When travelling around the world, if you have a craving for beef and black bean stir fry or you want to while away a morning feasting on yum cha, you’d be smart to seek out the city’s Chinatown. This enclave of East Asian culture is always a mecca for lovers of Chinese culture, food and entertainment and Sydney’s Chinatown is no different.
It’s Australia’s largest Chinatown, established in the 1920s. There, you’ll find authentic cuisine, fascinating shops and countless places to stop and inspect. Shop for gifts, souvenirs and groceries or sit and nibble on something tasty and watch the world go by. It’s a cheerful, family-friendly place where there is always hustle and bustle and tantalising smells, sights and sounds.
Exploring the retail outlets in Chinatown is a revealing experience. So much will be unfamiliar but therein lies its charm. At Media Asia, you can pick up Japanese anime, Chinese kung-fu and Korean drama DVDs. Head in to Morning Glory for a Hello Kitty extravaganza. You can have your photo taken in the sticker booth and turned into glittery stickers, or buy cute lunch boxes, socks and Pikachu merch.
If you’re shopping for ingredients to whip up an Asian meal at home, Chinatown is the place to go. Head to Thai Kee IGA for chrysanthemum tea, Chinese fruits and vegies, bulk rice, herbal concoctions and dried fish. You can also buy cooking utensils there like steamers and woks.
Gift shopping is fun in Chinatown where even the Australian souvenirs are cheaper than in the more mainstream tourism spots. Buy a traditional kite, try on the imported fashions, shop for shoes and pick up Chinese décor items. You can also buy fresh flowers, new cases for your devices, toys, candles and T-shirts, luggage, jewellery, crystals, hair accessories and handbags.
Paddy’s Markets is part of the Chinatown community and it’s where you’ll find a dazzling array of Asian stalls, street foods, massage, manicure and pedicure providers and bargains you won’t want to miss. You’ll also want to go along to Market City, a three-story complex with a tavern, food court and discounted fashions and factory outlets. Chinatown is also home to Korea Town.
Better loosen your belt, things are about to get serious! One of the coolest things about Chinatown in Sydney is that a lot of the restaurants are open late, really late. If your tummy’s rumbling or you find yourself leaving a club in the wee hours, you can always find a welcoming establishment, even up to 3 or 4am. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s an option waiting for you to come along. One of the great things about Chinatown though is that it’s not only Chinese food on offer. You’ll find Korean, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Cambodian outlets too.
Yum Cha is hugely popular and you can eat your fill of dumplings, egg custard and prawn toast for cheap before rolling out and needing a nap! Here are just four options:
Brush up on your chopstick skills because you’ll be spoilt for choice in Chinatown.
If a food court meal is more your speed, Sydney’s Chinatown has plenty to offer there too and it’s more authentic than what you’ll find in a typical shopping centre food court.
In February, you’ll want to gather a bunch of friends and head down to Chinatown for Chinese New Year. For a couple of weeks every year, there’s an exhausting array of events to choose from including fireworks, markets, food festivals, parades, art exhibits, calligraphy demonstrations, temple tours and banquets.
The Chinatown Night Markets are like a festival every Friday night throughout the year. Colourful, vibrant and relaxed, they offer a great opportunity to taste different foods, shop for interesting knick-knacks and hang out in the fresh night air.
Chinatown is in the southern part of Sydney’s CBD, in and around Dixon Street, Haymarket. Situated between Central Station and Darling Harbour, it’s a mere 15-minute walk from either or you can hop on the Metro Light Rail service from Central and get off at Paddy’s Markets nearby. Whether you are living or studying long-term in Sydney or just visiting for a holiday, Chinatown deserves to be marked on your to-visit list.