All illustrations by Stuart Holmes
Atlanta has always been a city of transplants. In a metro population of six million, about fourteen percent of residents were born in other countries (compared with New Orleans’s seven percent or Nashville’s eight percent). But if the international presence here is sizable, it’s also scattered. You won’t find a Chinatown or Greektown or Little This or That, at least not in the urban core (Gwinnett County does have the nickname Seoul of the South). The most famous strip of immigrant-owned businesses, Buford Highway, is not a singular ethnic enclave but a melting pot.
That’s why seeking out Atlanta’s best international offerings is a treasure hunt, one that requires a full tank of gas and a trusty navigation app. Of course, when the scope is literally the whole world, even a list of eighty destinations is bound to leave off more than it includes. Consider our guide a jumping-off point, whether you’re looking to expand your horizons or get a taste of home.
1. Browse the global collection at the Center for Puppetry Arts
An Atlanta cultural institution, the center houses a theater and the state-of-the-art Worlds of Puppetry Museum, where Muppets hold court with relics from around the globe, including Sicilian rod marionettes and Vietnamese water puppets. 1404 Spring Street
2. Culinary classic: Iberian Pig
An anchor of Decatur Square, this crowd-pleasing tapas spot recently expanded to Buckhead, affirming the city’s love for Ibérico mac and cheese, pork-cheek tacos, and other Spanish-inspired nibbles. 121 Sycamore Street, Decatur; 3150 Roswell Road
3. Treat your inner goddess at Mutana
This family-owned shop shares the culture and healing powers of Africa via medicinal herbs, spiritual resins, and an in-house line of body products. Fuel up with vegan soups and smoothies from the Afrobeets Juice Bar. 668 Metropolitan Parkway
4. View a segment of the Berlin Wall
Both Kennesaw State University and Suwanee’s Town Center Park house large-scale slabs of the iconic Cold War–era barrier. (A third slab, not open to the public, resides at Atlanta International School.) Find KSU’s outside the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
5-6. Buy goods from across the pond
If Flake, Curly Wurly, or Crunchie mean anything to you, head to the Queen’s Pantry to stock up on these Cadbury favorites, along with British pantry staples and gifts (4235 Merchants Walk Drive, Marietta). Fancy a fry-up? Taste of Britain keeps the freezer well-stocked with meats like British bacon (thicker and chewier than its Yankee cousin) and bangers. You’ll also find tea and teapots for days (73 South Peachtree Street, Norcross).
7. Meditate at Drepung Loseling Monastery
Visited and blessed by the Dalai Lama, this Brookhaven temple is the North American seat of the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the same name. Its free Sunday meditation draws a full house to the small sanctuary, where a monk teaches topics like self-compassion and leads guided breathing exercises. 1781 Dresden Drive
8. Take home steals from Your DeKalb Farmers Market
At Atlanta’s go-to international grocery store, wander among tanks of live catfish and blue crab and browse meat counters with hormone-free Berkshire pork and Australian goat. Check out dizzying displays of produce and aisles of dry goods stocked with organic goji berries and Himalayan pink salt. It all costs a fraction of what you’d pay at Whole Foods. 3000 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur
9. Belly up to the Belgian bar at Brick Store Pub
The city’s foremost craft-beer haven is home to an upstairs hideaway devoted to Belgian brews. Sip a lambic or tripel out of properly shaped glassware and awaken your inner beer snob. 125 East Court Square, Decatur
10. Culinary classic: Anis Cafe & Bistro
The charming patio of this Buckhead mainstay will transport you to Provence. Swirl a glass of rosé, drag crusty bread through the broth of your moules marinières, and say ‟bonsoir” to your fellow diner’s dog. 2974 Grandview Avenue
More than a Mall: A trip to these four indoor shopping centers is like a visit to another country
11. Plaza Fiesta
Paper banners strung across corridors and shops packed with soccer jerseys, quinceañera dresses, and cowboy boots give this Latino hub the feel of a Central American street market. Find fresh paletas (popsicles) and tacos galore in the food court. 4166 Buford Highway
12. Chinatown Mall
Among the tenants at this Asian cultural center are a Chinese-language newspaper and bookstore and the local dim sum institution Oriental Pearl. Bring cash for the food court and try authentic Chinese dishes like soup dumplings (New Lan Zhou) or whole-roasted duck (Hong Kong BBQ). 5383 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee
13. Global Mall
This South Asian gathering place is home to sixteen clothing stores selling traditional and fusion wear. A standout in the excellent food court, Humpty Dumpty will make you rethink how you like your eggs (try them in a curry or crushed with spices in a panini). 5675 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Norcross
