Surrounded by Tribeca, Little Italy and the East Side, with more than 90,000 inhabitants, New York's Chinatown is one of the largest Asian communities outside Asia. Due to the increase in rents that plagues all of Manhattan, including Chinatown, many have moved to other neighborhoods in New York (and even outside the city) with a strong predominance of the Chinese community. Despite this, it is a neighborhood and not to be missed, especially if combined with Little Italy (which today is really little). Here are my tips on what to see and, especially for Asian food lovers, where to eat.
- How to get to Chinatown
- What to see in New York's Chinatown
- Mahayana Buddhist Temple
- Chatham Square
- Columbus Park
- Aji Ichiban
- Museum of Chinese in America
- Pell Street
- Doyers Street
- Edward Mooney House
- Manhattan Bridge (entrance)
- Where to eat
- Where to sleep in the Chinatown area
How to get to Chinatown
The Chinatown neighborhood of New York, popular as it may be among the itineraries in the city, is not as large as San Francisco's Chinatown, while in size it is closer to Los Angeles Chinatown, given due proportions. You can easily visit it on foot in one morning and stop for lunch in one of the restaurants that I recommend at the end of the article.
Chinatown is easily accessible via the subway. The nearest stations are:
- Canal Street Subway
- Canal Street
- East Broadway
Accessible with lines: 4, 6, F, J, M, N, Q, RW and Z. If you are not practical remember to take a look at our guide on how to use the subway in New York.
What to see in New York's Chinatown
Chinatown's main street is Canal Street, the commercial artery of the neighborhood, full of shops and various kinds of activities. Among the vendors who will try to fill you with some odds and ends and the general frenzy it is better not to spend too much time and detour to the attractions recommended below.
Mahayana Buddhist Temple
The largest Buddhist temple in Chinatown stands on Canal Street, steps away from the Manhattan Bridge entrance. At the entrance you will be welcomed by 2 large statues of golden lions, while inside its main attraction, the large golden Buddha almost 5 meters high, awaits you.
If you want, you can offer $ 1 to draw a fortune ticket. Upstairs there is a souvenir shop suitable for those who want to take home a souvenir of the visit. The atmosphere that awaits you is one of profound silence and respect, a nice contrast to the noise you will hear returning to Canal Street.
Chatham Square is one of the main crossroads in Chinatown: many streets converge here, such as Doyers Street, East Broadway and Mott Street. Until 1820 the square was used as an open-air market for the sale of livestock. Later it began to attract tattoo artists, hotels and bars, particularly appreciated by the military and sailors who passed through the area.
With prohibition, the area was cleaned up and in 1961 the Kim Lau Memorial Arch was built in memory of the Chinese-Americans who fell during the second World War. Although of considerable historical importance, it is to be seen quickly as it is not that fascinating in my opinion.
A few minutes' walk from Chatham Square is Columbus Park, one of the most dangerous ghettos in New York at the time. Fear not, today it is a safe and popular place for the Chinese community that uses it as meeting point to play board games and do tai chi early in the morning. Especially on weekends, the park sees street performers perform classic Chinese plays, while kids play on the basketball and volleyball courts.
It is certainly a place where it is possible to admire the diversity of New York thanks to the meeting of different cultures (not only Asian), which frequent it every day.
It will seem strange to see a candy shop on this list, but Aji Ichiban is a real institution in Chinatown. This sweet tooth's paradise is located between Mott and Pell and is one of the chain's 90 outlets around the world. Here in New York there were four other locations, but they are now all closed, leaving Aji Ichiban on Mott Street as the only "survivor".
There are many sweets and they vary in shape and taste. It works like in the candy shops in Italy: you take a bag and fill it as you like. If you're feeling brave, there's no shortage of savory Asian snacks like classic dried squid.
