If your walking around the city of Melbourne looking for something a bit different, a great place to visit is Chinatown on Little Bourke Street.
Here you'll find authentic Chinese restaurants, grocers and great little nick-knack shops that sell items available nowhere else in the city. I discovered some toy and figurine shops very unique to Chinatown, and well worth the look if your into that sort of thing.
Chinatown predominantly extends along Little Bourke Street between Spring Street and Swanston Street. There are many eating houses and top class restaurants to satisfy the tastebuds.
The streetscape and it's lowrise brick buildings, have retained the historic character of this cultural district.
It is a very busy and important social centre for the Chinese Community, and proudly stands as one of Melbourne city's most popular venues.
There are many traditional festivals and activities throuout the year, making Chinatown a popular destination in the city centre for local, interstate and international visitors.
You can't really miss it - considering the ornate Chinese gates at the entrance of Little Bourke Street on both ends - SO typical - folks wanting to have even more of Chinese culture and food, considering some of you have just left it - you are in Dragonland Central...sort of.
Chinatown actually spills over a few more streets around it and borders the Greek Precinct on the Eastern end. And it's a little more Asiantown these days too....with Singaporean, Thai, Japanese and Indian eateries mixed in for diversity.
Experience the jostle of students around you going about their grocery shopping among the ethnic stores. OK, I won't joke about the stores since I actually find a few things I wanted in them.
Hiding amidst the shops selling dried medicinal herbs and statues of Chinese Goddesses and Gods, you will find the very small and compact Chinese Museum. About 4 storeys of displays illustrate the history of the Chinese in Australia and Melbourne. In my personal opinion, I had seen better displays but it wouldn't hurt to drop in and have a look, if you had never visited such a museum before.
And of course, you can't be in Chinatown without mentioning about food. Duh. This is the place to come for upmarket Chinese restaurants and Yum Cha spots such as Shark Fin House.
Chinatown area was born during the gold rush, it was a sort of business and residential refugee for Chinese people that suffered prejudices from other Europeans immigrants. Today is a very busy area inside Melbourne CBD full of people specially at lunch time when you can see ques waiting outside of restaurants.
During the gold rush of 1851, many Chinese were attracted to Victoria and the goldfields. Ships sailed to Australia from Hong Kong with their cargo of men who had come in search of the "New Gold Mountain".
The small Chinese community in Little Bourke Street provided for all the needs of these diggers, lodgings en route to the goldfields, food, equipment and medicine.
In the 1860s many Chinese district associations began to purchase land in little Bourke Street to build clubrooms which would serve as meeting places for the Chinese community.
From the early 1870s, until the early twentieth century, Chinatown experienced good growth. For as gold dried up on the diggings, those who did not return to China went back to Melbourne's Chinatown which, for those who stayed, represented the only community they had.
Chinatown was established in the 1850's when the gold rush started and is now the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the world which runs from Little Bourke Street from Swanston Street to Spring Street, including the laneways and alleys which link the area to Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street. Little Bourke Street is actually the main area where you will find many Chinese restaurants and a few stores. Typical of Chinese communities you will find large red arches at each end of the street where Chinatown ends.
The Chinese started coming here by boat from Hong Kong full of men hoping to strike it rich in the gold rush, after gold was first discovered in 1851. Little Bourke Syreet provided all the materials, medicines and supplies a Chinaman might need before they transported him to the gold fields. There were also many lodging houses there. Chinese district associations bought land there and built club houses and the area flourished and expanded from the 1870's until the turn of the century. When the gold dried up the Chinamen returned to Melbourne and opened businesses instead of returning to their homeland. Industry boomed in the 1880's. In 1901 there were new labor laws promoting a policy of "white only" so Chinatown fell into a state of decline until 1947 when the government eased the immigration laws. Chinatown appeared to be very quiet during the day when we visited,perhaps it is busy in the evening.
Melbourne's Chinatown is the second oldest in the world, and was started in the 1850s during the gold rush. It peaked in the 1920s, but then years of discriminatory immigration policies kept the population down. With European migration drying up and racist policies rescinded, the Asian population of Australian boomed again, and Melbourne's Chinatown is now undergoing a renaissance. Brighter, busier, and more bustling than ever before.
Tianjin Gardens marks the entrance to the eastern end of Chinatown and were a gift from Melbourne's sister city, Tianjin. Experts from Tianjin designed the gardens which have trees and water features. Two lions (or chintzes) guard the entrance near the gate. The large stones actually came all the way from Tianjin. At lunchtime you will see office workers or students taking a rest there.
Melbourne is a city with diverse population live and work here with different colors, nationalities, cultures, religions, languages, sexual orientations, and etc. Chinese migrates to Melbourne in 1851, and remains the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World. Interestingly, Chinatown is no longer just a hangout place for the Chinese and tourists, but it is a place where the locals hangout for restaurants, bars, food courts, shopping, and etc.
I recommend here to backpackers to get cheap and good food. Check out their food courts...
Chinatown is a good spot to take a stroll and sample some good Chinese food and items. There are also Thai and Japanese options so plenty to to choose from.
After walking past a few restaurants and being invited in for "the best food in Chinatown" you will notice the types of people sitting in the various restaurants. Some, like the Dragon Boat, seem to have mainly tourists and others seem to have locals in them. Try one of the local's choice though do have a look at the menu first as some items may not be to your liking at all (crispy fried pigs intestine etc etc).
This trip involved stopping at one of the 'local' restaurants and we were not disappointed. Apart from being lower cost, being served hot chinese tea (bottomless tumbler) and having lots of poultry in the window our restaurant was a cash only place!! Quite bizzare really.
Melbourne's Chinatown resembles most Chinatowns I have seen back in the states. This particular area of Melbourne is located on Little Bourke Street and branches out to side streets and alleyways. This Chinatown dates back to the Gold Rush days of the 1850's that brought a flood of Chinese immigrants looking to make it rich and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world.
Chinatown is a melting pot of Asian cultures; Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese people call Chinatwon home and work. Many nice restaurants and shops line the street as well as the Five Arches decorated in traditional style. This is a great place to eat, shop and explore; especially the Tianjin Garden.
My wife and I had a fun time exploring Chinatown and checking out the shops and attractions.
Chinatown today now predominantly extends along Little Bourke Street between Swanston St and Spring St. Eating houses and top class restaurants with the streetscape and its low-rise brick buildings, retaining its historic character is what makes this part of Melbourne history and culture rich. We passed through Chinatown as we made our way to Red Peppers restaurant (I have written another trip on that). The heritage streetscape has been well preserved, with few buildings reaching over three storeys in height. The area is dominated by restaurants from fine dining to laneway and arcade noodle houses, and is home to a number of Asian grocery stores, Chinese medicine and herbalist centres, bookstores, fashion boutiques and other retail outlets in arcades such as the Village Centre, The Target Centre and Paramount Plaza. True to its name and predominantly of Chinese ethnicity, you will also find Melbourne's Chinatown is truly cosmopolitan with a myriad of cuisines like Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Contemporary European and Australian to tempt your taste buds.