You know the neighborhood straightaway – Chinese signage, glowing
red lanterns everywhere, maybe even some neon: you’ve stumbled into
another urban Chinatown.
Nearly every large city these days has a Chinatown, each with their
own vibrant feel, but distinct features of the look are common across
most of them. Here are seven of the best Chinatowns you can visit;
would you have identified the city just from the photo?
|Alex ‘77 on Flickr|
Chinatown in Sydney reflects on Australia’s bright, sun-drenched image:
the neighborhood is one of the brightest and cleanest you will find.
The current location in Haymarket is the third location for Chinatown;
it started out near in Rocks are near the harbor, then moved to Market
Street, and finally settled here in the 1920s.
A tourist must-do experience is shopping at Market City, full of
specialty stores and factory outlet stores. Don’t miss the dining
options in one of the massive food halls either; while it may seem
daunting with all the choices and busy atmosphere, the low prices and
tasty fare all make up for it. An annual highlight is the Chinese New
Year festival, said to be one of the best in the world.
New York, United States
|Walter Rodriguez on Flickr|
York City takes top marks for its Chinatown because it has not only
one, but three: the main tourist attraction in Manhattan, one in the
neighborhood of Flushing in Queens, and a bustling community in
Brooklyn’s Sunset Park.
Canal Street is the epicenter of the Manhattan action, with endless
photo opportunities for the camera-toting tourists. Rows of shops offer
up the traditional Chinatown fare: unusual Chinese gifts, tacky New
York inspired souvenirs, fake watches and purses.
There are a large number of herbal remedy stores and the
best-stocked Chinese grocery stores on all of the east coast. Visitors
take note – while New York is the city that never sleeps, Chinatown
closes its doors around 11pm.
San Francisco, United States
|jondoeforty1 on Flickr|
Francisco’s Chinatown is a mega-attraction: it’s the largest Chinese
community outside of Asia, the oldest Chinatown in North America, and
one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. With charming
alleyways that wouldn’t look out of place in Hong Kong and the older
men playing chess and performing Tai Chi in Portsmouth Square, it is no
wonder this is a crowd pleaser.
Locals stream in on the weekends for food shopping and to soak up
the local atmosphere around such gorgeous sights as the Bank of Canton
and Sing Chong Building.
To learn more about the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown, pick
up a copy of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club – she grew up in the area and
the book describes life here in a series of vignettes.
|Eric Pesik and Deanna Pesik on Flickr|
as just Sampeng or Yaowarat, after nearby streets, Bangkok’s Chinatown
is as old as the city itself. In the late 1700s, as the young city of
Bangkok expanded, Chinese traders were asked to relocate. They settled
here near the river where they’ve been ever since.
The area has a number of examples of early Bangkok architecture in
pristine condition, found down the various lanes and narrow streets.
Tourists will be quick to point out the Wat Traimit temple, which
houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha, weighing in at over 5
tons. Don’t miss the great shopping opportunities, especially the wares
on display in the old Chinese pharmacy.
|brewbooks on Flickr|
of the more modern versions of a Chinatown, Brisbane’s Chinatown Mall
opened in 1987. The colorful architecture was designed by Chinese
architects and is guarded by a pair of massive stone lions straddling
the area’s entrance.
The authentic feel of neighborhood makes it a popular stop for both
tourists and residents, especially on weekends when market stalls line
Many of the shops could be considered more pan-Asian than decidedly
Chinese; however the most popular food stop would be Yuen’s Chinese
Supermarket, a favorite to both Chinese and Australian families.
|roboppy on Flickr|
to many tourists, Paris actually has several Chinatowns, the largest
being in the 13th arrondissement. The name Chinatown is slightly
misleading, as many of residents are ethnic Chinese that emigrated from
Communist-controlled Vietnam in the late 1970s.
Although not as aesthetically pleasing as Paris’s more notable
districts, Chinatown has many hidden charms below the towering
The Parisian influence was not lost on the Chinese, as you’ll find
many shops with exotic household furnishings, plush but garish nail
salons and garment stores. Many wear by the food supplies of La
Boutique des frère Tang (The Tang Brothers), who supply most of the
Chinese restaurants in the city. Visitors should note that most shops
and restaurants are closed on Mondays.
|rdesai on Flickr|
hosts the largest Chinatown in all of Asia; the neighborhood blossomed
when the Port of Yokohama opened to foreign trade in 1859 as many of
the traders were Chinese and settled here. The lanes and streets of
Chinatown are marked by the nine gaudy but colorful gates found
Food is front and center, with over 200 restaurants serving up both
traditional and more modern Chinese delicacies – be sure to try a plate
of steamed pork buns, but you can be sure that anywhere with a queue is
worth waiting for.
For those with a ravenous stomach, head for the Daisekai (Daska), a
“food theme park” offering samples of various dishes from the city’s
best restaurants. Be sure to take your Chinese or Japanese dictionary
as English is not Yokohama’s strong suit.