20+ Things to Do in Chinatown London | Insider’s Guide By a Local
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Looking for the things to do in Chinatown London? this post shows you where to eat, shop and what to see in Chinatown all by a local.
One thing you won’t run out of here are things to do in Chinatown London. The bustling area of Chinatown is home to a large population of people from East Asia.
The community gathers to celebrate events in Chinese culture, with Chinese New Year being the biggest of these celebrations.
The area started to form in the 1950s when East Asian residents started opening a variety of Chinese restaurants.
Over the next few decades, it developed into a hub for Chinese culture as shops and stores opened all over the neighbourhood, all with the same ethnic feel.
Although Chinatown London history doesn’t go back that far, it’s interesting and you’ll learn so much about it while you’re there. Chinatown’s opening hours never stop as it’s open 24/7, so you can enjoy it in both the night and the day.
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to do during your London travels , then a visit to Chinatown must be on your list of things to do.
Especially if you’re a first-time visitor to the city. The following is a guide to everything you need to know about Chinatown in London including the top things to do in Chinatown London.
If you have questions about how to get there and where to stay in the area, as well as what to do when you get there, I’m here to answer those questions.
Where is Chinatown in London?
When people talk about this bustling area, they generally refer to Chinatown on Gerrard Street, London and the surrounding area.
This road is dominated by Chinese restaurants, souvenir Chinatown shops, bakeries, supermarkets and other Chinese-owned establishments.
How to Get to Chinatown London
When travelling around London, you’re more than likely going to be taking the tube. It’s how the locals do it, so for an authentic experience, I’m going to recommend you do the same.
The tube has various routes, so be sure you’re on either the Northern, Piccadilly or Bakerloo tube lines.
The nearest tube stations to Chinatown are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. While Leicester Square is the nearest tube to Chinatown, both are just a few minutes walk away from Chinatown.
Taking a bus or a taxi is also a viable option, but be aware that London traffic can cause heavy delays which are a little inconvenient, to say the least.
Taking a bus, however, can be a great experience especially if you make a day of it. Taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour in London is an absolute must for anyone visiting the big city for the first time.
Chinatown London Map
Below is a map of Chinatown in London. As you can see, it’s not a massive area, so it’s easy enough to find your way around.
That said, it’s a good idea to plan ahead of time and decide where in Chinatown you’d like to go.
Where to Stay in Chinatown
If Chinatown is one of the main focal points of your trip to London, then staying in the neighbourhood is ideal.
However, to have a true Chinatown experience, stay nearby to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere at all hours of the day and night.
Luckily, there is a huge variety of great accommodation options in and around Chinatown. So, whether you’re on a budget or you’re ready to splurge, there’s sure to be a place for you.
As the name suggests, these apartments are located right in the heart of Chinatown. They offer wonderful city views that make you feel involved in the neighbourhood’s atmosphere at all times.
The apartments contain an on-site casino for your entertainment and every room has access to free WiFi.
The apartments are located a short distance from Queen’s Theatre, Prince Edward Theatre and the Arts Theatre. Surrounded by these many cultural activities, you’re sure to have a fantastic time.
Each unit comes with a kitchen that contains a microwave and fridge. There’s also a flat-screen TV to keep you entertained during your downtime.
The W London hotel might not be in the heart of Chinatown, but it is just a short two-minute walk away in Leicester Square.
This lavish hotel offers the ultimate luxury experience complete with an on-site spa and beauty lounge, as well as an alluring cocktail lounge.
The 5-star rooms have floor to ceiling windows that provide uninterrupted views of the surrounding city. iPod docks, WiFi and a flat-screen TV with an impressive media library are all available to you in your room.
When you’re not out and about exploring the theatre district, close by, make use of their relaxing sauna and steam rooms.
Perception Bar serves up a wonderful selection of cocktails and provides scenic views of the streets of Soho.
They often host music events, so be sure to keep an eye out for those so you can join in on all the entertainment fun.
Lux&Modern B&B is just outside of Chinatown and offers another great accommodation experience. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re travelling with family or friends as it contains three bedrooms, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen and dining space.
A full English or Irish breakfast is served every morning, taking one less worry off your plate. The modern furnishings give this house an upmarket and clean feel.
Enjoying an entire house to yourselves also allows for a lot more privacy and can create a bonding experience during your trip.
Hausd is a contemporary apartment block in Wardour Street in Piccadilly Circus. This is in an excellent location as it is just a 2-minute walk away from Chinatown.
Each room is modern, clean, and stylish with wonderful views of the streets below. The apartments contain air-conditioning to keep the rooms at the optimum temperature and each guest has access to the free WiFi.
There’s a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, dishwasher, and a seating area with a flat-screen TV. Housekeeping services are also available at an additional cost.
The apartments are surrounded by great shopping spots and theatres near Chinatown London, so there’ll be absolutely no shortage of entertainment during your stay.
Arty Soho is located in the heart of Chinatown right in Gerrard Street (Chinatown’s main drag).
As the name indicates, this apartment is beautifully decorated and has an artsy feel.It has access to free WiFi, as well as all the other essential household appliances.