This massive Hispanic destination houses a soccer field, rodeo ring, and the largest Supermercado Jalisco in the state. Shop for Western wear and Mexican crafts, and refuel with Venezuelan street food and fresh fruit drinks in the food court. 733 Pleasant Hill Road, Lilburn
15. Marvel at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Suburban Atlanta is home to one of the continent’s largest Hindu mandirs. The palatial temple features an intricately carved exterior, an interior of gleaming Carrara marble and vibrant shrines, and a reflection pond with elephant-shaped fountains. Don’t skip the $5 audio tour. 460 Rockbridge Road, Lilburn
16. Unearth antiquities at the Michael C. Carlos Museum
The Emory University museum’s collection of art and artifacts from around the world includes four human mummies (among them the oldest Egyptian mummy in the Western Hemisphere). Slated for fall: Islamic art and Piranesi’s prints of Rome. 571 South Kilgo Circle
17. Up your game at Cobbler Union
Though it was founded in Atlanta by an Argentina native, this men’s footwear brand shows off 100 percent Spanish craftsmanship. The “bespoke-inspired” oxfords, drivers, and sneakers afford instant shoe connoisseur status. 675 Ponce de Leon Avenue; 265 Buckhead Avenue
18. Culinary classic: Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
Scoop up aromatic meats and a rainbow of vegan stews with spongy injera bread, Ethiopia’s national dish, at this standard-bearing restaurant. 3086 Briarcliff Road
19-22. Discover the Seoul of Korea
Gwinnett County in Atlanta’s northern suburbs is home to the South’s largest Korean population (22,000 at last count). Amazing eats and experiences abound. Here’s a sample itinerary: Bring friends to dinner at KBBQ spot E.M. Bop, where servers cook your preferred protein (try the oyster blade balgi) over a smokeless charcoal tabletop grill (2442 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth). Afterward, head to Agit karaoke lounge to belt tunes in a private room accented with graffiti-like art (3492 Satellite Boulevard, Duluth). Mask your late-night indulgence with cushion compacts and BB creams from Aritaum, Georgia’s first freestanding location of the Sephora of K-beauty (1295 Old Peachtree Road, Suwanee). Or exorcise it completely in the ornate baths and mineral-encrusted saunas of Jeju Sauna, where nudity is required for many services and the body scrubs are punishing (3555 Gwinnett Place Drive, Duluth).
23. See the newsroom of CNN International
Although the global arm of the TV news giant broadcasts mainly out of London and Hong Kong, CNN’s Atlanta Studio Tour lets visitors peek into its newsroom, where all the research, writing, and editing happens, along with that of CNN en Español. 190 Marietta Street
24-26. Explore art of the African diaspora
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the nation’s only museum specializing in art by and about women of the African diaspora. Its permanent collection features heavy hitters like South Africa’s Nandipha Mntambo and Cuban-born María Magdalena Campos-Pons (350 Spelman Lane). The nearby Hammonds House Museum showcases art of the diaspora in a historic Victorian home. Its current exhibition, co-created by Kenyan artist Grace Kisa, depicts modern women as warriors and queens (503 Peeples Street).
The High Museum of Art recently completed a reinstallation of its wide-ranging African art collection. See the ancient, serpent-wrapped terracotta torso of Sogolon, mother of Mali Empire founder Sundiata Keita, and a rippling “cloth” of metal fragments fashioned by contemporary Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui (1280 Peachtree Street).
Empire Builders: Restaurant moguls to know
27. Eddie Hernandez
For twenty years, Atlantans have queued up for Hernandez’s Mexican-Southern cuisine—such as barbecue pork tacos and turnip greens stewed with chile de arbol—at Taqueria del Sol, now seven locations strong (including two in Nashville).
28. Meherwan Irani
With four restaurants in Asheville and Atlanta, Irani specializes in Indian fare that’s accessible and addictively good. At Decatur’s Chai Pani, kids may color on their own menus while adults imbibe clever cocktails and indulge in chaat (street snacks).
29. Giovanni di Palma
The Naples-born chef opened Antico Pizza Napoletana in 2009, and its runaway success—it’s perennially ranked among the best pie shops in the country—helped him spawn his own “Little Italia” on the Westside, including Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano, Caffé Antico, and Bar Amalfi.
30. The Niyomkuls
Atlanta’s first family of Thai cuisine has three restaurants to their name. Parents Nan and Charlie preside over white-tablecloth Nan, while daughter DeeDee helms street food–centric Tuk Tuk and modern Thai spot Chai Yo.
