It may be located in the heart of the City of Westminster, but London's Chinatown doesn't feel anything like London at all. As a matter of fact, wandering through its many streets lined with red paper lanterns and Mandarin street signs, tourists in London may feel like they're walking around somewhere in East Asia rather than in London's lively West End district.

London's Chinatown has been around since the 1950s (although the original Chinatown was located in London's East End during the 18th century), and is home to more than 80 different Asian restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as Chinese food shops, bakeries, souvenir stores, and even reflexology specialists and traditional Chinese medicine experts. There's also countless supermarkets which are crammed full of authentic and exotic ingredients that can normally only be found in Asia.

Today, Chinatown attracts up to more than 17.4 million visitors each year, and is especially busy during the Chinese New Year, which takes place sometime between mid-January and February every year (depending on the Chinese lunar calendar).

Chinatown, New Year. By Stephen Precival Chinatown, at night
Chinatown, restaurant cooks. By David Barrie Chinatown, street signs. By Lydia Chinatown, supermarkets

Chinatown Highlights

There are a ton of different monuments, sights and attractions scattered all around London's Chinatown which are worth snapping a photo of.

There are two lion statues on Gerrard Street (which were donated by the People's Republic of China), four different Paifangs (or Chinese Archways) at the different Chinatown entry points, and the fascinating 1888 Mural in Horse and Dolphin Yard.

Besides strolling around Chinatown and marvelling over its countless oriental sights, many tourists in London venture to Chinatown for the sole reason of sampling some delicious and authentic Asian food, ranging from sticky rice rolls, pickled raw octopus, to Cantonese roast duck and dumplings (just to name a few).

Not just limited to restaurants, there are also Chinese buffets and chopstick, rice and dim sum parlours, and you can also find restaurants focusing on Korean, Malaysian, Taiwanese and Japanese cuisine as well.

And even if you don't plan on stocking up on food during your visit to London, strolling around one of Chinatown's many supermarkets is a must, as you can glance over some authentic Asian ingredients and items you won't be able to find anywhere else in the UK.

Special Tips

  • Try to avoid eating at buffets, as there are numerous restaurants in and around Chinatown that are relatively cheap and will fill you up just as much.
  • The majority of restaurants have a menu outside either next to the door or in a window, so you'll be able to glance over the menu items before you enter. Perhaps it may go without saying, but try to “shop around” before you make a final decision on where to eat, as there are a ton of different options and restaurants available.
  • If you're short on cash but still want to sample some delicious Asian cuisine, look out for the “Chef's Specials” which are usually displayed on a restaurant's menu outside.