The apartment has two bedrooms making it the perfect place for friends travelling together. It has a flat-screen TV, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a washing machine. There are also two separate bathrooms ensuring maximum privacy.
Read my guide to the top things to do in London
Where to Eat in Chinatown in London
For us foodies, deciding where to eat can make or break an experience. Whether you’re looking for the best food markets in London to indulge in delicious street food or to sit down at a restaurant, Chinatown has something for all diners.
Best Restaurants in Chinatown London
Here is a list of some of the best places to indulge in Asian cuisine in the neighbourhood. Get ready to have your taste buds blown away by incredible dishes and a variety of different flavours.
Here are the best restaurants in London Chinatown.
Cafe TPT has an impressively large menu for such a small restaurant. While long menus are the norm in Chinatown, Cafe TPT takes it to the next level.
You’ll find Cantonese as well as Malaysian dishes. Tuck into a generous portion of roast duck, or stuffed tofu with a side of the delicious Taiwanese drink – bubble tea.
You could easily describe this cafe as one of the best London Chinatown restaurants.
As you may have guessed from the title of this restaurant, at Dumplings’ Legend you can expect to indulge in some of Chinatown’s very best dumplings – and that’s saying a lot.
Their specialty is xiao long bao or soup dumplings that are prepared from scratch. You can actually watch the chef prepare them through a glass panel that leads into the kitchen.
Sample a variety of their dumplings from vegetarian to spicy pork. They’re all bursting with flavours that range from garlic to ginger.
C&R Cafe moved into Chinatown over two decades ago and serves up incredible Malaysian food. It’s squeezed into a narrow alleyway which makes finding it an adventure on its own.
In this small cafe diner, you’ll not only find great value for your money but fantastic food. Beef rendang, laksa, and char kway teow are some of their most famed specialities and are sure to get your mouth watering at the mere tantalising smell.
Old Tree Daiwan Bee
Old Tree Daiwan Bee serves up some of the most authentic Taiwanese food in Chinatown, leaving little else for the heart to desire. It’s a small, cramped space with narrow tables, but the food is absolutely to die for.
From delectable oyster omelettes to noodles in a spicy broth, their menu is short but sweet, offering only the best of what Taiwan has to offer.
Another must-try on their menu is their home-made Taiwanese sausage and their salt and pepper fried tofu.
The Royal Dragon is another must-visit restaurant in Chinatown. They serve great seafood platters and just so happen to be one of the best Chinatown karaoke restaurants.
So if you’re looking for a night of entertainment along with good food, Royal Dragon is the place to be.
If you’re very hungry then Wong Kei is the place to go for an all you can eat buffet in Chinatown. This is also one of the really good places to eat in Chinatown if you’re looking to save money.
Fill up on Cantonese cuisine like roast duck, beef brisket and a sweet soup of rice vermicilli and slow-cooked beef.
Its opening hours are between 11:30 and 23:30, so it’s the perfect place for a buffet lunch or late night dinner.
Best Desserts in Chinatown London
Once you’ve indulged in a hearty main course, it’s time to satisfy your sweet tooth. For incredible Chinese desserts, here is a guide to the finest dessert places you should be visiting.
Tsujiri is especially unique as it serves up a wonderful variety of matcha desserts. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but guilt-free too.
Matcha is a type of Japanese green tea that contains ten times the amount of antioxidants in a cup of regular green tea.
The matcha puddings, matcha ice-creams, and matcha teas are all worth a try. Get ready to pig out on all things matcha-related at this instagrammable dessert joint in Chinatown.
Bake is the sister shop of Chinatown Bakery and serves absolutely delicious baked goods.
Asian-inspired buns, cakes and tarts can all be found here and enjoyed along with creamy soft-serve ice cream.
Indulge in something slightly different like their fish-shaped custard-stuffed waffles with ice cream on top. It simply doesn’t get any more decadent than that.
Feeling up for an ice-cream sandwich? Yolkin is the place to go. What makes it a little different is that the ice cream is delicately placed between two macaroons – making for the perfect dessert picture.
Expect egg-yolk ice cream in more flavours than you’re able to choose from. It’s recommended that you visit Yolkin a few times during your trip to London, just to ensure you’ve had a taste of the tip of the iceberg.
Shibuya Soho is known for its huge servings of shaved ice filled to the brim with pieces of oreo, strawberries or mango.
It’s a decadent twist on a standard ice-cream sundae that will have you coming back for more.
If you’re not in the mood for something cold, try one of their delicious cake options. Their matcha roll cake and nama cream strawberry cakes are particularly delicious.
Best Things to Do in London Chinatown
Your Chinatown things to do list will be ever-growing with plenty of wonderful activities to enjoy.
But with so much to do it can be a challenge to get around to it all. So here’s the top hit-list of what to do in Chinatown, London.
Shop for Interesting Trinkets and Wares
Of course, first on the list is a shopping experience. There’s none quite like it anywhere else in the city. And if there’s one place in London you’re certain to get bang for your buck, it’s in Chinatown.
