Chinese presence is everywhere. Just like there is a Chinatown in Manhattan and a Chinatown in Singapore, London too has it own exclusive Chinatown located in the Gerard Street area. Leicester place and Leicester Street both head north into Chinatown. It may be tiny in comparison to other cities, but then it is not really the home of London’s Chinese community, it is more like its market place. Lisle street is lined with restaurants and supermarkets, while pedestrianized Gerrard Street has been “themed” with Shinoiserie street furniture and gaytes to complement another stretch of busy restaurants. Both streets meet in Newport Place. The London Chinatown is a vibrant part of the city full of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses.
London’s Chinatown: A Multinational Presence
In Chinatown, apart from the Chinese, there are people of other countries like the Japanese, the Singaporeans and the Koreans living in peaceful co-existence. Today, Chinatown has become a bustling place where people still practice age-old customs and traditions.
A visit to Chinatown transports you on a magical trip to the oriental right in the heart of London. Chinese style street furniture, the Chinese pagodas and the unique pagoda style telephone boxes greet visitors to Chinatown. Mouth-watering oriental cuisine and the aroma of herbs and spices attract visitors every day to this little China outside of China.
A very popular time to visit Chinatown is late January. This is the time of the Chinese New Year. Traditional Chinese new year festivals with dancing dragons and parties in the street are a must watch. Try to coincide your trip to Chinatown during the Chinese New Year when the entire Chinatown wears a festive look with glitzy lighting and people celebrating with great pomp and grandeur.
Restaurants at Chinatown
A great way to unwind at Chinatown is by dropping in at any of the Chinese restaurants, cafés, shops or the bars and savor lip-smacking Chinese delicacies. On the hindsight, apart from Chinese snack bars and restaurants, it would be apt to point out that apart from eating joints, Chinatown in London also has exclusive Chinese medical services, travel agents, bookshops, Chinese craft works and an array of Chinese cultural, philanthropic and professional organizations.
Over the years, Chinatown in London has slowly gained popularity as a tourist attraction. A permanent fixture on the London tourist map, it is a destination of choice for tourists from all over the world. Even Londoners love this small area in Soho and visit it regularly. Though not as large as the Chinatown in San Francisco or Vancouver, the London Chinatown is a major draw for its authentic Chinese feel. Different from any other part of London, it is a great place to dine out. The ambiance is different and so is the food.
The Chinese supermarkets are also worth visiting. They sell everything from curious to culinary spices and utensils that you might need, should you want to cook traditional Chinese dishes at home.
Top Restaurants in Chinatown London
- The Cinnamon Club
- The County Hall Restaurant
- Brasserie One
- The Abbey
- Inn The Park Restaurant
- The Atrium
While visiting Chinatown, you would do well to drop in at the Guang Hwa Company, which is one of London’s best-known Chinese bookstore. It also sells artistic Chinese crafts. For souvenirs, visit The China Gifts Shop with has amazing Chinese art and decorative murals, wall hangings and curios.
History of Chinatown of London
A major tourist attraction, the history of the London Chinatown dates back to the late 18th century. The first Chinese settlers in London were those employed on ships owned by the East India Company Concentrated around Gerrard Street, it is close to Leicester Square, to the west of the Charing Cross Road.
One has to go back to the 1950’s when the Chinese from Hong Kong started immigrating to UK and started making their fortune through the booming catering trade. Chinatown, London is packed with Chinese traders who worked on the East India ships and also fresh immigrants following the handover of Hong Kong to Communist China. Cantonese and Szechuan restaurants dot this part of London and attract thousands of guests every day.
Supermarkets specializing in exotic oriental cooking ingredients are also a favorite among visitors to the London Chinatown.With the passage of time, the Chinese community began to prosper. Today Chinatown London covers a stretch between Shaftesbury and Leicester Square. Although initially the Leicester Square area was synonymous with filth and squalor, with time, as the Chinese Community prospered, the British government spruced up the area and gave it a whole new look bearing in mind the mega bucks that tourism could generate through such an effort.
Today as you enter London’s Chinatown, designer Chinese gates, Chinese shops and of course the Chinese restaurants fill the landscape. You will be surprised to see Chinese pagodas at the entry and exit of each street.