Cultural Neighbourhood Feature: Chinatown

Visiting the colourful and energetic streets of downtown Chinatown is a must for anyone looking to experience the diversity that the city of Toronto offers.

Located at Dundas and Spadina, next to Kensington Market, Chinatown is one of the many cultural neighbourhoods that can be found in the city. Its large number of shops, restaurants, activities and historic monuments makes the neighbourhood an exciting location for a day trip or a quick outing. One thing is for sure, you will definitely leave feeling as if you just experienced a small part of Chinese culture.

A mural on the side of an LCBO in Chinatown

Toronto’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. The area was formerly the home to a Jewish community until they migrated north and the Chinese community migrated west. Today, the population of Chinatown has grown beyond its ethnic Chinese scope and also includes influences of East Asians, Thai, and Vietnamese cultures.

The Spadina streetcar line is the quickest way to get in and out of Chinatown.

To get to Chinatown, one of the best ways is by public transportation as parking in the areas is sparse and can be expensive. The TTC has many streetcar lines that go directly through or around Chinatown, making it easily accessible. The 504 King streetcar and the 506 Dundas streetcars stop close to the neighbourhood but require a block or two of walking. However, the 510 Spadina streetcar runs directly through Chinatown while going from Spadina to Union station. Get off at the Dundas St stop and you’ve arrived in the heart of Chinatown!

The best way to see Chinatown is definitely by foot. By simply walking down to the streets, you can see the brightly coloured signs and storefronts packed with souvenirs or produce. Restaurants feature their menus on their windows for easy browsing, and sometimes even display full barbecued ducks or pigs. Grocery stores are busy with locals shopping for fresh and authentic Asian ingredients. And, retail stores often extend their footprints to the side-walk with displays to browse from outside.

Walking on Spadina through Chinatown

As it can often feel very crowded when walking through Chinatown, be patient while walking slower than usual and use it as an opportunity to take everything in.

Particularly, as you walk south following the Spadina streetcar route, notice the dragon sculptures in the middle of the road. Twisted into figure eights these sculptures decorating the street, are also known as the Dragon Monumental Gate and signify the Chinese character for “gateway”.

All this being said, Chinatown has become one of my favourite places to visit in Toronto since it offers the opportunity to experience Chinese and Asian culture in the heart of the city. One thing is for sure, whether you’re a Toronto native or a first-time visitor to the city, Chinatown is worth exploring!

Check out Chinatown for yourself and tag @travellingtheworld.to on Instagram or Facebook plus use the hashtag #650to to spread the word about this fun project! (you might even get a feature on our website’s homepage)

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