A Day in Brixton

A unique mix of Caribbean culture

As a tourist, or maybe even a Londoner, Brixton might not be on your list of places to visit but it needs to be. At the end of the Victoria line you will find an area with a rich history and culture different than you will find in other parts of the city. Brixton remained mainly undeveloped up until the industrial revolution, during the 1860’s and 70’s the area underwent major changes and eventually, in the 1920’s, became known for a large shopping center and popular markets. After the second world war many houses and buildings were in ruins and this lead to a big demographic change. In the 1940’s many immigrants from the west indies settled in the area and you can still see their influence on the culture of Brixton today.

One of the first things you will see once you walk out of the station (besides the KFC) is the Ritzy Cinema which holds a film festival October 5th through the 16th. This is a restored 1911 cinema that also houses a cafe and bar so you can grab a drink and go and see what is playing. They usually offer the usual films you can find at any box office. If print is more your thing, you can stop by the Tate Public Library, located next to the cinema, to browse their selection. Also in this area is The Black Cultural Archives, a free exhibit about the history of black culture and civil rights movements in the UK. Something worth checking out to learn more about what makes Brixton special as well as parts of English history that you may have been unaware of. A guided tour is only 2 pounds and very helpful.

Across the street a little ways is St. Matthews church, the oldest standing building in Brixton built in 1812. You can go for a service or just walk around the outside and appreciate the architecture. Walking back towards the station you will see a little alley full of shops and restaurants called Market Row. Walk down here to see the diversity of Brixton, from different fruit and vegetable vendors, booths selling traditional Caribbean clothing, and restaurants with food from around the world. If you’re in the mood for brunch stop by Seven at Brixton for a Spanish style meal or if you’re in the mood for a quick bite, go to any of the street vendors and try some traditional Jamaican food.

Market Row enters out onto Electric Ave, named so during the industrial revolution because it was the first lighted street in Brixton. Here you will find even more vendors selling fresh produce, fish, meat, clothing, jewellry, and pretty much anything else you’d find at a street market but with a Caribbean influence. If you want a cup of coffee and are in the mood for something besides the large chains like Nero, Costa and Starbucks, on the corner of Electric Ave is a cafe called San Marino. There you can get a better latte for less money than the chains along with a pastry (I’d recommend the lemon pound cake). The cafe offers a great atmosphere where you can sit down, sip your espresso and relax after walking around.

If you’re still in Brixton later in the evening and are looking for some of the nightlife, The Prince of Wales is a pub and night club located right next to the tube station. There is a cover charge at the pub on nights they have live music but the club is always free to get into and better than some of the over priced clubs located more central in the city.