Irish people have been emigrating to Britain since records began, and they’re still coming! The reasons throughout history may have varied (from job opportunities to a change of scene, and even famine), but it now means that 2.2% of London’s population is Irish.
Irish people have contributed a lot to London’s offerings, from pubs and music venues, to shopping and cultural figures. So, if you’re longing for an Irish experience, you’re sure to find it in London.
FAMOUS IRISH FIGURES
One of the most legendary figures in Irish Culture is Oscar Wilde. The novelist and playwright lived in London for most of his life, and you can still visit many of his favourite high-class haunts.
These include the legendary 18th century bookshop Hatchard’s on Piccadilly, and the traditional cigar sellers James J. Fox on St James’s Street. You can enjoy afternoon tea in the mirrored salon where Oscar Wilde’s downfall began at the Cafe Royal, or eat an opulent dinner in the glitzy Savoy Hotel.
The Savoy takes great pride in the story of Wilde regularly hosting a group of 13 at the Savoy restaurant so that a ceramic cat called Kasper with his bowl of milk would be set down to dine with them to make up the number to 14. (This superstition prevails to this day in the hotel.) But to really soak up Oscar Wildes wisdom, the best thing to do is to find one of his plays, which are always being performed in London’s many West End theatres.
Another quotable character is George Bernard Shaw. Shaw moved to London in 1876 and lived the rest of his life in the city. You can find a plaque commemorating his contribution to literature in the beautiful surroundings of Fitzroy Square.
When looking for the oldest Irish pub in London, you probably wouldn’t expect to find it in the financial district. Fleet Street was the heart of journalism in London up until the 1970s, home to the fictional demon barber Sweeney Todd, and it’s also where you’ll find The Tipperary. The first pint of Guinness (outside Ireland) was poured here – and they certainly still know how it’s done.
Tour Guide Tip: If you’re brave enough, the most authentic item on the menu to try is the Liver and Bacon…
Yes, it certainly serves heart-warming traditional food, and it’s a great spot to stop off for a mid-afternoon pint of the ‘Black Stuff’.
Music has always been very important to Irish people. Irish traditional music dates back to when the Celts first arrived in Ireland (that’s almost 2,000 years). As a country, Ireland has produced some of the most talented musicians in music history; U2, Sinéad O’Connor, Thin Lizzy, Shane MacGowan, the Dubliners, Van Morrison, Enya, The Cranberries, Westlife, and Hozier – not forgetting Niall Horan!
But if you want to get involved, you can enjoy the Irish contribution to music at Waxy O’Connors, an enormous Irish pub in the heart of London’s West End. (It gets its name from a famous Dublin candle maker.) It has 6 floors, 3 bars, and in the heart of the pub there’s a giant 250-year-old beech tree that’s been perfectly preserved.
They have live music 4 nights a week – but there’s always a lively atmosphere there, no matter what day (or night) you decide to go.
Tour Guide Tip: Go on Sunday night at 8.30pm for a proper trad session.