5 of the best things to do in Brixton

Blogger Sandra Brobbey Sandra Brobbey of Brixton Blog
It’s the birthplace of David Bowie, home of one of London’s best-loved music venues and the location of Britain’s first cultural centre dedicated to black heritage. Welcome to Brixton, an eclectic and mildly chaotic south London area and possibly the only place in the capital where you’ll find a church with a tapas bar in its crypt.

Just a seven-minute Tube ride from Victoria station in Central London or over 30 minutes by bus from Westminster, Brixton has a culturally rich mix of communities whose diverse backgrounds have shaped many aspects of local life. The area has strong ties to the Caribbean, with residents also hailing from as far afield as Africa, Southern Asia, South America and continental Europe. In the early 1980s, Brixton was regarded by some as a rundown no-go zone. Fast-forward three decades and it's now one of London’s most popular go-to areas.

From its music scene to its restaurants, here are six reasons why you must add Brixton to your London itinerary.

1. Summer festivals

The Lambeth Country Show is hugely popular and attended by hundreds of people in July every year. This free, family-friendly event at Brockwell Park, features live music, jousting, food stalls and bars. If you’re a contemporary art fan, it’s definitely worth checking out Urban Art (9-10 Jul), a free, open-air art fair. This year’s event will feature artwork from more than 200 street artists, photographers and painters. If you like techno and house, head to the Found Festival at Brockwell Park on Saturday 11 June. Joy Orbison and drum ‘n’ bass pioneer Goldie will be among a host of top DJs and musicians bringing a fusion of jazz, hip hop, dubstep, and other musical genres to Sunfall (9 Jul).

2. Culture

If you want to explore the history and influence of Britain’s black community, The Black Cultural Archives is a great place to start. The BCA runs exhibitions, walking tours and talks covering black heritage in the UK.

3. Cinema

A Brixton institution, the Ritzy Picture House is one of the UK's largest independent cinemas. Built in 1911, the picture palace still retains its unique proscenium arch. As well as showing a mix of independent films, blockbusters and classic movies, the cinema hosts film festivals, spoken word events and Q&As with filmmakers and actors from around the globe. If you enjoy improvised storytelling, check out Spark London’s open mic night here.

4. Amazing food

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Brixton is a gastro hotspot with pop-ups and restaurants serving cuisine from practically every continent around the world.

Get your West African food fix at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, a cosy little restaurant inside a shipping container at Pop Brixton, where you can feast on a range of tasty dishes including jollof rice, lamb in a peanut sauce and puff puff doughnuts. For authentic Caribbean fare washed down with rum punch, visit the family-run Bamboula restaurant. The cosy and colourful Negril is also worth a visit for its delicious roti wraps, pumpkin curry and Rastafarian-inspired vegan cuisine.

Brixton Village, also known as the Granville Arcade, has a wide choice of eateries. Senzala Creperies is worth trying if you like simple sweet or savoury crepes with a Brazilian twist. If you enjoy seafood, try the spicy offerings at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen or Fish, Wings and Tings.

On Acre Lane, Khamsa serves delicious aromatic Algerian dishes with a Berber influence. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, try the buckwheat pancake meals at Kata Kata on Brixton Hill.

In search of food on the go? If you like Jamaican food, try Refill on Brixton Road or Ultimate Jerk, a 24-hour takeaway on Coldharbour Lane. Both have impressive menus and are handily located less than a five-minute walk from Brixton’s Tube and train stations.

Well worth a visit is subterranean Spanish tapas restaurant Gremio de Brixton, tucked away in the crypt under St. Matthew's Church.

5. Brilliant nightlife

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There are boozers galore in Brixton, with bars open until the early hours and playing host to talented local musicians and DJs. Check out Reggae Fridays at the Experience Acoustic Bar & Club. DJ Rawl Breaka hosts a good house, dub and breakbeats session at the same venue.

If you’re into electro, funk and old school hip-hop, visit the White Horse on Brixton Hill. If you like disco mixed with Brazilian rare groove, swing by Hopscotch at the Prince of Wales. London-based Brazilian DJ D. Vyzor regularly plays sets at the pub. Clubbers should head to Jamm to dance to garage, ambient house or electronica, or even dub and drum ‘n’ bass.

Hootananny hosts some entertaining spoken word events and live music from bands and artists covering a broad range of musical genres, from reggae and blues to gypsy jazz and Afrobeats.

The Electric, near Brixton’s Town Hall and the O2 Academy regularly host sets and performances featuring top musicians and stand-up comics from around the world.

Published 15 July 2016