London neighbourhood guide: Brixton

This energetic and alternative neighbourhood is a melting pot of different cultures and tastes and a popular destination on our website, with people eagerly searching for rooms to rent in Brixton. Thanks to its cosmopolitan feel and gritty appeal, it offers plenty for the gourmand courtesy of Brixton Market (a foodie’s dream, with cuisines from destinations around the globe), as well as the arts, culture and live music fanatic…

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A brief history lesson:

While Brixton remained largely undeveloped until the beginning of the 19th century, the neighbourhood is thought to have gotten its name from the Saxon lord Brixi, who is believed to have erected a boundary stone to mark the meeting place of the ancient hundred court of Surrey.

Brixton became the home of the first wave of immigrants from Jamaica, arriving on the Empire Windrush in 1948, and was the seat of social unrest in London in the early 1980s, when rioting and street crime were rampant due to high unemployment and poor housing in the area.

Since the 1990s, the neighbourhood has been gentrifying thanks to an influx of pop-up restaurants, art galleries and clothing stores, but it hasn’t lost its unique charm.

Old brixton picture

Who lives there now:

Long the home of London’s Afro-Caribbean community, Brixton’s dynamic and eclectic day and nightlife has drawn a diverse mix of creative types and young professionals to SW9. It’s also a haunt for foodies and music lovers thanks to bustling Brixton Market and the Brixton Academy.

Places to eat, drink and be merry:

At Brixton Market, sample delicacies from destinations like India, Africa, Asia, South America and more. Places to check out? Pizza fans flock to Franco Manca, famed for its slow-rising sourdough pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven, while KaoSarn offers delicious and authentic Thai food at good prices (helped by the BYOB policy).

Honest Burgers  serves up the classic dirty dish with delicious rosemary chips, using the freshest British produce. Get your fried chicken fix (and team it with a killer cocktail) at Chicken Liquor, do champagne and smelly cheese the French way at Champagne + Fromage and then head to Ms. Cupcake, a vegan bakery offering cupcakes, cookies, muffins and more, to quell your sweet tooth. Federation Coffee serves up tasty brews, snacks and lunch ideas and is the perfect place to park to finish your latest novel or work project.

Champagne-+-Fromage-Brixton-2

Outside of the market, don’t miss Courtesan on Atlantic Road for authentic dim sum and Chinese delicacies, and Negril in Brixton Hill for Caribbean classics like jerk chicken and salt cod fritters. Brixton Hill, named after a small section of road between Brixton and Streatham Hill in south London, is a popular destination for singletons and families alike.

Negril

Shopping and culture:

Fans of street art (and history) will enjoy the Brixton murals around the neighbourhood, which were funded by local councils after the Brixton riots of 1981 and painted by local artists. There are also plenty of popular art galleries afoot (Brixton Art Gallery, Block 336, Knight Webb and Brixton East), featuring provocative works from local and international artists.

The Ritzy Cinema is one of London’s oldest picture houses (it opened in 1911) and showcases a range of indie films, classics and current blockbusters) as well as hosting club nights and stand-up shows.

Cinema Ritzy Brixton London England Great Britain UK

Popular haunts for live music lovers include Electric Brixton, Hootananny, which plays everything from reggae to ska, Plan B, where you’ll find your favourite DJs, and Brixton Academy, the destination to see all of your favourite bands and artists, from past and present (Garbage, Wu-Tang Clan and Sam Smith are all performing this season).

Get your fruit and veg, flowers and meat and fish from the stalls on Electric Avenue and Popes Road.

Brixton Village is the go-to spot for shopping, with plenty of independent boutiques offering vintage wares, glassware, gifts and interiors.

Parks and recreation:

Brockwell Park draws the locals with its rolling meadows and famous outdoor lido, built in 1937. There are also duck ponds, a playground and a paddling pool for the younger set. Local events include the Lambeth Country Show, a village fête with city farm and funfair, Zippo’s Circus and summer concerts. Fun fact: The park used to host the annual Cannabis Festival from 2001 to 2004.

brockwell park3

Transport links:

Conveniently and centrally located in zone 2, Brixton is a stop on the Victoria line. Brixton station is only five stops away from Victoria underground, train and bus stations. The Victoria line also passes through popular destinations like Green Park, Oxford Circus, Kings Cross and Finsbury Park as it takes you from south to north London.

Brixton also has a rail station on Atlantic Road to get you to London Victoria in under 10 minutes.

A variety of buses and night buses also service the area, like the 45 (which goes to St. Pancras International), the 59 (which will take you to the British Library), the159 (towards Marble Arch), the 250 (to Croydon) and the 333 (to Elephant & Castle).

Fun fact:

Brixton has its own currency, the Brixton Pound, which launched in 2009 with 80 local businesses accepting it. It aims to boost the local economy and notes have featured local celebs including environmentalist James Lovelock and community activist Olive Morris, as well as Miami Heat’s Luol Deng, David Bowie and WWII secret agent Violette Szabo.

Brixton currency

Renting in Brixton:

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Any downsides? 

Brixton’s bustling, noisy atmosphere isn’t for everyone. And while the area is a desirable place to live, its past reputation as a crime hotspot might still make some uneasy.

You’re looking at paying a council tax of roughly £900-£1000 per annum.

Photo credit @Alamy

MORE: Find out what it’s like to share a flat with five other people, like Helena.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Lots of good ideas and things to do in Brixton.

    The Brixton Library is certainly worth a visit, its right next door to the Ritzy Cinema which was once called the Classic Cinema in the 1970’s

    The area has always been filled with many Jamaican, and British born Jamaican writers, like the Dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and many others for you to research at Brixton Library. Let’s see if you can spot my poetry book at the library here ==> http://www.myfirstpoetrybook.com

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