A Local's Complete Guide to London Chinatown

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Bordered by four striking Qing-era style gates with Soho to north and Covent Garden to the east, London‘s Chinatown sits right in the heart of the city. 

Chinatown is one of the most colourful and thriving areas of London packed full to brim with restaurants, bars, interesting shops, supermarkets, health clinics, nail salons and bakeries.

There’s something to suit everyone here. High-end fancy restaurants sit next to simple, cheap eateries and buffets. At first, it was a hub for Cantonese cuisine. But today you’ll also find the likes of delicious Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian and Singaporean.

With its close proximity to the West-End and extremely busy nightlife with restaurants open later than other parts of the city, London Chinatown is a fantastic place for a post-theatre meal.

One of the four gates to Chinatown with colourful lanterns floating between the buildings, London Chinatown
Chinatown is such a vibrant and colourful area!
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History of London Chinatown

The history of London Chinatown dates back to long before the bustling streets lined with restaurants and lanterns you see today. 

Historically, Chinatown used to be based in Limehouse in East London. Chinese employees of the East India Company settled at the docks from the 18th century and by 1914, a Chinese community was blossoming with shops and restaurants catering for sailors.

This was, until World War II when Limehouse was completely destroyed by bombing and a large decline in shipping. Chinese Immigrants needed a new place to live.

After the war, a huge wave of immigrants coming from Hong Kong had heard of Soho’s reputation for its great nightlife and cheap rent. 

Fortunately for them, British soldiers returning from the Far East had developed a taste for Chinese cuisine and so began the development of supermarkets and restaurants. 

Their success attracted the Chinese still living in Limehouse. By the end of the 1960s, Chinatown had been established as the epicentre of London’s Chinese community.

Colourful lanterns swaying between
Spot the dragons on the walls around Chinatown


There’s a wealth of restaurants here in London Chinatown. 

Whether it’s a fine-dining restaurant for a special occasion or a cheap and quick eatery as you sightsee. Many of the restaurants serve regional Chinese cuisine, but you’ll also come across others like Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Korean and Malaysian.
Baskets of yummy dim sum from a restaurant in London Chinatown
So much yummy food in Chinatown!
Baskets of delicious dim sum on a table in a restaurant

Some of the top restaurants in London Chinatown include:

Four Seasons

This eatery, famed for its roast duck, became so successful after its opening in 1990, it had to open another restaurant just around the corner. Dubbed by the Financial Times as having “the best roast duck in the world”, don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to queue to get a table.

Dumplings Legend 

Renowned for its Xiao Long Bao, minimalist Dumplings Legend is one of the most established and esteemed restaurants in Chinatown. With one skilful dim sum and Xiao Long Bao chef, they have now expanded their menu with the help of another chef specialising in North-Eastern Chinese and South-East Asian cuisine. They serve a whopping 8000 dumplings a day!!

Plum Valley

If the hustle and bustle of Gerrard Street is a bit much, this stylish restaurant boasting a vast dim sum menu is the perfect tranquil escape. Its name comes from a Chinese fable that tells the story of a utopian village living in harmony with nature, oblivious to the chaos of the outside world. Inside, the décor mixes elements of traditional Chinese gardens with a modern aesthetic. Their menu is rooted in a similar philosophy.

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour

For something a bit different, head to this speakeasy-style cocktail lounge and dim sum parlour. Set over three floors of a historic townhouse, everything is inspired by all things Chinese. From the vintage décor to the cocktail ingredients and flavours and the dim sum menu. This is the perfect place for a spot of post-theatre dining as it’s open until 3am at the weekends.

Imperial China

This authentic and reliable restaurant really stands apart from its neighbours. As soon as you step inside you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to China as you walk over the quaint footbridge spanning a carp pond. The team of Hong Kong chefs serve up a satisfying dim sum menu at lunch with over 60 choices ranging from your traditional favourites to a few quirkier options and Cantonese à la carte in the evening.

Bubblewrap Waffle

This dessert shop has taken the popular Hong Kong street food, egg-shaped waffles and added their own delicious unique twist. You’ll start by picking your base; original, chocolate or matcha. You’ll then choose your fillings; banana, strawberry, cheesecake gelato, pecan, Nutella and many many more. To top it off, choose from a selection of sauces such as red bean or salted caramel. The hexagonal shape and spherical pockets of batter add extra bite and texture. Not to mention it’s the perfect Instagram dessert!

Helen with an Oreo Bubblewaffle, London Chinatown
The best dessert I've eaten in a LONG time!

If Korean food is more to your fancy, check out Olle; a fast-casual Korean BBQ restaurant. 

Serving only premium cuts and the highest quality of ingredients, this loud, bustling restaurant will appeal to a variety of tastes and budgets. To top off the whole experience, all of the food is sizzled on your own tabletop stove.

Plates of delicious dim sum on a table
All the delicious food!

Events In London Chinatown

If you’re around for Lunar New Year, you’re going to want to come to London’s Chinatown. London hosts the largest celebration of Lunar New Year outside of Asia and the whole of Chinatown really comes to life.

Colourful street processions around Trafalgar Square, performances from local artists, traditional food and craft stalls, martial arts and dancing. All of the festivities are free to take part in.
Chinatown in Soho at Chinese New Year with red lanterns strung along the street
Chinatown at Chinese New Year

How to Get to London Chinatown?

Chinatown is right in the heart of London close to many of the city’s main attractions so you’re bound to stumble upon it at some point. The closest tube station is Leicester Square with Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus also less than 10 minutes’ walk.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our local’s guide to London Chinatown, feel free to leave a comment or contact us if you have any questions 🙂 

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