Museum of Chinese in America
If you are passionate about China, the MOCA is a museum that retraces the history of immigrants Chinese in America mainly through photography. It's small and it won't take you a lot of time. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 18pm and Thursdays from 11am to 21pm. Tickets cost $ 10.
Pell Street is one of the most famous streets in the Chinese Quarter. Surrounded by red brick buildings dating back hundreds of years, it is full of shops, restaurants and hairdressers; precisely for this reason it is often called "Barbershop Alley" (the "alley of hairdressers").
It's a very photogenic street lined with Chinese signs and signs, so don't miss the chance to see it and find the right angle to capture the essence of Chinatown (even in the evening). Not surprisingly, together with Doyers it is a favorite location for photographers and filmmakers.
Another pillar of New York's Chinatown is Doyers, a small street that contains a lot of history. The name derives from the eighteenth-century Dutch immigrant Hendrik Doyer, owner of the land where the road is today and of a distillery (now a post office). As I anticipated before, Doyers is loved by photographers because of the liveliness of its signs, but above all for the particular curve that characterizes it.
In New York it is in fact difficult to find curved streets since the rules of the so-called Grid Plan of 1811 imposed the “grid” construction, typical of Manhattan and many other American cities. Its famous curve was nicknamed the "Bloody Angle" in the 900s due to the numerous shootings between two rival gangs, On Leong and Hip Sing.
Edward Mooney House
Of note is the Edward Mooney House between Bowery and Pell because it is the oldest house in New York. It was built in 1785 by a butcher, Edward Mooney, after the war of independence, on two floors and with classic red bricks.
As you walk down Pell Street you will immediately notice it as it stands out among other surrounding buildings. Since the nineteenth century the place has housed a tavern, a restaurant, a hotel and even a billiard room. Today it is a bank.
Manhattan Bridge (entrance)
In Chinatown stands the imposing entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, one of the four suspension bridges over the East River. It opened in 1910 and that year the construction of the arch and columns began, which was then completed in 1915. It is one of the historic monuments of the United States and is not to be missed if you are in the area.
Where to eat
- Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Opened in 1920, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is New York's oldest dim sum restaurant and one of the most famous. With its vintage and casual appeal it offers a varied menu, from har gow (shrimp dumpling) and noodles. Plan your visit to Chinatown in the morning so that you arrive here hungry for lunch and try the delicacies served for nearly a hundred years.
At 9 Doyers Street is Apothéke, a classy venue that moves away from Chinatown kitsch with expert bartenders in white coats. The menu? It is set up like a prescription.
- Mission Chinese Food
At Mission Chinese Food, American influences are felt not only on the food, but also on the menu. The prices are slightly higher than the low cost ones that distinguish Chinese restaurants, but the dishes are special and the atmosphere is welcoming. Does Mission remind you of anything? San Francisco! In fact, there is also a location in the famous neighborhood. In New York it is located at 171 E Broadway.
- Great NY Noodletown
Lovers of noodles, this is the place for you. A bowl of broth is what you need if you are in New York during the winter. Great NY Noodletown will know how to warm you up at 28 Bowery.
- Kam Hing Coffee Shop
The specialty here is the sponge cake, our sponge cake. Take a break and accompany it with a tea or a typical Vietnamese iced coffee. It is located at 199 Baxter Street.
If you are interested in discovering the typical dishes that can be tasted in Chinatown with the guide of an expert, you can consider the possibility of taking an organized tour that will take you to discover the delicacies of this neighborhood along with those of Little Italy. You can get more information about it by clicking the link below.
Food Tour Chiantown e Little Italy
Where to sleep in the Chinatown area
In the Chinatown area there are some accommodation facilities (not many hotels in reality but several apartments and B & Bs). Furthermore, the area is central and well connected, so, if you don't mind the Asian atmosphere and the ethnic neighborhoods, I refer you to this list of all the accommodations available in the area. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a complete overview of the recommended areas to stay in the city, read our article on how to find a good hotel in New York.
Our tips on where to sleep in New York