Brixton is a cool cultural hub, south of the Thames, and one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in London. As the birthplace of David Bowie, Brixton is quirky and creative, and the ultimate foodie hotspot. From exploring Brixton Village and Market Row to discovering hidden gems and admiring the view from Brockwell Park, this is your guide to the coolest things to do in Brixton.
After living near this area for years, it’s close to my heart and one of my favourite places to explore in South West London. You’ll feel immersed in the art scene as you walk down the streets with buildings covered in vibrant murals, and it continues to overflow through the many quirky cafes, pubs, coffee shops, and restaurants.
With a somewhat hedonistic nightlife, Brixton enjoys top-notch music venues to suit many tastes in which there’s never a dull moment. The diversity will have you fitting in somewhere, whether it’s wandering through the Market or discovering what locals love most.
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There’s a strange rumour that Brixton is unsafe and this might’ve kept you from visiting before, but I’ve never had any reason to feel this way. I think the locals might be saying this to keep people away from their little slice of Caribbean heaven, just ten minutes from Central London. So be adventurous and keep reading for all the best things to do in Brixton!
Visit the David Bowie Memorial
I can’t talk about Brixton without talking about Bowie. The legend that is David Bowie was born here, and his impact on the area lives long to this day. Just opposite the Brixton tube station is a street mural on Turnstall Road, that serves as a semi-permanent memorial to the icon. A huge piece of Ziggy Stardust is painted on the wall, with flowers, candles, cards, pictures and even tee shirts lying about, where Bowie fans have publicly paid their respects.
The mural, now preserved by plastic, was painted by Australian artist, Jimmy Cochran, in 2013 and has become a shrine, almost feeling like a religious experience or cultural pilgrimage, for any visitor to leave their mark and pay tribute. People really go all out here, performing various rituals enacted with care and respect, especially since his death in 2016. A visit to the David Bowie Memorial should definitely be at the top of your list of things to do in Brixton, as it’s a part of living history.
See the Best of Brixton’s Street Art
David Bowie isn’t the only piece of art to see in Brixton though! Around the area, you’ll find quite a few murals, meant to depict the community, politics and ideas, all painted by Brixton locals. They were actually funded after the riots in 1981 by the Lambeth Council.
Beehive Place Mural
There’s a series of portraits, sculptures and pictures you must see, adjacent to Brixton Station Road Market, with a silver plaque that states ‘The people were vibrant, the music was vibrant, they dressed vibrant #HandsofBrixton.’ These dynamic illustrations represent the local community in a gallery-like presentation.
The Hand at Brixton Village
There’s a semi-creepy, unravelling bandaged hand at the entrance of Brixton Village and Market Row. Next to a vegan food outlet, this vividly detailed piece makes a great talking point.
Under the Arches of Brixton Station
Under the arches of Brixton Station is a local protest from independent traders called, ‘Stop the Evictions,’ protesting rent increases and threats of eviction. This gallery of graffiti features the cheeky Bart Simpson, to portray defiance and oppose gentrification.
Bob at Brixton Station Road Market
Brixton has strong Caribbean ties so it feels natural to have a portrait of the smiling Bob Marley gracing the shutters of the food kiosk, Bush Man Kitchen. This black and white piece is autographed by local graffiti artist, Dope.
The Crow on Stockwell Avenue
The pedestrian walkway ‘One Love Street,’ features images of a crow and of a boy reaching for a clock on top of wooden bricks, by artist Unify. These darkly charming pieces you don’t want to miss.
Hip Hop on Atlantic Road
There’s a hip-hop themed fish eatery called Chip Shop Bxtn, which has covered its shutters and walls with faces of old-school American musicians. Spread along Atlantic Road and around the corner to Coldharbour Lane, feast your eyes on 2Pac, Big L and The Notorious B.I.G., in this English tribute.
The Face at Electric Avenue
A bright, peculiar face appears on the Coldharbour Lane side of Electric Avenue, hiding low on a brick wall and is a smaller form of street art popping up around town.
Rock Down to Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue was built in the 1880’s and has been immortalised by the song of the same name by Eddy Grant. It was the first market street to be lit by electric lights and today is home to a bunch of independent shops, as well as Brixton Market.
Walk Through the Maze of Brixton Village and Market Row
Brixton Village and Market Row are two indoor markets housed in separates arcades, once the home of the dilapidated 1930’s Granville Arcade. Now completely revitalised, these markets have become the epicentre of culinary diversity, where more than 130 traders have set up shop.
You’ll probably smell the delicious food before you arrive, with an eclectic mix of Caribbean, Portuguese, Jamaican, Mexican and French restaurants serving up their local dishes. But there’s more than just food here! Stroll through the maze of the arcades and you’ll discover a treasure trove of shops.
Choose from an array of clothing, jewellery, homeware, art and music, with antique and vintage fashion and form. Pick up costumes, West African fabrics and enamel pots from vintage traders and fruit and veg from artisan food sellers. Perk up at an independent coffee shop, pop into a craft beer bar, or check out a cheese and charcuterie shop. It’s a fanfare!
Grab a Post-Market Brew at Brixton Brewery
This taproom has been set under a railway arch since 2013 when it first opened and is the perfect location for a craft beer tasting, post-Brixton Market. Each of the beers at Brixton Brewery is named after a Brixton landmark, and crafted in small batches, which are now sold nationwide. Try the likes of the Electric IPA and the Coldharbour Lager.
