THE BEST CHINATOWNS OF EUROPE
Xīn nián kuài lè! As it’s Chinese New Year, there seemed no better time to shine a light on some of the best Chinatowns outside of Asia. From our very own in London and Manchester to Amsterdam and Paris, Europe has plenty of places for you to experience eastern culture and cuisine without the long-haul flight.
Also known as Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is celebrated the world over and is by far the most significant holiday in the Chinese calendar. The time of year is when those of Chinese origin celebrate the end of the winter solstice and mark the start of the New Year by visiting friends and family, giving gifts and watching parades packed with lavish lanterns, decadent firework displays and traditional lion and dragon dances.
Let’s not forget it’s also a time to feast on the flavours of authentic Chinese cuisine too with some foods favoured over others for bringing good luck and fortune for the year ahead. If you’re travelling in Europe around this time or are lucky enough to live nearby a Chinatown, there really is no better time to visit and experience this wonderful festival as we enter the Year of the Pig!
Part of London’s famous West End, our capital is home to an incredible Chinatown located just moments away from Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. First established in the 1950s with the opening of many Chinese restaurants, London’s Chinatown as we now know it is a must-visit for a true taste of the Far East.
Whether you’re in London for the day or staying over for a city break, be sure to take a stroll around Chinatown; the area is pretty compact so exploring by foot is the best way to see the buildings and streets decorated with Chinese dragons, lanterns and symbols. London’s Chinatown also features the largest Chinese gates in the country – perfect for an Instagram snap!
Brimming with traditional Chinese food stores and bakeries, if you’re looking to stock up and cook your own authentic cuisine at home, you’ll be sure to find everything you could possibly need here. On the other hand, if you want to experience the finest Chinese food in the capital, you really are spoilt for choice here; from dim sum to dumplings prepare to indulge.
With a traditional red pagoda archway marking the entrance to Antwerp’s Chinatown, Belgium’s second city is a must-visit for many reasons however it also happens to be home to the only officially recognised Chinatown in the country. Bringing an eastern flair to Antwerp since the 70s, this small but significant area is a colourful cultural hub not to be missed.
As per all Chinatowns, taste is at the heart of the Van Wesenbekestraat area with everything from chop suey to spring rolls waiting to be devoured. Here, Chinatown is one long street packed with restaurants offering delicacies not only from China, but Vietnam, Japan and more. Don’t miss Sun Wah, an authentic Chinese supermarket packed with an array of interesting and unusual ingredients to inspire your own cooking at home.
Set south of Rue de Tolbiac is Quartier Chinois, Paris’ Chinatown. The city is actually home to three Chinatowns however this is by far the one to visit, especially for the extraordinary Chinese New Year parades when the streets are a vibrant scene of martial arts performers, vivid dragon dances and more.
The area is set between a triangle of tower blocks between Avenue d’Ivry, Avenue de Choisy and Boulevard Masséna. Here you’ll find a Buddhist temple nestled in a car park, Tang Frères supermarket and plenty of Chinese patisseries proudly showcasing their sweet treats to tourists.
For restaurants, take your pick with flavours from China, Japan, Vietnam and more; from the only Michelin starred Chinese restaurant in France, Shang Palace, to 13tharrondissement favourites like La Mer de Chine and Hao Hao, choosing where to dine will be your only difficult decision here. When you're not filling up on such oriental delights, there's plenty more to indulge in with our guide on how to eat your way around Paris - one croissant at a time!
The second largest Chinatown in the UK and the third largest in Europe, Manchester offers a wide assortment of Chinese shops and restaurants for everyone to enjoy. The annual Chinese Festival in February is a definite highlight in the city’s calendar of events when the urban area really comes alive with parades and pop-up stalls all celebrating Chinese New Year.
Full of culture, the area features Faulkner Street’s iconic archway that was actually gifted from China in the late 80s. Present in Manchester for nearly 50 years, today Chinatown is home to bright lights, a kaleidoscope of colour and some of the very best eateries in the city. Yang Sing is one of the most popular restaurants and offers cookery classes too, whilst Red Chilli on Portland Street is right on the edge of Chinatown and renowned for their speciality dishes filled with fresh flavours to tempt your taste buds.
When you think of Amsterdam, Chinatown is likely not the first place that springs to mind, yet right by the Red Light District is a mix of traditional temples, shops, markets and restaurants all showcasing eastern culture. If you’re visiting the city this February, add Chinatown to your itinerary to immerse yourself in celebrations for the Year of the Pig.
A must-visit as you stroll the cobbled streets of Amsterdam’s Chinatown is Dun Yong – one of the oldest Chinese companies to settle in the Netherlands back in the 1950s. It’s not only home to all kinds of Asian cuisine, the shop also stocks traditional decorations and souvenirs as well as hosting lessons in their Flavours of the Far East cooking studio for those wanting to try something new.