When visiting California, don’t miss the unique Chinese enclave in the heart of town: Chinatown In Los Angeles. Though lesser-known than Chinatowns in other US cities, it’s a must-see destination for its authentic charm and originality. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore this special neighborhood with our guide!
Table of Contents
History of Chinatown, Los Angeles
Chinatown neighborhood in Los Angeles has a murky history, but today it’s a mix of new and old. The original Chinese Old Town was destroyed to build Union Station, but the new buildings in Chinatown have Asian decorations and street names. The old residents moved to New Chinatown in San Gabriel, causing the original neighborhood to be abandoned. However, over time, it gained momentum again with the addition of leisure areas, restaurants, and art galleries, giving it a modern and innovative look while still retaining its essence. To experience its charm, it’s worth visiting Chinatown in person.
What to see in Los Angeles Chinatown
Chinatown is a must-visit destination in Los Angeles as it offers a unique experience compared to other parts of the city. Start your adventure on Broadway Street, the main avenue that leads to various points of interest in the neighborhood. While it’s quieter during the week, weekends are bustling with exciting shows and social life.
The Dragon Gate
It is as soon as you arrive and is recognized for having two embedded dragons that stare at each other, this is where Chinatown welcomes you to visit.
Central Square of Chinatown
This idyllic place preserves the essence of Shanghai’s Chinatown and has been featured in movies. You can find statues of Bruce Lee and Father Sun Yat-Sen in the main square. The must-visit spot is Realm (or Art Salon Chinatown), a stunning pink building often seen on Instagram. Everything is carefully designed, and next to it is a mural of the Chinese Heavenly Dragon created by Titus Wong in 1941.
Chinese American Museum
To go see it you have to get to the oldest square in Chinatown and where all its history begins, on Olvera Street . This is the only building that remains in the state of its origins and in it you will be able to learn about the entire history of Americans with Chinese roots.
There are incredible works and they usually have periodic exhibitions so you may be lucky if you go to visit and have the opportunity to enjoy one of them, they are usually focused on the way of life of Asian Americans living in Los Angeles.
Chung King Street
Once a Hollywood set and home to one of the wealthiest streets in Chinatown, this place has now transformed into a vast art gallery. It’s worth visiting for its mystical, hippie vibe and is a must-visit spot for a night out and drinks. It’s known as the ultimate destination for nightlife in the area.
Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown
This famous temple is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Mazu, who protects fishermen and sailors. It’s highly respected by the Chinese community in Los Angeles and is a key spot to learn about their culture. Interestingly, the temple was once the first Italian Christian Church in the city, but it was demolished in 1980. Today, it’s a well-known Spanish-style church called the Cathedral of our Lady of Angels.
Olvera Street in Chinatown
The oldest area in all of Chinatown and where its origins came from . The first 11 Spanish families settled here and for this reason this place has a very Mexican essence, it is based on that culture and its customs and everything that encompasses it is very colorful and ranch.
It is the oldest street in the entire city of Los Angeles and there are buildings that remain intact in their origins, such as Casa Ávila Adobe, recognized for being the first ranch in Los Angeles and its owner, Francisco José Ávila, was the mayor of the city. Now this building is a tourist place that shows the Los Angeles 1818 houses . You should also visit the Casa Sepúlveda and the Casa Pelanconi.
Things to do in Chinatown, Los Angeles
The main street of Broadway Street is full of stalls and shops with a lot of charm and with all the typical essence of Chinatown , it is the perfect place to do a bit of shopping and take back some souvenirs from this mystical place.
Visiting the art galleries is essential and also getting to know the oldest street, Olvera Street, dancing or trying the typical foods.
The big markets are usually very crowded during the weekends , so if you want to know the place in peace and taking a relaxed walk, it is better that you go between Monday and Thursday.
Do not forget to visit the Realm store and take a photo with this peculiar and recognized pink building. If you want to buy some typical costume or stylish clothes, you have to go to The Alleys.
Keep in mind that if you go to California to visit, this place is key to do all kinds of shopping , since it is obviously much cheaper than any other place. So, seize the opportunity. In the Far East Centery Wing Hop Fung Ginseng & China Products is where you have to go to buy consumable products such as spices, typical teas, herbs and medicinal plants, etc.
Restaurants Where to Eat in Chinatown, LA
One of the things that calls us the most about Chinatown is to try its delicious dishes of typical food .This neighborhood also offers delicious American-style food.
Popular places to eat:
Phillippe The Original
You’re going to have to be patient if you want to try the real French dip sandwich as it’s usually packed all the time.
It is on the outskirts of Chinatown and it is a sandwich stand with more than 100 years of experience, which is why it has appeared so much on television.
Cool and one of the best Chinatown’s restaurant.
Nick’s is a popular breakfast spot that is famous throughout Los Angeles. The restaurant, called the “Ham House” on its front sign, was established in 1948 and still serves classic breakfast dishes like biscuits, omelets, waffles, apple pie a la mode, and of course, ham and eggs.
Dim Sum Chinatown Los Angeles
You don’t have to be a fortune teller to know that this Chinatown is known for the authentic dim sum that we love so much. The owners of the premises themselves know this and that is why they are always open until the wee hours of the morning (it is always a good time to eat a dim sum).
There are many stalls and they sell them by the piece at a fairly cheap price.
Typical Chinese food restaurants
If you want to go traditional, the best places for Chinese food are Yang Chow, the classic New Dragon and Chinese Friends Restaurant . Do not expect a decoration in style, just enjoy with your palate. You will love them for sure!
Restaurants in Far East Plaza
This is like the mall of food stalls and restaurants. Mixed style of traditional and gourmet flavors . Many high-class chefs have decided to serve their creations here.
Fast Food stalls
In Saigon Square there is a place called Saigon Deli, it is very well priced and they sell everything you can imagine, from plates of food, coffees, ice creams, fruit pieces, rolls, cane sugar, etc.
It is very busy and people like to sit at the tables in front to enjoy their food.
In conclusion Chinatown in L.A. is a must-visit, you can use the Metro to get to Chinatown easily. The Chinatown Station on the Metro Gold Line is a short walk from Central Plaza for visitors and locals. Also, there are many bike-share stations in Chinatown, which is a great way to explore Downtown L.A. without driving.
YOU CAN BOOK YOUR STAY HERE: