North America’s third-largest Chinatown is one of Vancouver’s busiest neighborhoods, celebrated for its rich heritage and cultural traditions.
For more than a century, this neighborhood next to the downtown business core has been a colorful and hectic center of exotic cuisines, open-air markets, herbalists, restaurants and stores.
Chinatown’s origins are entwined with the history of Vancouver itself. This small lumbar town expanded rapidly after the completion of the transcontinental railway, built by 17,000 Chinese immigrants, in the late 1800s. Many of the immigrants who made up the labor force stayed on and worked in other industries, building a community around the boarding houses where they lived.
A large percentage of Vancouver’s Chinese residents have moved to Richmond and other suburban communities, but there are still many authentic restaurants and shops in Chinatown. You’ll discover family-run markets selling Asian spices, fresh fish caught that day, and Chinese delicacies like pig snouts and chicken feet. No trip to Chinatown is complete without experiencing a traditional Dim Sum meal, which are generally served until early afternoon. Try classic dishes such as sui mai (pork dumplings) and congee (thick rice soup).
For some urban serenity spend a little time in Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This is a beautiful green open space named after the founder and president of the Republic of China and modeled after gardens that were popular during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). As with all gardens of that time, it’s based on the harmony of four main elements: rocks, plants, water, and architecture, to create a perfect balance. Among the highlights are a pond of jade green water and Tai Hu rocks imported from Lake Tai near Suzhou in Eastern China. They are thought to entice lucky spirits into the garden. As the light changes watch how these rocks change as different textures and colors are revealed.
Visit the Chinatown Night Market for a totally different experience than during the daylight hours. This frenetic downtown evening market lures locals and tourists alike with its aromatic foods, Asian handcrafts, and inexpensive designer knock-offs. Above the din of hawkers and shoppers you’ll hear live music coming from the stage as local bands provide a melodic backdrop on most nights.