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7 of the Top Chinatowns Around the World


Chinese paper lanterns
Hi, I'm Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Kehoe is a freelance writer and photographer with work seen in National Geographic, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, and more. Find her out on the trails or at jacquelinekehoe.com.

see more
Hi, I'm Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Kehoe is a freelance writer and photographer with work seen in National Geographic, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, and more. Find her out on the trails or at jacquelinekehoe.com.

see more

Few cultures have left such a tangible mark on the world’s biggest cities. While the first Chinatown popped up in Manila in the 1500s, dozens more appeared around the globe in the 19th and 20th centuries. From Bangkok to New York, these often hard-hit ‘hoods have endured over the years, morphing from immigrant enclaves to bustling, do-it-all, must-visit districts. Wherever you go, they’re a smorgasbord for the senses replete with smoking-hot teas and fresh dim sum; alleys of traditional handicrafts; and opulent gates leading to a land of lanterns and dragons. Here are seven of the best.

New York City

Nom Wah Tea Parlour is a highlight of New York City's Chinatown. | Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard / Viator

USA

Located right in Lower Manhattan, bordering Little Italy and the Lower East Side, New York’s Chinatown is one of the city’s most vibrant districts … and that’s saying something. With Cantonese roots dating back to the 1850s, some of this neighborhood’s iconic spots include Wo Hop and the 100-year-old Nom Wah Tea Parlour, the city’s first dim sum restaurant. Tour the bakeries, dumpling shops, and fruit stands if nothing else—this Chinatown specializes, understandably, in some of the nation’s best Cantonese food. If not the hemisphere’s.

Insider tip: Queens also has its own Chinatown with delicacies from the inland regions of China.

Explore New York City

London

London's Chinatown is full of delicious food and culture to boot. | Photo Credit: William Barton / Shutterstock

England

Though London’s original Chinatown sprang up in the East End, it was largely destroyed in WWII. Today, London’s Chinatown sits conveniently in the West End, bordered by Soho and Theatreland, though its roots seem as timeless as ever. Grab a photo at Chinatown’s fourth gate on Wardour Street; wander the souvenir shops for maneki-neko (beckoning cats); grab a mini taiyaki (fish-shaped waffle filled with custard) at Chinatown Bakery; and stop by Baozi Inn for dumplings or Gold Mine for roast duck. Or book a personalized tour and taste it all.

Explore London

Vancouver

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver, Canada. | Photo Credit: Mike Kane / Viator

Canada

With roots in the 1880s following the era of gold rushes and railroads, Vancouver’s Chinatown is also a lesson in endurance, given that the Chinese Exclusion Act (among other things) quelled Chinese immigration in the 20th century. Despite those setbacks, the city’s Chinatown has become one of the largest in the world—visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, take a selfie under Millenium Gate, eat up at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, steal some fresh aromas at Treasure Green Tea Company, and stop by the beloved-if-eclectic Jimi Hendrix Shrine.

Insider tip: This is also one of Vancouver’s few distinct cultural neighborhoods, so don’t miss out.

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Lima

Lima's Barrio Chino is small but perfectly formed. | Photo Credit: Mark Pitt Images / Shutterstock

Peru

With the largest Chinese population in Latin America, Lima’s Barrio Chino should come as no surprise. Hop on a tour of this vibrant district, stepping beyond the Taiwan-gifted red gates and into 150+ years of Chinese history. This densely packed 2-block ‘hood suffered a lengthy decline, but is now experiencing a true renaissance, with chifa restaurants highlighting the experience. Though this Peruvian-Chinese cuisine has taken over the country, its tasty origins come from nowhere else but right here in the chifas of Lima’s Barrio Chino.

Explore Lima

Melbourne

Golden hour lighting in Melbourne's Chinatown. | Photo Credit: Adam Calaitzis / Shutterstock

Australia

One of the oldest Chinatowns in the Southern Hemisphere—and the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the West—Melbourne’s Chinatown also dates back to the gold rushes of the 1850s. Right in the heart of the city’s central business district (CBD), this enclave is easily accessible, absolutely bustling, and would blend right into the city’s verve if it weren’t for those gigantic red gates. Travel down Little Bourke Street; stop into the Museum of Chinese Australian History, aka the Chinese Museum; and eat, drink, and sing your way through the ‘hoods restaurants, bars, and karaoke joints.

Explore Melbourne

Bangkok

Bangkok Chinatown vendors selling trinkets and snacks. | Photo Credit: Aidan Dockery / Viator

Thailand

With some of the country’s best street food, Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat) is a sensory experience—sprawling, vivid, delicious, and unmissable—and while it may look, sound, and feel quite modern, this district dates back to 1782, making it one of the oldest in the world. For a surefire itinerary, follow the crowds lining up for stir-fried crab and sweet-and-sour shrimp at various street stalls; hit up both the day and night markets along Yaowarat Road; explore hidden sois (alleyways); and take in the astounding Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha).

Insider tip: For outstanding views of the Chao Phraya River, the rooftop bar of the Grand China Hotel rarely disappoints.

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San Francisco

San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia. | Photo Credit: Anthony Cruz / Viator

USA

Walk through the ornate, green-roofed Dragon Gatepáifāng—and you’re officially inside San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest outside Asia and the oldest on the continent which sits between Stockton Street and Grant Avenue. There, follow the canopy of lanterns to dim sum joints, herbalists, traditional bakeries, boba spots, dim cocktail lounges, and eclectic karaoke bars. The beloved Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is absolutely worth a stop, as is China Live, a 2-story marketplace and Chinese food emporium with tastes from across the vast nation.

Insider tip: To really see it all, hop on a tour. Dating back to the Gold Rush, this neighborhood is integral to the city’s identity, and the views to the bay aren’t too shabby either.

Explore San Francisco

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