Get to know Chinese culture by exploring London’s Chinatown. This bustling neighbourhood is home to a large East Asian community, which gathers together for events and activities throughout the year, in particular during London's Chinese New Year celebrations.
What is the history of London Chinatown?
Once home to Huguenot and Maltese immigrants, the location of today's Chinatown in London started to form in the 1950s, when a handful of Chinese restaurants opened in the district. With other businesses and services moving in, the neighbourhood had become a hub for Chinese culture within a decade.
The original London Chinatown was in Limehouse in the East End. Chinese workers at the East India Company settled in a neighbourhood near the docks in the late 19th century, but a decline in shipping and large-scale destruction of the area during World War II saw this quarter dwindle by the mid-20th century.
Where is Chinatown in London?
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.
How to get to Chinatown
The nearest London Underground stations to Chinatown are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, which are connected to the Piccadilly, Northern and Bakerloo Tube lines.
How to get around 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 they do not travel through Chinatown. Access for taxis and cars is limited to the main streets.
What to see in London Chinatown
Chinatown boasts buildings and streets decorated with Chinese symbols such as dragons and lanterns. Keep an eye out for the street signs, which are written in English and Chinese.
Find stone lions and Chinese-style gates as you explore the area. Don’t miss the Chinatown gate on Wardour Street, completed in 2016 and built in traditional Qing dynasty style by Chinese artisans. All these impressive decorations make perfect photo opportunities and give an insight into Chinese culture, particularly during seasonal celebrations.
What's on in Chinatown London: events
Every year, Chinatown plays host to the capital's colourful Chinese New Year celebrations between mid-January and February. The dates vary from year to year according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
In 2023, Chinese New Year falls on 22 January, with the Chinese New Year London festivities taking place around that date.
Events include a spectacular parade with floats and lion dances, live performances in Trafalgar Square, and entertainment across the West End and around Chinatown, as well as pop-up food and craft stalls.
The area is also adorned with hundreds of red lanterns all year round, making for the perfect photo opportunity.
There are also plenty of other events in Chinatown throughout the year, including the Mid-Autumn Festival with delicious mooncakes and live performances.
Things to do in Chinatown London: shopping
Chinatown is home to some wonderful, authentic Chinese food shops and bakeries, as well as shops selling Asian cosmetics and Chinese-inspired trinkets and gifts.
Shop for fluffy pineapple buns and custard tarts at Golden Gate Cake Shop and Kowloon bakery for a sweet treat. Watch mini taiyaki (fish-shaped waffles filled with custard) being made at Chinatown Bakery or try them stuffed with soft-serve matcha ice cream at Bake.
Check out Asian skincare products and cosmetics at P2bus and Oseyo, which also sells K-pop merchandise, food and stationery.
You can also explore shops selling lanterns, Chinese clothing and knick-knacks such as maneki-neko (beckoning cats).
Where to eat: Chinatown restaurants and bars
London Chinatown has a wealth of restaurants, many of which serve regional Chinese fare. But you’ll also find other cuisines including Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Japanese, alongside European eateries and pizza places.
For a real taste of the neighbourhood, eat at one of the best London Chinatown restaurants. Diners who enjoy Cantonese cuisine and dim sum are spoiled for choice, with restaurants ranging from spicy Szechuan specialities to Chinese buffet restaurants.
Among the best restaurants in Chinatown are:
- BaoziInn: for rustic street food-style dishes such as dumplings.
- Four Seasons: a restaurant famed for its roast duck.
- Olle: a Korean barbecue restaurant with tabletop stoves for sizzling marinated meats.
- Golden Dragon: serving some of the best dim sum in London.
- Leong's Legend: a specialist in Taiwanese cuisine.
- Bubblewrap Waffle: for Hong Kong-style egg waffles, heaped with delicious toppings.
- Plum Valley: a haven for lovers of contemporary Cantonese cuisine.
- Rasa Sayang: for feasting on delicious dishes from Malaysia and Singapore.
- Shu Xiangge: the place to go for hot pot, steaming broth that cooks a selection of meat and vegetables.
- Imperial China: a spacious Chinese restaurant that’s great for family meals.
Devour more delicious Chinese food around the capital at the best Chinese restaurants in London.
If you’re craving a cocktail, try the Experimental Cocktail Club, a speakeasy-style bar hidden behind an unassuming door on Gerrard Street. For more beautifully crafted drinks, head to seductive Opium or experience the classy clandestine atmosphere of The Mulwray, a wine bar hidden above The Blue Posts.
Enjoy the lively scene at De Hems on Macclesfield Street, with its choice of Dutch and Belgian beers, and dance the night away on the corner of Lisle Street at popular gay bar Ku Bar.
Where to stay in Chinatown London
Hotels around Chinatown include:
- Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire
- W London Leicester Square
- St Martin's Lane
- Premier Inn London Leicester Square
More about Chinatown
Find out more about Chinatown on the area's official website.