Chinatown London

Chinatown London

Eat and shop in Chinatown

Chinatown London is a vibrant district in the heart of Central London, offering an authentic feel of the Far East packed with restaurants, stores, cafes and bars.

Highlights

  • Admire the four imposing ornate archways, called Paifangs, which mark the entrances to Chinatown London.
  • Take in the stunning 1888 outdoor mural located in Horse and Dolphin Yard, measuring an impressive 8m by 5m.
  • Sample the huge choice of authentic Chinese cuisine and goods as you enjoy a taste of East Asia within the capital.

What to See and Do

Authentic Cuisine

Both tourists and locals alike flock to Chinatown London to sample the huge variety of authentic East Asian Cuisine which can be found in the district. With over 80 restaurants, plus a host of cafes, buffets and bars, many styles of cuisine can be enjoyed in this small part of the West End. 

As well as authentic Cantonese food visitors can sample Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Malaysian food offerings too. Most restaurants display menus on the outside to help you decide where you fancy eating.

Traditional Stores

As well as the many authentic eateries to choose from, visitors can also stock up on traditional food and drink in the area’s many supermarkets. Here you can purchase ingredients for recipes which you will not normally find in the major high street supermarkets. 

Chinatown London’s traditional stores cater for a whole range of items including cakes, bread, spices, sauces, books, trinkets, beauty products, skincare, clothing and more. This is shopping with a difference, a whole treasure trove of traditional Asian produce to explore.

Enjoy the Culture

Just strolling around Chinatown London is an experience in itself. There is so much traditional Chinese culture around you to admire. After you enter the district beneath one of the imposing archways the streets are lined with furniture, monuments and attractions. 

In Gerrard Street you can enjoy the statue of two lions donated by China, while in Horse and Dolphin yard photos donated by the public make up the impressive 1888 mural. Chinese symbols adorn buildings and streets, while lanterns and contemporary sculptures add to an authentic cultural experience.

Events and Festivals

Through the course of the year Chinatown plays host to a number of events and festivals which visitors can enjoy. These include the popular Chinese new year celebrations, when a mass of lanterns adorn the area. Parades, dances, live performances and assorted stalls help make the Chinese New Year celebrations a lively, colourful occasion everyone can enjoy.

Did you know: (5 interesting facts!)

  1. Chinatown was originally located in London’s East End from the start of the 18th century, its current location taking shape after the second world war with the help of low commercial rents in the West End.
  2. Chinatown London now hosts a thriving community of over 150 businesses, offering visitors a whole range of authentic cuisine and traditional items.
  3. Initially, the area of Chinatown in the East End was home to a small community of Chinese sailors who lived in London while employed by the East India Company, settling around the Limehouse docks.
  4. Ronnie Scott set up his famous jazz club in Gerrard Street, one of the main roads in Chinatown London.
  5. Chinatown London is nicknamed the ‘Imperial City’, being sited right in the heart of the capital compared to Chinatown districts in other cities around the world which are not as central.

History 

  • Late 1600’s – Houses built on present-day Gerrard Street following the destruction caused by the Great Fire in 1666.
  • 1800’s – Original Chinatown in Limehouse area of East End where Chinese employees of East India Company live.
  • 1914 – Around 30 Chinese owned businesses are operating in the Limehouse area
  • 1939-45 – Bombing of the East End during the second world war sees a gradual move of Chinese residents to London’s West End.
  • Post 1945 – Low commercial rents in the West End and soldiers returning home who have a newfound taste for authentic Chinese food sees Chinatown grow. More Chinese business owners follow from the East End.
  • Mid 1980’s – Schemes to improve the area including restoring the 18th century Lisle Street shop fronts.
  • 1985 – Chinatown London stages its first Chinese new year celebrations, which have since grown and extended into other areas including London Square and Trafalgar Square.
  • Late 1980’s – Pedestrianisation of parts of Chinatown London and installation of features including street furniture and the Chinese gates.
  • July 2016 – Chinatown welcomes the fourth and largest Chinese gate, sited at the Wardour Street entrance to the district.