Exploring London’s Chinatown: The Colourful Heart of the West End

Once you’ve booked yourself into one of London’s 5-star hotels, the next step is to find yourself some 5-star things to do in London! As you explore Central London and the West End, one neighborhood that will really stand out for its vibrancy and multicultural appeal is Chinatown. The colorful heart of the West End, this is a great place to soak up a completely different atmosphere to anywhere else in the city!

What and where is Chinatown?

Chinatown has been a part of London’s West End since the 1950s, when a small number of Chinese restaurants were opened by Asian immigrants. The region expanded throughout the 1960s and 1970s when more and more businesses were opened. Before Chinatown moved to the West End, it was actually located in Limehouse, where the boats docked.

London’s Chinatown is located on the northern border of Leicester Square in the West End. Shaftesbury Avenue runs just north of the neighborhood. The closest Underground stations to Chinatown are Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. It is easily reachable by bus connections from central landmarks and restaurants near the Marble Arch.

What is there to see in Chinatown?

Stepping into Chinatown really does feel like you’ve been whisked away to the east. This compact, walkable area is small but it provides a thoroughly sensory experience, with new sights, smells and sounds. Street signs appear in Chinese as well as English. Ornamental dragons, stone lion sculptures and traditional lanterns adorn the streets. Chinatown is a captivating little place to practice your photography skills and soak up the hum of locals going about their day.

There are four decorative gates which make a striking statement of Chinese heritage. The most recent addition was constructed in 2016 on Wardour Street and was designed to reflect the style of the traditional Chinese Qing dynasty. It’s also the largest Chinese gate in the country!

Surrounding Chinatown, you can find London’s theatre land, the cinemas of Leicester Square, the shopping streets off Piccadilly Circus and the district of Covent Garden. So, there are plenty of other things to tap onto your exploration of Chinatown!

What time does Chinatown open?

You can stroll down Chinatown any time of day. Most of the restaurants open around noon, and many stay open until after midnight, which makes Chinatown a popular stop for some late night subsistence before tumbling into your luxury hotel rooms. Some even stay open until 4am, so you can always find something to eat!

Where can I eat in Chinatown?

If there’s one thing you must do when in Chinatown, that is tuck into some of London’s best Chinese food! Wander the streets and let your nose guide you to the nearest empty table. Or, if you’ve already snapped up a special offer on a London hotel, you might want to visit one of the most highly commended eateries, as listed below.

Dumplings’ Legend – over 8,000 dumplings are made on-site at Dumplings’ Legend on a daily basis, so make sure you get your hands on at least one of them. Dumplings are served steamed or fried. The restaurant has a casual ambience and opens until late, making it perfect for either a lunch stop or a late-night dim sum banquet.

Four Seasons – the Peking duck at the Four Seasons draws swarms of locals and tourists for good reason, the Financial Times branded it as ‘the best roast duck in world.’ You can buy a whole crispy duck with pancakes for £33.80, which is a steal – especially given the quality.

Food House – if your taste buds are ready, then sit down to some sizzling Sichuan cuisine at Food House. Meat and tofu dishes are served with lashings of chili, garlic and Sichuan peppers. Food House is also famed for their hot pots, for the full Chinese dining experience!

Golden Gate Cake Shop – if you still have space, conclude your culinary adventure with a Chinese pastry, bun or cake from this popular bakery. Flavours range from char siu pork to peanut, to pineapple and custard.

Opium – Opium is part dim sum parlour, part cocktail bar. The venue features three bars, each serving its own signature cocktail menu. Head to the Apothecary Bar for Feng Shui themed cocktails, traditional flavours are infused at the Academy Bar, whilst the intimate Peony Bar serves cocktails based on different Chinese cities. Leave the comfort of your luxury hotel rooms and let yourself be tempted by all three!

Besides Chinese food, Chinatown celebrates a fusion of Asian cultures and delicacies. Try Chinese inspired Malaysian dishes at Rasa Sayang, sample sophisticated Taiwanese at Xu or slurp on steaming pho at Viet Food! You’d be crazy not to try a bit of everything.

Are there many options for shopping?

If all these exotic scents, fragrant spices and aromatic flavours inspire you to try your hand at Chinese delicacies, you can call into one of the Asian supermarkets in Chinatown. SeeWoo, Loon Fung and New Loon Moon stock a variety of typical spices, cooking oils and vegetables.

There are also souvenir shops which stock everything from lanterns to oriental clothing to lucky maneki-neko. These beckoning cats are thought to bring good luck, health and fortune – perhaps they will help you find the best special offers on London hotels!

Are there any special events?

During Chinese Lunar New Year (late January/early February) Chinatown comes to life with celebrations. There is usually a grand parade with floats, lion dances and live musical performances, connecting Chinatown with Trafalgar Square.

The other key highlight in the Chinese calendar is Moon Fest, a week-long celebration that is held in thanks of the harvest. The date for the 2020 events is 1 October, and during this week you will be able to catch performances in Chinatown and eat delicious mooncakes.

A smaller scale event will take place in summer (date TBC), when Chinese singers compete for a place in the Water Cube Cup Singing Contest which takes place in China in August.

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