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the gate of harmonious interest at the entrance to chinatown, victoria, bc

Chinatown Victoria: A Complete Guide for Visitors

Are you planning to visit Chinatown Victoria? This historic district is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, culture, and great food.

With so much to see and do in this vibrant neighbourhood, it can be overwhelming to plan your itinerary. In this article, we’ll guide you through some of the top things to do in Victoria’s Chinatown so you can make the most of your visit.

Chinatown Victoria

Victoria’s Chinatown is a vibrant and historic district located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the 2nd oldest in North America, dating back to the mid-19th century when Chinese immigrants arrived in Victoria to work in the gold rush and later in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The district boasts a unique blend of Chinese and Western architecture, bustling markets, and authentic Chinese cuisine. Visitors can explore the ornate buildings, narrow alleyways, and beautiful gardens, learn about the district’s rich history and culture, and enjoy festivals and events throughout the year.



Things to do in Chinatown Victoria

a couple walks through fan tan alley in victoria, BC

Check out Fan Tan Alley

Fan Tan Alley Victoria is a narrow alleyway located in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown and is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the district. It is famous for being the narrowest commercial street in North America, measuring just 0.9 m (3.0 ft) wide at its narrowest point! The alley used to be notorious for its opium dens and gambling joints. After all, the name Fan Tan itself is a Chinese card game.

However, it is now lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and specialty stores. You can find everything from vintage clothing and jewelry to handmade soap and artisanal foods. The walls of Fan Tan Alley are adorned with colourful murals and graffiti art, making it a popular spot for Instagrammers and art enthusiasts.

Explore Chinatown’s Architecture

One of the best things to do in Victoria’s Chinatown is to explore its unique architecture. The district’s buildings feature a distinctive blend of Chinese and Western styles, with ornate balconies, decorative facades, and intricate rooflines. A must-see is the Gate of Harmonious Interest, which marks the entrance to the district at Government and Fisgard.

The gate is adorned with colourful Chinese motifs and flanked by two hand-carved stone lions, gifts from Victoria’s Twin City, Suzhou, China. Other notable landmarks include the Chinese Public School, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building, and the Tam Kung Temple.

Visit as Part of the Hip & Hidden Chinatown + Old Town Food Tour

Chinatown Victoria isn’t as large as its more famous counterparts in Vancouver and San Francisco. As a result, it’s easy to wander past the area’s most notable sites without gaining a true understanding of their importance. The solution? Visiting as part of an organized tour that digs into the city’s fascinating history while munching on scrumptious local grub.

Get a history lesson mixed with food as you check out some of the oldest parts of Victoria, like the bustling Victoria Public Market, the mysterious Fan Tan Alley, and the oh-so-charming Emporium Dragon Alley. In a nutshell, you’re in for a treat – with a tasty mix of history and flavours on this fantastic walking tour.



Visit Chinatown Victoria’s Markets

Prefer to explore on your own? Well, Victoria’s Chinatown is renowned for its bustling markets that offer a wide range of goods, from exotic teas and spices to handcrafted jewelry and souvenirs. If you’re looking for food, Fisgard Market has a seemingly endless supply of exotic produce and snacks at great prices. Looking for something you can bring home? Silk Road Tea is renowned across the continent for its incredible selection of award-winning teas.

If you’re looking for dishes, Dragon Village is known to outfit half the local restaurants with amazing Asian dishes and ceramics. And if you’d like something less exotic, the nearby Victoria Public Market is a vibrant indoor marketplace that showcases local artisanal food and craft products that take inspiration from across the globe.

the don mee seafood restaurant in chinatown, victoria bc

Try Authentic Chinese Cuisine

No trip to Victoria’s Chinatown is complete without trying some authentic Chinese cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for dim sum, hot pot, or noodles, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some popular restaurants include Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, which has been serving traditional Chinese cuisine for over 80 years, and Bao, which is known for its incredible Taiwanese-style steamed buns.

Personally, a trip to Chinatown means only one thing – incredible BBQ. And in Victoria, my go-to spots would have to be Wah Lai Yuen and Loy Sing. They’ve both been there forever, so you know they’re doing something right. Prefer dumplings? Chubby Dumpling offers 8 varieties of these delectable savoury treats. Afterwards, to cut the fat, head over to The Bubble Tea Place for some boba-infused deliciousness.

Related: Victoria’s Best Restaurants: A Culinary Journey

Learn about the History and Culture

Victoria’s Chinatown has a rich history and culture, and there are many ways to learn about it. You can visit the Chinese Cultural Centre, which features exhibitions, workshops, and performances that showcase Chinese art, music, and dance. It now serves to keep the Chinese language and customs alive in the younger generations.

The Yen Wo society also houses the Tam Kung temple, the oldest of its kind in Canada. This small yet culturally significant temple can be found tucked away on the top floor, 52 steps above the nondescript entryway. Visitors are welcome, and donations are highly encouraged to ensure good luck and aid in the upkeep of the shrine.

a traditional dragon dance during a lunar new year celebration in victoria's chinatown

Enjoy Victoria Chinatown Festivals and Events

Victoria’s Chinatown is a hub for festivals and events, especially during the Chinese New Year celebrations. The district comes alive with kung fu demos, firecrackers, and colourful lanterns. But the true highlight is the dragon dance parade, where lions proceed throughout Chinatown to bless local businesses, ward away evil spirits, and bring good luck for the new year. The festival occurs on the 15th day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, during a full moon – typically around early February.

