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Chinatown, London’s Chinese Quarter

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In the heart of Soho, Chinatown, London’s vibrant Asian quarter, invites visitors to an exotic and adventurous stop with the essence of the Far East.

All aboard, sailors: set course to explore this Asian enclave in the middle of the English capital!

Note: Today, Chinatown represents a broad Asian community rather than being strictly Chinese.

💡 The Captain’s Tips 💡

Want to know more about the history of London? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. The tip you leave is entirely up to you!

Looking for a hotel in London? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in London? Tips & Recommendations.

London’s Chinatown At A Glance

A Brief History of Chinatown

The First Chinatown

Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that Chinatown settled in its current location in the heart of London.

The original “first Chinatown” emerged in the East End of the capital during the 18th century. Located near the headquarters of the British East India Company, which oversaw trade with Asia, early immigrants opened shops catering to Chinese sailors traveling between Europe and the Far East.

World War II

During World War II, the East End of London was heavily bombed, and the first Chinatown was severely affected. Residents and shopkeepers were forced to seek refuge elsewhere.

1950s to 1970s

In the 1950s, the first Chinese businesses began to appear in Soho, an area known for its vibrant nightlife and affordable property prices.

Former British soldiers who had served in Asia flocked to these new restaurants and supermarkets, eager to rediscover the Asian flavors they had encountered during the war.

The success of these businesses attracted an increasing number of Asian entrepreneurs. Around the same time, England also saw a wave of immigration from Hong Kong.


By the 1980s, Chinatown had firmly established itself as an Asian enclave in the heart of London. The neighborhood adopted a distinctly Asian appearance, marked by the installation of three monumental gates defining its boundaries.

Chinatown Today

In 2016, a fourth gate was erected on Wardour Street and inaugurated by Prince Andrew.

Today, London’s Chinatown boasts nearly 80 restaurants, along with a variety of supermarkets and diverse businesses including travel agencies, barbershops, and Chinese medicine clinics.

💡 Fun Fact 💡

According to legend, the rock band Led Zeppelin was discovered in a pub on Gerrard Street!

Boundaries of Chinatown

While London’s Chinatown is marked by four monumental gates, its exact boundaries remain somewhat fluid.

The neighborhood is relatively small, with its beating heart found on Gerrard Street. However, it extends beyond this main artery to neighboring streets: Wardour Street, Rupert Street and Rupert Court, Shaftesbury Avenue, Lisle Street, Macclesfield Street, Newport Place, Newport Court, and Little Newport Street.

Visiting Chinatown, London’s Chinese Quarter

The Gates of Chinatown

From the outset, the tone is set! London’s Chinatown is defined by four grand gates.

The first three gates, dating back to the 1980s, blend Asian and European influences. The newest gate, located on Wardour Street, was crafted by Chinese artisans in the Qing dynasty style, which ruled China from 1644 to 1812. This gate was inaugurated by Prince Andrew in 2016.

Chinatown - London

A Slice of Asia in the Heart of London

Once you pass through the gate, don’t forget to look up. The streets are adorned with hundreds of red lanterns. But take a closer look—some of these lanterns are branded with logos of Chinese companies, such as the insurance conglomerate China Taiping.

As you continue your journey, you’ll encounter two lion statues, gifts from the People’s Republic of China in the 1980s. These statues are not only guardians of Chinatown but also symbols of good fortune.

Wandering through the streets of Chinatown, visitors are transported far from the typical English grey. Everything here evokes Asia: street and restaurant names written in Chinese, shop and restaurant facades, and shop employees chatting in their native language.

In short, London’s Chinatown is a true slice of Asia nestled in the heart of the English capital.

The “1888 Mural”

Head to Horse and Dolphin Yard to find the “1888 Mural.” Designed in 2008, this monumental 8-by-5-meter art installation consists of 1,888 photos assembled to form a giant bowl of rice. The number 1888 wasn’t chosen at random— in Cantonese culture, the number 1 symbolizes everyday life, while the number 8 is considered very lucky.

Dining in Chinatown

London’s Chinatown is a food lover’s paradise, boasting nearly 80 restaurants offering a wide array of Chinese and other Asian cuisines.

On the menu? Korean BBQ, dim sum, fresh noodles, Malaysian, Taiwanese, and Thai cuisine. There’s something for every palate, promising a delightful culinary journey to the Orient.

Here are some restaurant recommendations:

  • Four Seasons: Arguably Chinatown’s most iconic restaurant, famous for its roast duck.
  • King Fu Noodle | Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar: For fresh noodles.
  • Tao Tao Ju | Bun House: For Cantonese cuisine.
  • Pochawa Grill: For a great Korean BBQ experience.
  • Gerrard’s Corner: For delicious dim sum.
  • Rasa Sayang: For Malaysian specialties.
  • Speedboat Bar: For a tasty Thai meal.
  • Old Tree Daiwan Bee: For Taiwanese cuisine.
  • Viet Food: For a culinary journey to Vietnam.
  • YiQi Pan Asian Cuisine: For a meal with various Southeast Asian flavors.
  • Good Friend Chicken: For a quick bite.
  • Chinatown Bakery: For a sweet treat.

Shops, Supermarkets, and More

London’s Chinatown is teeming with a variety of shops where you can find just about anything.

There are several supermarkets overflowing with Chinese and Asian products, the most famous being Loon Fung. You’ll also find numerous souvenir shops and clothing stores.

For something a bit different, Chinatown is home to several reflexology, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine clinics, as well as pharmacies offering a range of traditional remedies.

Chinatown - shop - London

Chinese New Year in London

The highlight of the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year, is celebrated in grand style in Chinatown, the heart of the festivities. Each year, over 700,000 people gather to welcome the new year together.

What’s in store? Parades, performances, dances, and fireworks make it an event not to be missed if you’re in the area!

Visitor Tips

Chinatown is located in Soho, within the City of Westminster. This area is the heart of London, just a short walk from Theatreland, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and the National Gallery.

The nearest transport options are:

Tube: Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines) and Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) stations.

Bus: Routes 14, 19, 24, 29, 38, and 176 all stop near Chinatown.

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!

👉 Find the perfect place to stay in London!

👉 Looking for recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ top tips for London!

🛏️ Accommodation: Hotels.com + Captain Ulysses’ detailed article: “Where to Stay in London?”

🎟️ Activities: GetYourGuide | Civitatis | Tiqets.

🎫 Citypasses: London Explorer Pass | London Pass

🚐 Transfers : Airport transfers

🚌 Local Transportation: Hop-on hop-off buses (with audio guide)

✈️ Getting to London: by plane: Skyscanner | by train : Eurostar

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