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Chinatown in London

Updated: December 28, 2014

Tucked away in between Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue/Soho, London’s Chinatown sits right in the heart of the city. A popular location for tourists and locals alike, Chinatown is filled to the brim with interesting shops, restaurants, bars and bakeries. Bustling during the day and with an extremely busy nightlife, any time is a good time to visit London’s Chinatown.



Historically, London’s Chinese immigrant population was based in the East End in an area known as Limehouse. Built up around the heavy trade of London’s docklands the area was widely seen as a slum on the eastern fringes of town, filled with opium dens and crime. This was the case until the Blitz during World War II when the Limehouse area of London was completely destroyed by bombing.

After the war, a huge wave of immigrants coming from Hong Kong meant that the Chinese population in London rapidly expanded.In addition, British soldiers returning from wars abroad had developed a taste for Asian cuisine. Gerrard Street in the centre of London was known as a good location for interesting and international cuisine so, naturally, this was where the first major Chinese restaurants were opened, catering to the soldiers who had returned home and were seeking authentic Asian dining experiences.

Although with defined boundaries, Chinatown boomed and became the bustling centre we know today.


Today Chinatown is home to more than 80 restaurants featuring some of the finest Asian cuisine in London. High-price designer restaurants sit aside cheap eateries and buffets so that there is always somewhere for everybody in Chinatown, regardless of the budget. Fine Asian bakeries operate in the area as well as green grocers for those hoping to lay their hands on Asian ingredients to take home. With restaurants here open much later than others in London, Chinatown is a popular destination for the post-theatre/post-bar crowds.

And Another Note…

It is said that a basement here in Chinatown, on Gerrard Street, was the location of the first rehearsal of Led Zeppelin in the summer of 1968. Although no plaque stands to mark the location, it is believed the basement was later turned into commercial property.

Chinese New Year

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest of any city outside of Asia. In February every year, Chinatown comes alive with performances from local artists, traditional food and craft stalls throughout the neighbourhood, and a parade of hundreds that travels through town. Chinese New Year festivities are free for the public to take part in and are a great activity for families in the city.

Nearest Underground Station: Leicester Square

What’s on in Chinatown?:

+++Come and join us on our popular Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown Walking tour!+++


About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: December 28th, 2014
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