshi (222,100)
- Caribbean (344,600 black, 119,400 mixed race)
- Chinese (124,300)
- Indian (542,900)
- Pakistani (223,800)
- African (573,900 black, 65,500 mixed race)
- Irish (176,000)
- Polish (147,816)
Many of these communities have their roots in Britain stretching back to the 19th Century and beyond, while others are more recent settlers in a metropolitan culture that has really blossomed over the last 70 years.
In cities like London, cultural dialogue has become more of a two-way street, with communities coming together to blend traditions in everything from languages to food, to create a striking identity. To understand today’s London you really need to be looking outside just the traditional tourist haunts.
To help you get started, we’ve pulled out some of our favourite events and locations:
- The Shubbak Festival: This biennial event is a celebration of contemporary Arabic art and cultures. The festival returns to London in Summer 2019 and will feature music, art, literature and more.
- Ealing Road, ‘Little India’, Wembley: Indian communities have long had a significant influence on Britain. One place to see some of this vibrant culture is Ealing Road, sometimes dubbed ‘Little India’. With traditional Indian restaurants, textile stores and more, there is plenty to see and taste in the area.
- Notting Hill Carnival: The Notting Hill Carnival is a world-famous Afro-Caribbean event, which takes place in the Notting Hill area every August bank holiday weekend. Since 1966, the festival has been a celebration of West Indian Culture, packed full of parades, music, dancing, street food and more. The event attracts around 1 million visitors each year, so plan ahead if you want to attend.
- Daquise Restaurant, South Kensington: Daquise is a traditional Polish restaurant that has been serving up dumplings, schnitzel and other native dishes since 1947. The restaurant has contributed more than just food to the community, as it was dubbed the unofficial headquarters of Polish president, Edward Raczynski, when he was exiled by the Communist Regime.
- Chinese New Year, West End: Chinese New Year is celebrated in late January or early February each year. In 2019, celebrations in London will take place on 10th February, stretching from the West End, through Trafalgar Square and down to Chinatown. Entertainment includes street and stage performances, martial arts demonstrations, traditional new years’ meals and much, much more.
Finding Our Favourites
To locate great examples of the cultures that make up London, we extensively researched top-rated events, restaurants, markets, museums and workshops for each culture.
We also talked to local bloggers from each community, to ensure we were capturing the very best of what’s on offer. This information was then compiled and loaded onto our interactive map and helped build our shortlist of must-see cultural events and locations.