31. Justin Anthony
The South African restaurateur opened 10 Degrees South in 1998 and hasn’t stopped unveiling fresh takes on his native cuisine. His other concepts are Yebo Beach Haus, Cape Dutch, and Biltong Bar, which serves up the delicious beef jerky known as biltong alongside craft cocktails.
The Buford Highway Dozen
Thousands of immigrant-owned businesses line the busy artery that stretches from Atlanta to Buford. We’ve zeroed in on an eight-mile stretch that’s particularly rich in culture and cuisine, but even within that narrowed scope, these twelve points of interest amount to a mere first bite of a multi-ethnic feast.
A fire sidelined it to an alternate Buford Highway location for years, but this cheery yellow landmark—purveyor of savory Cuban sandwiches and empanadas—is now back in its original spot. Open since 1976, it’s considered the first immigrant-owned business on BuHi. 2905 Buford Highway
33. Our Lady of Buford Highway
In 2017, the public art nonprofit Living Walls commissioned nine muralists to leave their mark on Buford Highway. This piece by Laotian-American artist Sanithna Phansavanh shows how the street (represented by the woman) nurtures the lives of its residents. Buford Highway and Drew Valley Road
34. Gu’s Kitchen
Find the restaurant’s talked-about dumplings here, along with a wider menu of Sichuan specialties, including the uber-Instagrammable Chengdu cold noodles. (So revered are the dumplings, they command their own stall at Krog Street Market across town.) 4897 Buford Highway
35. Lee’s Bakery
The city’s best banh mi is a subject of debate, but many would make a case for this no-frills Vietnamese mainstay, where the veggies are plentiful and the bread pillowy perfection. 4005 Buford Highway
36. Food Terminal
The interior looks like a hip food hall and the menu is an actual magazine, but even traditionalists can’t go wrong on this tour of Malaysian street fare (try the decadent fried-rice plate known as Cheese ’N Cheese). 5000 Buford Highway, Chamblee
37. Xela Pan
Tamales look a little different in Guatemala (for one thing, you might encounter a bone-in chicken wing), and this friendly cafeteria is the place to try them. Or start your day with a hearty Desayuno Chapin—eggs cooked to order plus rice, beans, queso, fried plantains, and a basket of fresh corn tortillas. 5268 Buford Highway
38. LanZhou Ramen
Watch through a window as a chef rolls, stretches, and thwacks the dough, then slurp down the tasty—if impossibly long—Chinese-style noodles in a warming beef broth. 5231 Buford Highway
39. El Rey del Taco
The authentic Mexican tacos are as tasty at 1 a.m. as they are at dinner with attending chips and a marg. You’ll have a hard time picking your fillings, like smoky pastor or tender cow’s cheek. 5288 Buford Highway
40. Buford Highway Farmers Market
This massive, well-organized grocery store houses goods from around the world, but the highlight is the produce selection that’s both exotic (fancy a rambutan or soursop?) and encyclopedic (all of the peppers). 5600 Buford Highway, Doraville
41. Yet Tuh
Despite its tucked-away location just off the main drag, this Korean spot is front and center on foodies’ maps, thanks to its homey, well-executed fare—the kind your grandma would make if she made kimchi pancakes, bori bop, and banchan. 3042 Oakcliff Road
42. Sushi Hayakawa
James Beard–nominated chef Atsushi Hayakawa is both notoriously exacting—starting with the top-shelf fish he sources from Japan—and utterly affable behind the bar. High rollers can splurge on a fourteen-course omakase. 5979 Buford Highway
This unassuming but aptly named Sichuan restaurant earned Chinese master chef Rui Liu a James Beard nod. Bring friends (and an empty stomach) so you can try as many dishes as possible, starting with the best-in-class fried eggplant. 3940 Buford Highway
44. Stock up on pasta from Storico Fresco Alimentari
This Italian restaurant and market offers made-from-scratch items like lemon-artichoke pesto and lasagna Bolognese to go, and best of all, fresh-cut dry pasta sold by the pound (including offbeat varieties like squid ink and chickpea). 3167 Peachtree Road
45-47. Sample international baked goods
In Atlanta, specialty bakeries abound. To name a few: Aussies and New Zealanders get a taste of home on Marietta Square, where the Australian Bakery Cafe handcrafts some thirty varieties of meat pies (48 South Park Square). Also in Marietta, Bernhard’s German Bakery supplies nutrient-dense, organic German breads such as Bavarian farmer’s bread and country rye (1592 Atlanta Road). Stone Mountain’s Royal Caribbean Bakery is the only outpost of the Bronx-based empire (founded by Jamaican expats) outside New York; the savory patties are beloved (4859 Memorial Drive).
