5 must-visit Chinatowns around the world

A cultural enclave unmatched by others, the beloved Chinatown is more than just a vendor-filled thoroughfare, sprawling the globe one city at a time. Rather, it is a celebration of culture, tradition and culinary finesse.

Lucky for you, a plate of good Chinese food is never too far away. A cultural enclave unmatched by others, the beloved Chinatown is more than just a vendor-filled thoroughfare, sprawling the globe one city at a time. Rather, it is a celebration of culture, tradition and culinary finesse. What first began as a necessary means to preserve and bolster a marginalised community, the burgeoning Chinese diaspora has transformed an ordinary neighbourhood into something truly unique and enriching.

For those in need of some inspiration, here are five must-visit Chinatowns around the world.

1. San Francisco, USA
Established in 1848, the San Francisco Chinatown takes out the title for the oldest in North America, and largest beyond Asia. Take a brisk walk under the iconic archway and down the main street of Grant Avenue. Or, join the queue for authentic yum cha, before braving a (mystery) remedial beverage from the corner herbal shop. Want your fortune and eat it too? Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company and get the complete cookie education. Watch the experts work the circular griddles and moulds, and be sure to leave with a bag of freshly made goodies to reward the taste buds.

Chinatown Street Scene – image courtesy of San Francisco Travel

2. Paris, France
Not far from the high-rise buildings and business district of Paris lives the Parisian take on Chinatown. Dating back to the 1960s, Quartier Chinois is an amalgamation of different cultures albeit its guise as a classic ‘Chinatown’. With large communities of Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians calling this area home, it’s a place of Vietnamese pho meets Cambodian spices meets Chinese bakeries. Plus, the iconic Tang Freres supermarket is bound to satisfy those shopping cravings – pre-made sauces and noodle bowls aplenty.

3. Yokohama, Japan
Just south of Tokyo, along the waters of Tokyo Bay, lives the uncrowded city of Yokohama. Yet, nestled in the heart of the city lives Japan’s largest and ever-bustling attraction, Yokohama Chinatown. It’s colourful, vibrant, and addictive. With a dizzying array of Chinese restaurants and food stands crammed into every nook and cranny, it truly is a wonderland for hard-core foodies and hungry punters. Keep your senses sharp and belly warm with a tasty selection of manju (braised pork sandwiched between a taco steamed bun), ramen, hand-cut noodles, Peking duck and much, much more.

Image courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organization

4. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Cholon, Vietnam’s largest Chinatown, has prevailed in popularity since 1778. While there are various smaller markets peppered throughout the area, the Binh Tay Market, located in the centre, reigns as the tourist and local favourite. A maze of alleyways and aisles, the market provides non-stop excitement and stimulation. Think temples, Chinese-Buddhist style architecture, fabric shops, and hawker stalls serving up a plethora of authentic and fusion delights, including chow mien, ‘broken rice’, and Chinese sausage.

5. Sydney, Australia
When it comes to food, Sydney Chinatown is big on variety and price. Start cheap with bite-sized custard puffs from Emperor Garden – AUD1 for a bag of three – before ending the night with a trip to Golden Century Seafood, the legendary local watering hole for unrivalled Cantonese seafood, open daily until 4am. Looking for some extra entertainment? Have a wander around the Chinatown Friday Night Markets (weekly) and gift yourself a souvenir, a plate of noodles and a bit of live music.

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