Due in large part to its location, its long-standing reputation as a rich trading and commercial centre and world stature, the UK has long been a destination for immigrants from all parts of the world. Of all groups that have immigrated or settled in the UK, few have had the impact and longevity as have the Greeks.
Greeks in the UK
The first written account of a Greek visiting Britain dates to 325 BC. While there is some evidence that Greek explorers visited Britain prior to this time, it was the visit by Pytheas that had the most dramatic impact.
Pytheas made landfall at many locations on the British coastline. He not only named many places throughout the new area, including the country itself, he also sparked exploration by other Greeks who introduced many modern UK concepts such as trial by jury, democracy, citizenship and the theatre traditions.
Britain has been a part of the Greek diaspora since that time. One of the largest movements of Greeks to the UK occurred in the 1800s, when commercial potential attracted many involved in shipping and commodity trading. During this time large Greek communities could be found in Finsbury Circus, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and Liverpool.
Greek immigration to the UK remained small but steady. However, a surge of Greek’s coming to the UK occurred during the early 2000s as predominately young Greeks arrived looking to escape the high unemployment rates in Greece as a result of the country’s financial crisis. Immigration remains relatively high although many observers feel that Brexit may result in a number of Greeks returning home or moving to other EU nations.
It is estimated that about 400,000 Greeks live in the UK, making them the 18th largest ethnic population in the country. A large number of Greeks also attend university in the UK.
Greeks in England
Many Greeks have settled in London; large Greek communities can be found in Hyde Park, Kensington, and Regent’s Park. Birmingham, Colchester, Sunderland, and Manchester also have sizeable Greek populations.
Greek wine, food and cultural festivals are common and held throughout England.
Greek visitors to England are also common. Many come simply as tourists; however due to the fact that the UK and Greece are very active trading partners, many Greeks visit the UK on business.
Greek cuisine is very popular throughout the UK and a nice assortment of tavernas, cafes and restaurants are available ranging from casual family-owned establishments to the more formal.
Here are some of the more popular.
- Alexander the Great, London – This lively taverna features classical statues and indoor vines to set the stage for their menu of classic Greek food. All dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients and served in large portions. The staff also enjoy a reputation for being friendly and spot on.
- The Real Greek – This chain offers typical Greek fare and has locations throughout Britain. As is the case with most chain restaurants, service and food may vary by location but the food is typically good.
- Opso, London – This modern Greek restaurant features a large menu of traditional Greek foods served in small sharable dishes. Opso emphasises the social aspect of dining and is a nice place to sample a wide variety of Greek foods.
- Alexandros Greek Restaurant, Manchester – This small family owned restaurant has a reputation for serving a nice selection of traditional Greek dishes in a cosy, casual atmosphere.
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