Most major cities boast their own unique Chinatown to celebrate the Chinese culture, heritage, and history, and to develop a strong sense of community. By exploring the shops on foot, you are transported to the streets of Asia to experience the fresh food markets, grocers, teahouses, fashion shops, medicine and herbal centres, and beautiful temples. You are invited to enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine, festivals, and all the fun that Chinatowns have to offer. And of course, any Chinatown in the world would be the perfect place to ring in the Chinese New Year. We at tripcental.ca have put together a list of ten of the world’s best, bustling Chinatowns.
10. Johannesburg, South Africa
Home to two Chinatowns, Johannesburg has a large Chinese community. What was once located downtown is now the old Chinatown. The New Chinatown is located on Derrick Avenue in the Cyrildene neighbourhood and has a very authentic feel, without the lavish décor but still featuring delectable, traditional dishes.
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This market’s centre is located around Petaling Street, a barterer’s paradise. It’s a lively shopping district selling both goods and foods, and transforms into a vibrant night market after dark. The Central Market’s art-deco style building, a short walk from the main street, is an indoor hub for artistic creations, housing boutiques, souvenir stands, and handmade merchandise.
8. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne’s Chinatown was developed after the gold rush days of the 1850s attracted Chinese immigration to Victoria. Little Bourke Street became the focus of the community. The historical splendor can be seen in the low-rise brick buildings and the newly restored five key arches that announce the entrance into Chinatown. The Tianjin Garden, Chinatown Plaza, and The Chinese Museum (which houses the Millennium Dai Loong Dragon) are must-sees.
7. Manila, Philippines
This Chinatown is the oldest in the world, founded in the 1590’s. The area is known as Binondo to the locals. Arches that mark the entrance, trilingual street signs (in Filipino, English, and Chinese), and dragon décor can all be found in Manila’s Chinatown. The temples and buildings are a mix of traditional Chinese architecture and modern aesthetics. For some street food, Carvajal Street is the place to go, also known as Umbrella Alley because of the umbrellas that hover over the vendors.
6. London, England
At the heart of Lisle and Gerrard Streets rests London’s Chinese community full of lanterns and supermarkets. By the late 1960s, Gerrard Street became known for its artistic community filled with painters, metalworkers, writers, and jazz bars. With an exciting nightlife, and bookshops, art galleries, and flower shops to be visited during the day, this Chinatown attracts large crowds.
5. Honolulu, Hawaii
The Chinatown in Honolulu features restored 19th century buildings. It was established in the 1890s when Chinese workers immigrated to Hawaii. While there, you can visit the assortment of shops, take a look at the monument of Sun Yat-sen, or watch locals play mah-jongg in the Maunakea Marketplace filled with fruits, vegetables, and exotic flowers.
4. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok’s Chinatown is known as Yaowarat. It’s one of the few places that has not been gentrified, allowing for a particularly fascinating experience, with many vendors set up in small alleyways and back roads. While visiting, sign up for the Bangkok Food Tours’ Yaowarat Night Foodie Walk, a delicious tour of eight famous, local restaurants or take a trip to Wat Chakrawat to greet the three crocodiles in the pond of the temple. Also visit Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Bangkok’s Chinese-Buddhist temple, or Wat Traimit, to witness a five-meter tall gold Buddha.
3. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver has the largest Chinatown in Canada and the third largest Chinatown in North America. They are even known to have some of the best Chinese food. The Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, committed to the preservation of Chinese culture, and the Monument of Canadian Chinese, symbolizing moderation and harmony, are located in Vancouver. As well, there are many heritage and historical sites in Vancouver, such as the Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate that celebrates the past and the future.
2. New York City, United States
New York City’s Chinatown, located in lower Manhattan, is the largest in the United States. Established in 1800, Chinatown now occupies two square miles and has the highest concentration of Chinese people in the West. The smell of fresh fish, the sight of crowded streets, and the sounds of vendors advertising their goods will create a colourful landscape to take in.
1. San Francisco, United States
Chinatown is one of the city’s top tourist attractions and hosts the country’s largest Chinese New Year celebrations. Here, you can hear Chinese dialects being spoken on the street, try some exotic meats and seafood, visit the various temples, and even sign up for a Chinatown Ghost Tour of haunted streets. Portsmouth Square is an active gathering place where locals can be found playing Chinese chess and practicing Tai Chi. What’s more exciting? You can make your own fortune cookies at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, since they were invented in San Francisco in the 1900s.