The UK is probably one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, but which cities are the most multicultural? We’re not just talking about statistics here, we’re talking about those cities that have really embraced foreign cultures and taken them as part of their identity.
The UK’s Most Multicultural Cities
- London – Pick n Mix – A Blend of Every Culture Going
- Edinburgh – The Most Integrated Multicultural City in the UK
- Manchester – A Beautiful Blend of Irish, African & Asian People
- Leicester – A City for Asian Food Fans & Festival Junkies
But there is more to these cities. I mean, a city can be ethnically diverse but be dysfunctional. On the other hand, a city may not be as ethnically diverse, but may have adopted cultures successfully. We’re talking about food, music beliefs and traditions and interests here.
What does a great UK Multicultural City look like?
For us, a sign of a functioning multicultural city is one where you’d find people of multiple ethnicities in a Chinese or Polish Supermarket for instance. Or, similarly people of different ethnicities at a local Indian Festival, Diwali in Leicester for instance. Point being here, it’s where people can embrace and celebrate their differences.
Just think of a city like a kids’ playground. What do we mean? Well, in a playground, one set of kids’ could be playing football, while another set of kids’ could be playing tag – you’re it (or tig if you’re in the UK). Another set could be spinning around getting dizzy. Kids can move from one game to another, be accepted and have fun.
UK cities are culturally diverse in different ways, let’s take a look at the cities above and see what ways they are diverse. You never know, after reading this you may want to check one of them out.
London – Pick n Mix – A Blend of Every Culture Going
For a lot of people London is the most multicultural city in the UK and there’s a good reason for it. Because of the amount of industry and enterprise in London, it attracts people from far and wide to live and work in “The Big Smoke” (UK term used for London).
How well does London function as a multicultural City?
It’s pretty amazing and very functional in our opinion. We live in London now, but we’re actually from another part of the UK. We were pleasantly surprised when we moved here. There is an appreciation for different cultures and practices. They are celebrated in the food, the festivals and in some cases the architecture of the city.
From cuisine to religion to tradition, London really does have a bit of everything.
- If you want to try Chinese cuisine – check out China Town in Soho. Here you’ll find every shade of person digging in to their Chinese dish of choice.
- The Food Markets are everywhere – Any other cuisine from Afghanistani, to Greek, London’s food markets are amazing! Borough Market, Spitalfields Market are just a couple of a very long list.
- London isn’t really mentioned for its spiritual places but it has a few. From St Paul’s Cathedral to the London Buddhist Centre to the iconic Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Hindu Temple). It would be weird not to see people of different faiths, colors or creeds in any of these places.
- London hosts multiple festivals celebrating many faiths, beliefs and cultures on a regular basis, that are attended by a mix of different people daily. Examples include the Notting Hill Carnival (An annual festival in Kensington celebrating Caribbean culture since 1966).
Edinburgh – The Most Integrated Multicultural City in the UK
Edinburgh is not the most obvious multicultural city in the UK, in fact only 8% of its population are non-white/British. However, it has shown itself to a very liberal city, a friend to the LGBT community and is particularly popular with International students as a place to study.
Yes, but there’s got to be a stronger argument for Edinburgh’s multiculturalism?
Edinburgh is a smaller city when compared to the likes of London and Manchester, but don’t write it off. In areas close to the centre including Gorgie or Dalry, you’ll find Chinese, Polish, African, Indian, German, and British supermarkets. All of these places have a very mixed clientele as well.
So on a local level, it’s great to see people from different cultures learning from one another, but it’s got more than that.
We’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Edinburgh (not gonna lie). The Old Town is just great, the castle is gorgeous and the food is just yum. We’ve written an article on Edinburgh if you’re interested in going.
Anyway, slightly off topic there, one thing we noticed was the number of tourists from different countries there. It seriously brings in the crowds which totally gives it multicultural points in our book!
The Festivals are very worldly, which only helps Edinburgh’s case for being the most Multicultural City in the UK. What do we mean? Well they’ve definitely got an inclusive vibe about them.
- Fringe Festival – A Summer Festival Every Year inviting comedians, professional and amateur all over the world. People globally attend this festival.
- Edinburgh International Festival – A Summer Festival – A celebration of the arts featuring performers from all over the world. From Ballet to Opera, this festival truly promotes diversity.
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – Hogmanay is the day that Scottish people refer to as New Years Eve. This period is more important to the Scots than Christmas. It’s also a time of the year when they welcome the worlds top performers and public to celebrate with them. If that’s not multi cultural I don’t know what is!
Manchester – A Beautiful Blend of Irish, African & Asian People
Manchester has actually been revealed as the most linguistically diverse city in Western Europe by the Independent.
Does that make Manchester super multicultural?
Multiple languages can create divide and often do in our experience. But that’s not to say Manchester hasn’t embraced it’s diverse community.
Manchester is in fact famous for it’s Curry Mile, boasting a row of restaurants serving Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Sri Lankan cuisine. The Clientele are mixed and very happy with their curries!
And not just Indian food – Manchester’s China Town is also famous, with national appeal.
Manchester is famous because of its football clubs (Manchester United and Manchester City) as well as its musicians (Oasis – we love them) who have fans worldwide. You only have to look around to see that the city is diverse.
We went to Manchester over Christmas and walking through the German Markets, it’s hard not to find it impressive. You can tell the city is looking to establish itself as an international city for the masses.
Not only that, Manchester is growing by the day as an industrial powerhouse. Establishing itself not only as a media hub, but also with its growing financial services industry, the city is only set to get more diverse.
Is Manchester succeeding as a multicultural city?
Well to be honest, it’s questionable. The Manchester Arena attacks are an example of that. Following Brexit announcement, there has been a rise in homophobic and racist views in the city.
Leicester – A City for Asian Food Fans & Festival Junkies
Leicester boasts the Golden Mile. This famous road which is basically a long row of Indian Jewelers, Asian clothes stores and Asian green grocers too.
Once a year, the Golden Mile is closed off for the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, and it’s not uncommon to see people of different faiths and religions walking down the long road, enjoying the lights, food and fireworks.
Other festivals such as Vaisakhi, Eid, Hanukkah and Chinese New Year are celebrated alongside more traditional British festivals like St Georges Day, Bonfire Night. Beautiful hey!
OK but has Leicester got anything else worth mentioning?
Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival is another great example of its cultural diversity. Hosted in Victoria Park, it’s a major attraction to the city attracting people from all over the country.
Leicester’s UK Premier League victory was monumental for the city.
What was amazing was the celebrations. The Indian, Pakistani, Jewish, British communities coming together was a great show of multiculturalism.
So in summary…
We hope you’ve found this article useful. Not only does the UK have many multicultural cities with lots to offer, but the people generally get on as well.
No city is perfect but if we had to pick, for us it probably is London. That’s not just because we live there. Generally we’ve found it to be an international city, where cultures are embraced and celebrated.
But that’s not to take anything away from the other cities mentioned in this article. One of the great things about the UK is you can experience more of an international culture in different regions of the country.
You don’t have to go to India to get a great curry, to Greece to get a wrap or to China to get noodles. It’s all right here in the UK and it’s authentic!
What’s your favorite City? Let us know in the comments below.