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 Chinese New Year celebrations.
History of Chinatown
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.
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.
Travel to Chinatown London
London’s Chinatown is close to key attractions such as Leicester Square, Theatreland and Soho. Its central location makes it an easy place to get to by public transport.
The nearest Underground stations to Chinatown are:
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. Learn more about Oyster Cards.
Travel around London 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.
Things to see in 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. These make perfect photo opportunities and give an insight into Chinese culture and religion, particularly during seasonal celebrations.
Every year, Chinatown plays host to 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 the capital.
Things to do in London Chinatown: 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.
Browse the shelves at New Loon Moon and SeeWoo supermarkets for unique and exotic ingredients such as fresh fruits and vegetables, spices and dried ingredients.
Shop for light and fluffy buns and indulgent cakes at Golden Gate Cake Shop and Kowloon bakery – perfect any time of the day!
There are also shops to explore selling lanterns, Chinese clothing and knick-knacks such as maneki-neko (beckoning cats).
Things to do in London Chinatown: Restaurants
There is a wealth of restaurants in Chinatown, many of which serve regional Chinese fare. But you’ll also find other cuisines, from Korean, Malaysian and Japanese to European and pizza places.
For a real taste of Chinatown, eat at one of the many Chinese restaurants. Ranging from spicy Szechuan specialities to Cantonese cuisine and dim sum – there’s plenty to try.
Among the best restaurants in Chinaa town are:
Find more 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 the glitzy Hippodrome Casino.
On the corner of Lisle Street, you’ll find gay-oriented 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.
Accommodation 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
Radisson Blu Edwardian, Leicester Square
W London Leicester Square
St Martins Lane