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Manhattan Chinatown

A bustling district home to the largest Chinese population in the Western Hemisphere.

TravelCurious Tip

Follow the locals. Chinatown has its share of tourist traps, but you can trust the locals to know where to eat well and cheaply

Manhattan Chinatown is home to one of the densest enclaves of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Allegedly it all began with one man in the 1840s: Ah Ken. As the first Chinese person to permanently migrate there, he set up a successful cigar store on Park Row using the profits he earned as a landlord of a small boarding house, renting out bunks to the earliest Chinese immigrants. From such modest beginnings, Chinatown became what it is today.


Worlds within worlds

Chinatown is overwhelming — in a good way. Everyone seems to move twice as fast here, you hear more Chinese than English, and even the street signs are in Chinese. The buildings are mainly cramped tenements from about a hundred years ago, and their competing neon signs crowd overhead like a jungle canopy, flashing like fireworks. Wander the streets, in a daze, and try not to buy too many knick-knacks, live eels or square watermelons. Then, when you’ve had enough, hop over to Little Italy for a bit of the old world.


Not what it used to be (thankfully)

Columbus Park, the only park in Chinatown, was built on what was once the centre of the notorious Five Point neighbourhood. During the 19th century, this was the most dangerous ghetto area of immigrant New York, and was the starring locale in Martin Scorsese’s film “Gangs of New York”. It’s rather safer these days, you’ll be glad to hear: more tai-chi than butchery.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in New York
E. V. Haughwout Building
Created in 1856, this cast-iron landmark is home to the first passenger elevator.
Old Police Headquarters
Today a group of luxury apartments, the NYPD's former headquarters is one of the finest Beaux-Arts buildings in all New York.
Little Italy
A nostalgic area full of the legacies of Italian immigrant culture at the turn of the 20th century.
Chatham Square
From tattoo parlours to Prohibition-era reform, this Chinatown intersection is full of history.
City Hall Park
Common area outside City Hall that has seen been the site of many historic events
New York City Hall
Fine 19th century building that hosts the Mayor’s office

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Little Italy, Soho and Chinatown
The different neighbourhoods of New York each have something to give the curious traveller. Go with your personal guide to see four of its most vibrant districts to see many of New York’s off the beaten path sights.
      
  • Enjoy avant-garde  Greenwich Village
  • Experience the artistic soul of Soho
  • See the impact of immigrants in Little Italy and Chinatown 
The Village
 

 Simply known as “The Village” and much loved by native New Yorkers, Greenwich has been, and still is home to America’s bohemian scene. You will start at Washington Square Park, a buzzing city hangout, where you will discover cobblestoned mews and 19th century brownstone carriage houses. You will glimpse some of New York’s rarest sights, for example, the home where John Wilkes Booth spoke openly of his plan to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Pass by such landmarks as the Jefferson Market Library and Bleecker Street, as well as where Hemingway, Edgar Poe, Jackson Pollack lived and worked. 

 Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown

You will proceed to explore New York City’s vibrant neighbourhoods of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown. You will venture through Soho where you will learn about its transformation from its' humble beginnings as a centre for the rag trade industry, eventually becoming an extravagant artist community. You will see Soho's unique collection of cast iron buildings such as the Haughwout Building, home to the first safety elevator, and the Old Police Headquarters— the 1909 Beaux-Arts building.
 
While walking the narrow cobblestone streets in the heart of Little Italy, you will learn about Mafia hangouts, the most famous of which is Ravenite Club. You will pop into the oldest cheese shop in NYC and the first NYC pizzeria, as well as exploring Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Journey through NYC’s Chinatown, walk along Canal and Motts Streets, the former Five Points District, and the Old Opium Den, where you will hear stories of Chinese immigrants who came to Manhattan to build a future of their own. Your expert local guide will also tell you all about the violent gangs that sprang up around them, fighting for dominance. 
The Lower East Side: An American Immigration Experience
On this walking tour, you will uncover the history of immigration at The Lower East Side, spanning across two centuries. Explore the gentrified blocks and see how modern culture has merged with historical sights. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of this neighborhood! 

  • Explore the history of immigrant populations at Lower East Side 
  • Learn about the waves of immigration, spanning across two centuries
  • See how the Lowest East Side is rapidly becoming gentrified 
Lower East Side (LES) was once part of the sprawling estate of loyalist James De Lancey, later it would become an American icon, symbolizing the first home for the massive waves of immigrants seeking a better life.   And so the story unfolds:  Europeans came in droves; Germans in the early 1800s, establishing kleinedeutschland, followed by Eastern and Southern Europeans. After WWII, a new wave settled, from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.  The housing in which these immigrant populations lived, the TENEMENT, became synonymous with overcrowded living conditions.  Today, store signs are now in Chinese  as this new immigrant group has replaced the previous ones.  Gentrification is fast changing the neighborhood’s character, especially north of Delancey Street.   Some of the older houses of worship still exist, others have either been demolished or changed direction.  New to the Lower East Side are the small storefront Buddhist Temples.   And so the story continues! 
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