Enjoy a taste of the Far East by exploring London’s Chinatown. This bustling neighbourhood is home to a large East Asian community, who gather together for events and activities throughout the year, in particular during London's Chinese New Year celebrations.
What's London Chinatown's history?
Once home to Huguenot and Maltese immigrants, the area of Chinatown as we know it today started to form in the 1950s, when a handful of Chinese restaurants opened. With other businesses and services moving in, by the 1960s and 1970s the neighbourhood had become a hub for Chinese culture.
The original London Chinatown was actually in Limehouse, in London’s East End. Chinese employees of the East India Company settled at the docks in the late 19th century and helped to create a Chinese community. However, a decline in shipping and largescale destruction of the area during the Second World War saw this quarter dwindle by the mid-20th century.
Where is Chinatown in London?
Geographically, Chinatown is bound by Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, Rupert Street to the west, Charing Cross Road to the east and Leicester Square to the south. The main focal point is Gerrard Street, which runs through its centre. Chinatown is part of London’s West End.
How to get to Chinatown
Numerous bus routes link Chinatown to other areas of Central London and beyond; while taxis are readily available in the area.
If you're going to be in London for more than a day, it's worth buying a Visitor Oyster Card in advance. The Visitor Oyster Card is delivered to your home before you arrive in London. It is one of the easiest ways to get around London.
If you do not have a Visitor Oyster Card, but still plan to travel around London for more than a day, buy an Oyster card at the Tube station, or use your contactless payment card.
How to get around Chinatown
It is easy to get around Chinatown on foot, as it is a relatively small area and some streets are pedestrianised.
Bus routes skirt the area’s boundaries but do not travel through Chinatown; while access to taxis and cars is limited to certain streets.
What to see in London Chinatown
Chinatown boasts buildings and streets decorated with Chinese symbols such as dragons and lanterns. Keep an eye out for street signs, which are written in English and Mandarin.
You’ll also see dragon sculptures, stone lions, a pagoda and Chinese gates. Don’t miss Chinatown’s brand new fourth gate on Wardour Street: completed in 2016, it is the largest Chinese gate in the country and is built in traditional Ching Dynasty style. All these impressive decorations make perfect photo opportunities and give an insight into Chinese culture and religion, particularly during seasonal celebrations.
Every year, Chinatown plays host to the capital's colourful Chinese New Year celebrations between mid-January and February – the dates vary from year to year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The event involves a parade with floats, lion dances and performers, as well as food and craft stalls. Check out our top tips for celebrating Chinese New Year in London.
Things to do in Chinatown London: Shopping
Chinatown is home to some wonderful, authentic Chinese food shops and bakeries, as well as shops crammed full of Chinese-inspired trinkets and gifts.
There are also shops to explore selling lanterns, Chinese clothing and knick-knacks such as maneki-neko (beckoning cats).
Things to do in Chinatown London: Restaurants
For a real taste of Chinatown, eat at one of the top London Chinese restaurants. Ranging from spicy Szechuan specialities to Cantonese cuisine, dim sum and Chinese buffet restaurants, you'll discover the perfect Chinatown restaurant, whatever your craving.
Among the best restaurants in Chinatown are:
- Baiwei, which tingles your taste buds with spicy Sichuan fare
- Baozi Inn, where you can tuck into rustic street food-style dishes such as dumplings
- Four Seasons, an eatery famed for its roast duck
- Golden Dragon, home to some of the best dim sum around
- Leong's Legend, which specialises in Taiwanese cuisine
- New Mayflower, the place to satisfy your seafood cravings
- Plum Valley, a haven for lovers of contemporary Cantonese cuisine
- Rasa Sayang, where you'll find colourful dishes from Malaysia and Singapore
- Shuang Shuang, the place to go for hot pots (steaming broths in which to cook your choice of ingredients)
Find more of the best Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.
If you’re craving a cocktail, try the Experimental Cocktail Club, a speakeasy style bar hidden behind an unassuming door on Gerrard Street; or try top tipples at the seductive Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour; or enjoy the atmospheric surrounds of The Light Lounge.
On the corner of Lisle Street, you’ll find popular gay bar Ku Bar; while De Hems on Macclesfield Street gives a taste of the Low Countries with its choice of Dutch and Belgian beers and lively atmosphere.
Where to stay in Chinatown London
There is a limited choice of accommodation in Chinatown, but there are many hotels nearby in areas such as Leicester Square, Soho and Covent Garden.
Hotels in and around Chinatown include:
- Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire
- W London Leicester Square
- St Martins Lane
- Premier Inn London Leicester Square
Find more hotels near Chinatown.
More about Chinatown
Find out more about Chinatown at http://chinatown.co.uk/en/