Travelers that love Asian food all have the same thing on their to-do list when arriving in a new city: Find Chinatown. Nestled into the heart of many locations around the word, often marked by traditional Chinese gates and sculptures, is an area full of incredible food, never-ending activity and friendly locals that simply must be explored.
Usually home to dishes from every region of Asia, visitors will have a huge selection of cuisines on offer that draw the hungry in with aromatic herbs and spices transporting them into another world. Far more than just food, Chinatowns the world over bring culture and heritage across the seas to enrich the lives of those lucky enough to visit. Here are 10 of the best in the western world.
10 Barcelona, Spain
While it may not feature the quintessential Chinatown Gate, Barcelona’s Chinatown is every bit as authentic as many others on this list. Made up of the many enterprising families that made their way to Spain in years gone by, the area has everything any tourist could possibly want.
The food is sensational and often influenced by the Spanish flavors that surround them, making for some splendidly unique dishes that linger on the tongue and the mind. Shopping here is an experience all on its own as well, with goods of all kinds up for sale and prices usually able to be debated.
9 London, United Kingdom
Once housed in the Limehouse district of the East End, London’s Chinatown has since been relocated to the heart of Soho in the capital’s thriving center. In the past, the area had been largely discredited as a viable tourist destination but has seen a huge resurgence in recent decades.
Boasting approximately 100 restaurants all crafting traditional Asian cuisine every day of the week, London’s Chinatown is now regularly visited by visitors and locals alike for the wide range of delicious food, handmade crafts and vibrant atmosphere that defines Asian culture the world over.
8 Vancouver, Canada
The largest of its kind in Canada, Vancouver’s Chinatown has undergone vast change throughout its long and storied history. Once a maze of neon lights and excitable street hawkers, recent years have seen the area dotted with luxury apartments that have changed the aesthetic somewhat.
Traditional charms still remain in large numbers however thanks to the authentic restaurants, herbal remedy shops, and tea houses that have always plied their trade within the community. It is still a popular spot for tourists to explore and a great example of the multicultural heritage Canada is known for coming to the fore in a marvelous meeting of different cultures.
7 Paris, France
Even the least observant adventurer will know when they hit Chinatown in Paris as the shop signs suddenly change in language and the alluring aromas of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian delicacies fill the air and caress the nostrils.
Come here for the incredible food, cheap haircuts, groceries you won’t find in supermarkets, fresh spices and of course the charming atmosphere that can only be found in a busy Chinatown. This is also the place to spend Chinese New Year, when the streets overflow with traditional dances and martial arts demonstrations during a truly unique community celebration.
6 Rotterdam, Netherlands
Originally founded near the docks in 1911, the present-day iteration of Rotterdam’s Chinatown rests in the more centrally-located, and appropriately named, Cool District. Perhaps less touristy than other Chinatown’s, it is a hub of activity and business for the locals and therefore a highly authentic experience for travelers to enjoy.
There are plenty of restaurants and supermarkets pushing out incredible food alongside pastry shops and warehouses making items in bulk to service the local community as well as the just-visiting tourists. Celebrating over 100 years of history in Rotterdam, this Chinatown is a must-visit, be it for the food, the people or the living heritage constantly on display.
5 San Francisco, United States
The oldest in North America, San Francisco’s Chinatown is carved into a huge 24 block area and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. A day passes in no time at all here thanks to the endless intriguing alleys and streets bursting with bargains to explore.
The photo-friendly Grant Avenue is where most visitors will spend their time, but a walk through the maze of interconnected streets shooting off the main avenue will grant a taste of the authentic life lived by members of this huge community. You may just find a hidden gem known only by the true locals that are serving the tastiest food in town.
4 Melbourne, Australia
Dating back to the gold rush days on 1850’s Melbourne, the Chinatown here is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. A stroll along Little Bourke Street and the alleys linking it to Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street is like a walk through history accompanied by the sights and smells of a rich and varied culture.
Aside from the delicious food, Chinatown offers a dazzling selection of bars and cafes that will suit all-comers with their take on Australian and Chinese hospitality. History lessons are also possible here in the form of the Chinese Museum that covers the fascinating history of the area is remarkable and intriguing depth.
3 New York, United States
The narrow streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown are a magical collection of delights and surprises awaiting every wide-eyed visitor. Stroll the exciting Doyers Street and its basement bars and speakeasys, take in the traditional pagoda-style temples and buildings and learn the history of the area through stunning monuments all before devouring the biggest plate of dumplings you may ever have the good fortune to find.
Cultural activities take place here throughout the year and are not to be missed if the timing lines up with a trip. Travelers are always welcome here and it is impossible to visit without soaking up the culture and way of life that Chinese Americans live every day.
2 Sydney, Australia
Chinatown in Sydney in not simply a destination for some shopping and a tasty snack, it is a huge drawcard in the fabric of the city and warrants a full days exploration with ease.
Visitors and locals participate in the many festivals that take to the streets here, browse several different shopping areas including open-air markets featuring handmade delights and of course sample every kind of fantastic food hailing from the East. Placed perfectly in the downtown core, there is no excuse to miss this top-drawer Sydney experience. Just leave yourself plenty of time because you will never want to leave.
1 Toronto, Canada
Stretching along several blocks of centrally-located Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, Toronto’s Chinatown is incredibly easy to get to but outrageously hard to leave. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with the tourist-crammed Kensington Market, Chinatown more than holds its own as a destination within an exciting city.
The Vietnamese restaurants here are the best in Canada and will have you rolling out the door with stuffed bellies for a remarkably low price. There is also a huge range of vendors offering hot pots, yum cha, dumplings and buffet meals to the peckish traveler and it is almost impossible to find anything other than a perfectly prepared meal.