48. See the Atlanta Kookaburras play
Australian-rules football, aka footy, is something like rugby but also entirely different. (Passes look like volleyball serves, for one thing.) Bring a fold-up chair and an open mind to N.H. Scott Park, where Atlanta’s own squad in the United States Australian Football League hosts teams from around the country from April to October. 2230 Tilson Road, Decatur
49. Culinary classic: Imperial Fez
For more than two decades, this Moroccan destination has fulfilled Atlantans’ clear desire to recline on pillows and eat lamb tagine and couscous with their hands while a belly dancer swivels nearby. 2285 Peachtree Street
50-52. Spot the replicas
Drive around town and you might notice some familiar sights. Atlanta’s Millennium Gate is modeled after Rome’s Arch of Titus (which was also inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). The conspicuous Atlantic Station landmark houses a museum dedicated to Georgia history, where you’ll find artifacts such as a musket owned by the Marquis de Lafayette and a well-worn Bible belonging to Martin Luther King Jr. (395 17th Street).
As you pass the High Museum of Art, keep an eye out for the sculpture of a despondent figure, head eternally bowed, on the front lawn. Rodin’s The Shade (a bronze cast of the artist’s original 1880 mold) was a gift from the French government following the 1962 plane crash at Paris Orly Field, which killed 103 Atlanta arts patrons (1280 Peachtree Street).
Head to the neighborhood of Ormewood Park and look for the squat stone outlier among brick bungalows. The Burns Cottage, a reproduction of the 1757 birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns, actually dates to 1911 and is itself on the National Register of Historic Places. The private building hosts meetings of the longstanding literary society formed in his name (988 Alloway Place).
53. Travel the world at Zoo Atlanta
Zoos are lessons in geography; Atlanta’s houses Bornean orangutans, fossas from Madagascar, and a host of other exotic émigrés. Its new African Savanna habitat has tripled the elephants’ space and includes a huge indoor retreat for the gentle giants. 800 Cherokee Avenue
54. Culinary classic: Kyma
This Buckhead dining stalwart is a blue-and-white shrine to Greek seafood. Share meze plates, including the signature wood-grilled octopus, or go for a whole fish straight from the Aegean. 3085 Piedmont Road
55. Hang with the glitterati at Himitsu
This Japanese speakeasy lures celebs and tastemakers with its swank interior, masterful cocktails conceived by NYC legend Shingo Gokan, and small bites from the city’s poshest sushi spot, neighboring Umi. Email the restaurant to try and snag a reservation. 3050 Peachtree Road
56. Shop for French decor and gifts at Huff Harrington Home
Owners Ann Huff and Meg Harrington are avowed Francophiles who lead guided shopping trips abroad. Chic finds include antique barometers and Louis XVI chests, Loxwood handbags, and designer baubles. 3872 Roswell Road
57. Take a soda safari at the World of Coca-Cola
In the downtown attraction’s tasting room, say “ahhh” or “ugh” to 100-plus flavors from around the globe, like Peru’s bubble gum–flavored Inca Kola, India’s bold Thums Up, or Italy’s much-discussed Beverly. 121 Baker Street
58. Eat, drink, and dance at Buteco
Grab a caipirinha and hit the patio of this Grant Park coffee shop and bar, where the house samba band and other Brazilian music acts play on many weekend nights. A food truck serves street snacks like chicken croquettes, known as coxinha. 1039 Grant Street
59. Admire ornate handiwork at Mirage Sarees
At this longstanding Decatur retailer—a go-to for traditional Indian and Pakistani clothing and fabric—the friendly staff will guide you if you don’t know the difference between a sari and lehenga. Tailoring services ensure a perfect fit. 1554 Church Street, Decatur; 1707 Church Street, Decatur
60. Catch a show at the Rialto Center for the Arts
Georgia State University aims to broaden the city’s cultural horizons. Its current season of live performances spans Bollywood funk, Argentinian gaucho dance, and Afro-Peruvian soul. 80 Forsyth Street
61. Be galvanized at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Downstairs, artfully presented photographs and immersive experiences chronicle the American civil rights movement. Upstairs, engaging displays—including a digitized map of human rights abuses around the world—illuminate the ongoing struggle. 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard
62. Pause and reflect at the Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden
The moving memorial at the Marcus Jewish Community Center features a series of outdoor rooms depicting Jews’ journeys through the Holocaust. Donated by Polish survivor Abe Besser, the display includes a life-sized statue of Besser’s mother holding her young grandchildren; at Auschwitz, she escorted the children to the gas chamber to save her daughters’ lives. Call 678-812-4161 to visit. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody
63. Honor a president’s legacy at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
Revisit geopolitical events like the Iran hostage crisis and learn about the beloved ex-president’s work to eradicate disease and promote human rights around the world (his Nobel Peace Prize is on display). The museum hosts frequent author lectures; former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power was a recent guest. 441 John Lewis Freedom Parkway
64. Culinary classic: Rumi’s Kitchen
The impassioned Persian poet is a fitting namesake for this glamorous Sandy Springs locale, where patrons dine on ghormeh sabzi (herbed beef stew) and saffron-scented kabobs amid potted orange trees and gleaming blue tiles. 6112 Roswell Road; 7105 Avalon Boulevard, Alpharetta
65-66. See vestiges of Olympic glory
Centennial Olympic Park is surrounded by downtown’s top tourist attractions, but the twenty-one-acre greenspace—once the central fan hangout during the 1996 Summer Games—is worth a walk-through on its own. Commemorative features include the iconic Fountain of Rings; a new rings statue-slash-selfie perch known as the Spectacular (pictured); and five memorial “quilt plazas,” among them a tribute to the bombing victims (265 Park Avenue).