Other events include the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, which attracts teams from across North America on August 12th and 13th. Get ready for a rip-roaring time packed with dragon boat races, toe-tapping live music, and incredible street food – all smack-dab in the heart of the nearby Inner Harbour. Check the calendar before your visit and see if there are any events or festivals happening during your stay.

Take Part in the Historical Victoria Chinatown Walking Tour

Get ready to dive headfirst into the vibrant history of Canada’s oldest Chinatown, right here in Victoria. Join your super-knowledgeable local guide on this awesome walking tour, where you’ll wander the lively streets and hidden alleys of this historic neighbourhood. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced tour, this 90-minute tour starts at just $21 – so this is the one!

Your friendly guide will spill the beans on the captivating, sometimes heart-wrenching stories of the brave souls who helped build the city and shape not only Canada but modern China, too. So, lace up your walking shoes, gather your buddies, and come along for a stroll down memory lane in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown!



Embark on the Chinatown and Hidden Alleys Pedicab Tour

Get ready for a thrilling ride as you uncover hidden gems and local wonders on this 75-minute pedicab adventure. You’ll be zipping through Victoria’s Old Town and Chinatown with your trusty guide, where quaint shops and boutiques are tucked away in the twisty, turny alleys.

Hold on tight as you listen to spine-tingling ghost stories from way back when and learn about the pioneers, immigrants, and trailblazers who’ve shaped the city we know and love today. So, buckle up and get ready to pedal through history and mystery on this unforgettable pedicab tour. You’re in for one wild ride!



a crowded patio at victoria's craft beer market on a summer afternoon

Cool off with an Iced Cold Drink

Sometimes, a long day of roving around with the tourist hordes can be almost as tiring as the daily grind back home. So what’s the cure? Why, relaxing over an iced cold drink at one of Victoria’s best bars, of course!

Chinatown is ground zero for the Victoria craft beer scene. This growing collection of breweries and brewpubs has led to the city being dubbed the ‘craft beer capital of Canada.’ For my money, killing a summer afternoon on the incredible waterfront patio at CRAFT Beer Market is the best spot to cure the afternoon blues.

More of a traditionalist? Well, Swans Brewpub has been slangin’ suds since 1989, long before corporate brewpubs hit the boardroom whiteboard. The award-winning Whistle Buoy Brewery is located in nearby Market Square. Cocktails more your jazz? Then, head over to Citrus and Cane for a tropical take on your favourite rum-based cocktail.



Chinatown Victoria Location

The borders of Chinatown in Victoria are roughly between Government Street and Blanchard Street and between Pandora Avenue and Fisgard Street. However, the exact borders may vary depending on who you ask, as the district has expanded and contracted over the years.

Regardless, the heart of Chinatown is centred around Fisgard Street, where you can find the famous Gate of Harmonious Interest and many of the district’s shops, restaurants, and landmarks. The area is easily reachable on foot via Government St. or Wharf St. from the Inner Harbour and most Victoria hotels. However, cruise passengers at Ogden Point Terminal may want to look into a cab.

Chinatown Victoria FAQs

Chinatown in Victoria, BC, is a historic neighbourhood that was established in the mid-19th century by Chinese immigrants who came to Canada to work in the gold mines and railroads. It is the second oldest Chinatown in North America. Today, it is a popular tourist destination and a vibrant community that celebrates Chinese culture and heritage. The neighbourhood is centred around Fisgard Street, which contains numerous markets, restaurants, and attractions with a strong Chinese influence.

Some popular attractions include the Gate of Harmonious Interest and Fan Tan Alley. However, most people are drawn in by the neighbourhood’s authentic Chinese markets, tea shops and restaurants. You can also visit the Chinese Public School or check out the Chinese Temple for a glimpse into the history and culture of the community. There are also a variety of guided tours which provide visitors with valuable insight into the area’s history while allowing them to enjoy the tastes, sights and smells of the present.

Victoria’s Chinatown is a great place to visit year-round, but the summer months are usually the busiest and offer the most activities and events. If you find yourself in town during the Lunar New Year, you’re in for a treat with firecrackers, dragon dances and a kaleidoscope of colour and sound that aims to scare away evil spirits and bring in good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

There are plenty of delicious restaurants in Chinatown Victoria, BC, ranging from traditional Chinese cuisine to BBQ and modern fusion dishes. Some popular choices include Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, Loy Sing, and Bao. If you’re looking for some dumplings, Chubby Dumpling is a can’t-miss spot. And the aptly named Bubble Tea Place is a great spot to go for some boba-fueled refreshments.

Why certainly! There are a number of organized tours that are perfect for day trippers, first-timers and cruise ship passengers. For starters, the Historical Chinatown Walking tour offers great insight into the area’s vibrant past. The Eat, Drink, Explore Chinatown Tour offers the same insightful look into the area’s history with more of a culinary slant. And the Chinatown Pedicab and Hidden Alleys Tour offers a 75-minute pedicab adventure through the neighbourhood’s streets and alleys.

Ready to enjoy the sights and smells of Chinatown Victoria?

Victoria’s Chinatown may be small in stature. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up with its fascinating combination of history, culture, and, of course, fantastic food!

So I hope you’ll consider a visit when you make your way to our little island haven. I assure you, you won’t forget it!

Yi lu shun feng (路顺风), or have a safe journey?

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