Formally recognised as a parish in 1864 and designated as a municipal borough in 1936, Southall started to become an Indian area in London after WWII. As it often is, the full story is complicated, but the simplest explanation as to why Southall largely is an Indian community is that employment opportunities for Punjabi immigrants were made available in factories in the neighbourhood, and they commonly were excluded elsewhere, sometimes violently. Because of the proximity of the neighbourhood to Heathrow, which opened in 1946, residents also often found employment opportunities at the airport, and they still do.
Southall is famous among Indians and other tourists from South Asia — and is sometimes dubbed "Little India" — but it rarely, if ever, appears on lists of major tourist attractions in London. Consequently, travelgasm.com suggests that it is worthwhile to visit not only to recognise the contributions that South Asians have made to the United Kingdom but also as an ideal place for a curry in London, which has long been one of the most popular foods in the UK.
Like many other neighbourhoods in London, Southall — or more specifically, Southall Broadway — has changed a lot over the years. It still is a modest neighbourhood, but it has become a bit more affluent over the last decade or so; and this has brought some more mainstream chain stores to the area. Other immediately noticeable changes are that the classic Himalaya Palace movie theatre now is an Indian shopping centre (a local told us that people tend to go to one of the big megaplexes in Acton for movies these days). Likewise, the locally famous Glassy Junction pub — known for being the only pub in London that would accept payment in Indian rupees — now is an Indian restaurant. You never can have too many curry houses in London.
Not all is lost, though. Although walkablity around the train station still needs to be improved substantially, the local council government that oversees Southall should be praised for the significant improvements to The Broadway as part of "The Southall Big Plan." It now has wider sidewalks with street trees and other improvements that make it much more pleasant to visit. We look forward to seeing continued improvements, too.
The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha — the largest Sikh temple in the world outside of India — also still towers over the south portion of the neighbourhood. It's probably the closest thing to a tourist attraction in the area, but if you choose to visit the temple, please be respectful. It is a genuine, local place, and not an amusement park.
Given its proximity to Heathrow, you easily could fit in a lunch in Southall when arriving or departing London or probably even fit one in on a long layover, just make sure that you pay careful attention to the train schedule and give yourself lots of extra time to catch your flight. It's hard to go wrong with Indian food in this neighbourhood. At one time or another, we've enjoyed simple takeaway from places like Jalebi Junction and Chini Chor and fancier places like Madhus and Gifto's. Just don't eat at Subway, and you'll be fine.
We've mapped out two different paths from the train station below. The walk to the right (north) — will take you to The Broadway — the main shopping and eating street. The walk to the left (south), will take you to the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha.
How to Get Here: Take the National Rail GWR or Heathrow Connect to Southall Station (Zone 2). Turn left from the station to reach the Sikh temple (Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha) or turn right to reach The Broadway, Southall Broadway's high street.
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