Chinatown

Chinatown

Don't be surprised if among ultramodern glass and concrete skyscrapers you suddenly find yourself in a true Chinatown. No, this is no illusion; New York's Chinatown is located right in the heart of Manhattan! This Chinatown is one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves in the world. Chinatown is probably one of the few places where you can feel that New York is also a city of many contrasts. Here you will be met by piles of exotic food, people who almost do not speak English, McDonald's sign boards in Chinese and true scents of Asia. New York Chinatown was founded in the late 18th century by Chinese seamen, and the massive immigration inflow was registered in the middle of the 19th century (in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was adopted, which was a singular act of such nature, adopted as a result of anti-Chinese demonstrations in the country). In the 19th century Chinatown was notorious for its criminals, opium smoking rooms strived here and quarrels and fights between rival local gangs were ordinary. To find out more about the vivid history of Chinatown and its inhabitants, visit the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).

Today Chinatown is first of all a tourist neighborhood with lots of authentic cafes and restaurants. You can start your walk from a very notable place, the infamous Five Points district which was once controlled by the Irish gangs (today it is pleasantly comfortable Columbus Park from where NYC Gangster Tours start). This is the setting for the bloody events of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. On Chatham Square you can see the Kimlau memorial arch erected in remembrance of the Americans of Chinese origin who died in wars, and a monument to Lin Zexu, a Chinese statesman who declared war on the opium sellers (which in turn lead to opium wars). From the square runs Bowery Street that in the early 19th century was a real mecca for theater lovers, and during the Great Depression it was turned into slums. After the War the neighborhood was home to legendary Expressionists, such as Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly. Today the intersection of Bowery Street and Division Street features Confucius Plaza with a monument to Confucius standing before it. In Mott Street one can find the iconic Peking Duck House with the city's best Peking duck. In front of the venue the city's oldest Catholic temple, the Church of Transfiguration (built in 1801) is available for visiting. The plaque at the temple's entrance has text written in hieroglyphs, as most of its parishioners are Chinese. In Mott Street you will find Mahayana temple that is home to the Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America (established in 1962), as well as a bright red pagoda building that is owned by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Built by architect Stanford White in the late 19th century, the former Bowery Savings Bank on the corner of Grand Street resembles an ancient temple. There is no free public access to the building, however try knocking on its door, who knows, maybe you will be lucky and it is worth trying. We also recommend you to try Chinese massage and ice cream of exotic flavors.

Chinatown gets especially beautiful, vibrant and crowded on the days when Chinese feasts, holidays and festivals are celebrated, first of all during the Chinese New Year celebrations. When you are done exploring the marvels of Chinatown, you should see the amazing neighbourhood of Little Italy and the adjacent Lower East Side.

Address: Canal Street to Bayard Street
How to reach: subway Canal St