The best Chinatown experiences outside Asia

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One of our primary motivations to travel is the chance to witness different cultures. If you’re more of a thrifty kind of traveler, you may delight in the chance to kill two birds with one stone. You don’t have to go to China to experience Chinese culture. Just follow our guide to the best Chinatowns around the world.

Chinatown's Famous Red Lanterns (1)
Chinatown’s Famous Red Lanterns (1)

San Francisco

Head to San Francisco if you want to see Little Trouble in Big China: this Chinatown holds one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia. Did someone say, “Mogwai?” – this is also the oldest Chinatown in North America, so have a little respect.
The area is full of temples, mostly situated at the upper level of houses, so they are closer to heaven. If you’re strolling the streets, make sure you take in the Bank of Canton and the Sing Chong Building. In Portsmouth Plaza, Chinatown’s central space, all buildings are decorated in pagoda style. However, the most popular feature of the district is without a doubt the Chinatown Gateway, also known as Dragon Gate.
Popular? You bet! San Francisco’s Chinatown attracts more tourists than the Golden Gate bridge!

San Francisco Chinatown (2)
San Francisco Chinatown (2)


Paris has several ‘quartiers Chinois’, of which the biggest is in the 13th district. The Parisian Chinatown is based in a real Asian community, located in the poorer areas. Two supermarkets, called Tang Frères and Paristore, draw massive amounts of locals and tourists for their genuine Asian products. If you find yourself without enough Francs to squeeze your way into the Louvre, why not do the High Street Shuffle along Avenue d’Ivry? Swing by the Buddhist temple L’Amicale des Teochews de France, which is hidden in an underground passage that looks like a parking garage entrance.

Chinatown Parade in Paris (3)
Chinatown Parade in Paris (3)


Even though most people think of Soho, London’s Chinatown was originally located in Limehouse. Aerial bombing during WWII destroyed the area and Chinatown moved to its current location of Soho. Only a small part of London’s Chinese population actually lives in this area.
The area is mainly full of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and souvenir shops. Let’s not forget that Soho has something of a reputation of a lesser ‘family-friendly’ area of London, so if you want a great slap-up feed at a very reasonable price, head over to Bayswater. Queensway is home to a swathe of reasonably-priced Oriental, Middle-Eastern and European restaurants, all clamouring for your Sterling.

London Chinatown Dragon (4)
London Chinatown Dragon (4)

New York

New York has not only one Chinatown, but three! Extensive boroughs as they are, Queens and Brooklyn both have their own Chinatown neighborhoods that are still growing. However, many tourists flock to explore Chinatown in Manhattan. Roasted pigs hanging in the shop windows, herbal remedy boutiques, street-front Chinese grocery stores, cheap souvenirs and fake Gucci purses; you name it, Canal Street has it.
Chinatown also has some of Manhattan’s most affordable accommodation, allowing you to have a memorable and convenient bite of the Big Apple without having to sell your kidney for it. Staying in one of these cheap Chinatown hotels puts you close to Little Italy and Manhattan’s Financial District.

Celebrations in New York's Chinatown (5)
Celebrations in New York’s Chinatown (5)


If you’re looking for a great place to eat, Chinatown in Sydney is the place to be. There are over 60 restaurants, offering a great choice of Asian cuisines, such as Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian.
A short walk from Sydney Harbour Aquarium, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is a wonderfully calming place to while away the afternoon. Wander round the little paths, through mini pagodas and past pools of Koi carp, basking in the serenity of this oasis in the middle of a bustling city. The garden was originally created as a representation of the close relationship between Sydney and its sister city Guangzhou.
More into shopping? Check out Market City, full of factory outlet stores. Get your elbows in good shape to dig out a bargain.
The best time to be in Sydney’s Chinatown is definitely during the Chinese New Year festival. With more colours than you can shake a dragon at, and a magical fireworks display over Sydney Harbour Bridge, this New Year celebration is said to be one of the best in the world.

Fireworks at Sydney Harbour Bridge (6)
Fireworks at Sydney Harbour Bridge (6)

Of course, there are many more enclaves scattered around the globe where you can get an authentic and very enjoyable taste of Asian culture. Here at we love food, we love striking a bargain and we absolutely love having a laugh with the locals. Do you have any top Chinatowns to add to our list?

A Sky Full of Lanterns (7)
A Sky Full of Lanterns (7)
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