A lesser-known landmark rises over Midtown traffic at the point where Peachtree and West Peachtree converge. A gift from Prince Charles during the Olympics, the World Athletes Monument depicts five Atlases, one for each continent. The monument drew some 20,000 mourners when Princess Diana died a year later, prompting Atlanta City Council to rename the small plaza in her honor.
67. Elevate your taste for Swedish design at Bjork Studio
Located in Atlanta’s Westside Design District, this high-end furniture and upholstery atelier carries vintage Swedish pieces from the 1940s and 1950s. A pair of olive barrel-back chairs or a signed lithograph by artist Bengt Lindstrom will expand your horizons beyond Ikea. 1200 Old Chattahoochee Avenue
68. Share a cup of humanity at Refuge Coffee Co.
The small municipality of Clarkston, northeast of Atlanta, is known as the country’s most diverse square mile, thanks to the 40,000-plus refugees that have settled here from every corner of the globe. This unique coffeehouse provides jobs and mentorship to these newcomers. Order from the truck outside (trust in the chai latte; the shop hosts a chai-making workshop each Saturday), then grab a seat inside the homey retrofitted gas station. A second location recently opened in downtown’s Sweet Auburn historic district. 4170 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Clarkston
69. Culinary Classic: Sotto Sotto
For twenty years, Atlantans have filled this warmly lit dining room to savor traditional Italian pasta (like tortelli di Michelangelo, a fifteenth-century ravioli recipe), perfect risotto, and stellar vino. 313 North Highland Avenue
International Affairs: Mark your calendar for these annual cultural immersions
It’s got the requisite bagpipers, drill teams, and floats, but this celebration on the streets of Midtown also boasts legitimate Irish cultural cred. It was founded in 1858 by Atlanta’s Hibernian Benevolent Society—still co-organizers today. (March 13, 2021)
This weekend tradition at the Alif Institute offers bites from Arabic restaurants, lessons in activities like hummus making, a souk selling handmade goods, and more family-oriented fun. (October 3–4)
Hundreds of cars straight off a Hitchcock set—Rolls-Royces, Aston Martins, and more—fill the streets of downtown Norcross for this annual tradition, now in its twentieth year. (September 12)
Community groups propel the striking vessels across Lake Lanier at the venue that once hosted Olympic rowers. (September 12)
This forty-five-year tradition brings music and dancing, an agora-style market, and a feast of culinary delights (including a drive-through menu) to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. (September 25–27)
The Infinite Energy Center in Duluth hosts a two-day showcase of Japanese traditions, from martial arts and tea ceremonies to anime and Marie Kondo. Snack on ramen, shaved ice, and other specialties. (September 26–27)
This three-evening event at Alpharetta’s North Point Mall celebrates the city’s diversity with food, shopping, and performances, from Bulgarian folk dancing to a Polynesian fire show. (October)
77. Serb Fest
Come for the food—pigs on spits, plum brandy, prebranac—and stay for the dancing at this weekend-long party at Lilburn’s Saints Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church. (October 3–4)
Don your tartan for this epic celebration of Scottish heritage, complete with pipe and drum bands, sheepdog demonstrations, and athletes hurling hammers and logs. (October 16–18)
Hosted by Midtown’s Synchronicity Theatre, this annual film festival screens thought-provoking indie documentaries from around the world. (November 5–7)
80. Atlanta Christkindl Market
Sip Glühwein and shop for handmade German gifts amid the twinkling lights of Centennial Olympic Park. The curly-haired Christkind (the traditional German gift bearer) pays a visit. (Late November–December)
This article appears in our Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Southbound.