Have you always wanted an authentic Maneki-Neko (a cat with a waving paw) as a souvenir? This would be the place to get it. Or how about a string of ornate paper lanterns? Perfect for decorating any space you choose.
It’s also the place to go if you’re looking to purchase Chinese spices to spruce up any meal. The good news is these are easy to pack, and they’re a lightweight gift to take back home to friends and loved ones.
New Loon Moon is one of the biggest supermarkets in the neighbourhood and is incredibly fun to explore. There’s nothing quite like shopping in Chinatown, London.
Read my guide on the best things to do in Covent Garden
Celebrate a Festival in Chinatown
The Chinese New Year is celebrated according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, so the date changes every year. However, it’s usually held sometime in January or February.
If you have to shift your travel dates ever so slightly to be in London for the celebrations, I assure you it’s worth it. Although there’s no wrong time to visit Chinatown, these are definitely the best times to visit London.
Watch a traditional dragon dance that takes place through the streets of Chinatown, or partake in the annual Lantern Festival. It’s a truly magical experience.
The entire neighbourhood comes alive with colour, elaborate costumes, music, food, and of course, dancing.
A true treat for all your senses!
Take a Photo Tour
With so many picturesque scenes in this lively neighbourhood, taking a scenic tour only seems appropriate.
Whether you do this with a tour guide, or you go exploring by yourself for the day, setting aside a day just for photos is a must.
Snap a few pics of the lantern-laden streets, the narrow alleyways, and quaint doorways. Pop-in to the prettiest eateries and the cosiest shops, Chinatown photography is sure to make an interesting addition to your Instagram feed.
If you have yet to buy yourself a snazzy camera, here are a few great travel cameras for beginners.
Visit Chinese Art Now
Formerly known as the Chinatown Art Space, Chinese Art Now was created to develop and showcase East Asian performance and visual arts. Set up in 2005, it is now a thriving hub of artful expressions centred around Chinese culture and storytelling.
CAN acts as a public workspace for artists, performance artists and other creatives looking for a place to display their work. Pop in to see a show or the current exhibition on display.
Check their website to see what’s on during the time of your visit.
Have a Drink at a Local Bar
Having a drink amongst the locals in some of the best bars in Chinatown, London is a great experience.
Blue Post offers a particularly classy experience. Although there are many around Soho, the one in Rupert Street is right in the heart of Chinatown.
The ground floor offers premium beers on tap and often hosts live musicians that add to the classy ambience.
Upstairs you’ll find their cocktail bar where you can indulge in all sorts of fancy alcoholic beverages, from gin cocktails to matcha champagne and yuzu.
Experimental Cocktail Club
Another great local joint is the Experimental Cocktail Club. It’s become one of the best speakeasy bars in London and has a drinking den vibe that you would expect from the prohibition era.
The interior has an art deco feel with exposed brick walls and unique art. As for their menu, it’s an experimental one as you may have guessed from the name.
Expect a large variety of truly unique concoctions that will keep you coming back for more.
Opium is another one of Chinatown’s favourites. An unmarked jade green door marks the entrance to this hidden gem on the cobbled streets of London’s Gerrard Street.
Expect a unique juxtaposition of midnight dim sum, smoking cocktails and shouting toilets (I’m not joking).
What to See in Chinatown
If you’re looking for beautiful scenes to take in during your time in Chinatown, here are just a few of the places to see.
Visit the Four Gates
Four ornate gates mark the outskirts of the Chinatown neighbourhood. These are elaborately decorated and incredibly hard to miss.
The largest and newest of these gates, known as the fourth gate, is located in Wardour Street. The ornate gate towers over the street in beaming electric blue, green and gold. It’s actually the largest Chinese gate in the UK and also by far the most beautiful.
The other three gates are also worth seeing and are all in Gerrard Street. These gates were built in the 1980s, however, they have a much older look about them.
They make for a great photo backdrop and are certainly a must-see while you walk around Chinatown.
Admire the 1888 Mural
The 1888 mural celebrates the heritage as well as the vibrancy contained within Chinatown. It is outdoors and spans the space of 8 by 5 metres. You can find it in Horse and Dolphin Yard, just off Macclesfield Street.
The mural appears to be of a bowl of rice, but at a closer glance, you’ll notice that it’s made up of 1888 smaller pictures. These pictures are all related to Chinatown in some way and were donated by the public.
It was a project that truly involved the community and is a great asset to the area. Be sure to check it out.
See the Lion Sculpture
The lion statue in Wardour Street is a fairly new addition to Chinatown. It was erected in 2009 and named the guardian of Chinatown’s gateways.
It helps to give the area its own distinct feel and is part of a project that aims at making London’s Chinatown the greatest in the world.
This colourful sculpture stands out against the walls of Chinatown and makes for a great photo opportunity.
A Locals Final Thoughts on Chinatown in London, England
Now that you know just how jam-packed Chinatown is with exciting activities, you can start creating your very own list of unique things to do in the area.
This neighbourhood is all about discovering the authenticity behind Chinese culture, so be sure to do as much as possible while you’re there.