Catch a Flick at The Ritzy
The Ritzy is a Brixton institution, being one of the first purpose-built theatres constructed in 1911. Today the Ritzy still has that old-school picture palace feel, with the perfect balance of blockbusters and independent films. They also have late-night shows and classics across five screens and two bars. One bar serves up cafe food and offers views across Windrush Square, while the Upstairs hosts club nights and stand-up comedy shows. Take a break from Netflix and cosy up a the cinema!
Explore Brixton’s History at the Black Cultural Archives
Like much of London, Brixton has been shaped by its Afro-Caribbean community. After the end of the war, the Windrush generation arrived in London and many were shunned and refused places to work and live, but the impact of these generations should not be forgotten.
As Britain’s only national centre preserving and celebrating the culture and heritage of those of the African and Caribbean descent, the Black Cultural Archives provides an authentic glimpse into the experiences of this community during the late 20th century.
Generations of Africans and Caribbeans made the UK their home and you can walk through the Archives and see their struggles and successes through photographs, letters and literature. To learn about the subsequent generations of Black British people, you have to book ahead of time, but there’s an equally enlightening exhibition you can access without booking.
See Brixton’s Hidden Gem: The Windmill
Amidst the street art, food and music scene, you’ll also find a 19th-century windmill. Who would’ve thought? It may look a little out of place today, but Brixton’s old-school windmill is perfectly charming surrounded with delicate flowers and it did play a key role in the history of the area.
Built in 1816, the windmill was leased to the Ashby family to mill flour, which was big business at the time. This wind-powered turbine was the height of cutting edge technology in Brixton and remained in the Ashby family until 1934. It was then forgotten about for more than two decades before it opened up to the public in the late 60’s after the surrounding area was made into a park.
Renovated again in the 90’s, but still remaining an unappreciated attraction, the Brixton Windmill is truly one of the hidden gems of London.
Stroll Through Brockwell Park
Brockwell Park is a sprawling 50 acres of public green space, with wooded sections, floral beds and wide-open expanses. This is a place to for jogging, picnicking, and reading and serves as an oasis from the bustle and noise of Brixton.
In the summer, take a dip in the fancy Lido, first constructed in the 1930’s to raise local spirits and now restored back its former glory. In the spring, retreat into the walled garden. Or any time of year, those in the know, go to Brockwell Park for the epic views of London’s iconic skyline.
Get Cosy at Bookmongers
This treasure trove is a second-hand bookshop lover’s dream. Bookmongers stocks a range of books from poetry, plays, cookery and craft books. There’s no real organisational system, but that’s what adds to the charm of the place and leaves you guessing at what you might find. The owner, Patrick, is always on hand to help and there’s even a shop dog to keep you company!
Make Your Own Brew at the London Beer Lab
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to brew your own ale at the London Beer Lab! This is by far an unusual activity in Brixton for all you beer connoisseurs. Within this independent microbrewery, you’ll have the chance to make and taste your own beer and you’ll even go home with a 5L brew your own kit to put your new skills to the test. You’ll weigh grains, pitch yeast and of course, sample plenty of beers.
Lose Yourself at Pop Brixton
It’s hard to describe exactly what Pop Brixton is, other than a time and money vortex! It started as a temporary project and has now turned into a mix of social projects, street food start-ups and small retailers. It’s essentially a hip gathering place, with over 55 thriving local businesses. And on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm, it converts to an over-18’s venue, making it a good place to start your Brixton bar circuit.
Dive Into Brixton’s Music Scene
There are few better places to catch live music in London than in the artistic hub of self-expression. Whether you’re vibing with jazz, hip hop, folk, indie or mix of it all, you’re going to find it. I mean, it wouldn’t be Brixton if it wasn’t diverse.
O2 Academy Brixton
The O2 Academy Brixton is often booked by big names wanting to sell-out gigs in smaller venues. This former cinema, built in the 1920’s, has been one of London’s coolest non-arena venues since 1983. With a large main floor space for dancing and seating on the balcony, you’re sure to have a brilliant night at the Academy!
The Dogstar opened back in 1995, with big names rolling in, such as The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Massive Attack. These are just a few of the iconic acts that have graced through the doors of Dogstar, a legendary venue with top-quality DJ’s and the best up-and-coming artists and established artists.
Electric Brixton is still as fabulous as it was in the 90’s, with top notch dance DJ sets, in an old theatre setting that dates back to 1912. There’s a large main floor, with ornate plasterwork all over the walls and balcony.
If you’re in the mood to get rowdy, Hootananny’s is the place for you! It was made for those kind of nights where you end up dancing til the wee hours of the morning, maybe in more places than the dance floor. Hootananny’s will get you moving with their epic calendar of events, including excellent multicultural bands and artists that are guaranteed to move your hips. They also offer food! What could be better than an accompaniment of Caribbean food stalls on Friday and Saturday nights?
The Effra Hall Tavern
On Thursdays at The Effra Hall Tavern, enjoy the reputed Jamaican Jazz night. This sensational evening has bubbled up out of Brixton’s thriving and well-established Jamaican community and has seen some uber talented artists. Along with the authentic Jazz music, drink down a classic Red Stripe beer and eat some home-cooked jerk chicken. This a great relaxed joint, with traditional food and music.
There you have it! These are by far the coolest things to do in Brixton. You can’t go wrong with anything on this list when you make your way to this artsy, cultural neighbourhood in London. Don’t miss out on all Brixton has to offer!
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.