Melbourne Chinatown

Melbourne Chinatown

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

You can’t go to Melbourne without paying a visit to Chinatown- one of the longest running Chinese Settlements in the world, outside of Asia. Located in Little Bourke Street, between Swanston and Exhibition Streets, Chinatown is a narrow precinct filled with Asian restaurants, shops and attractions. It is recognisable by five distinctive arches, which loom over the entrances to Little Bourke Street, and which clearly signify that you are about to enter an entirely different section of Melbourne. Chinatown was first established during the gold rush days of the 1850s, when many Chinese immigrants arrived in Victoria, hoping to strike it lucky in the goldfields.

Over time, the Chinese began to purchase land, and build clubrooms and markets in the area. This growth steadily increased, and it wasn’t long until an entire Chinese ‘town’ was formed in the centre of Melbourne, hence the name Chinatown. Many of the buildings are very similar in style to the way they were back then (few buildings reach over three storeys in height), and the streetscape is just as busy now, although there are more tourists wandering through nowadays. Restaurants seem to take up most of the building spaces, and these range in cuisine and formality.

The most common are small café-style establishments, selling Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian or Vietnamese- although there are plenty of other larger restaurants that also serve these international foods. Along Little Bourke Street, you can also find Asian grocery stores, and shops that specialise in Chinese medicine, books, jewellery, clothing and other trinkets.

If you’re lucky enough to visit on a market day, you can experience freshly cooked food from the stalls that line the street, or if you want to learn more about the history of Chinese people in Melbourne, you could visit the Chinese Museum, located in Cohen Place. The best and busiest time to visit, however, is when the Chinese New Year celebrations are on, because you get to enjoy the full cultural experience, including dragon parades and street stalls. Chinatown offers an alternative to the usual bustle of Melbourne so if you get the chance, you really should try and make the effort to walk through.

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