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Walk your way through Vancouver’s historic Chinatown

A visit to downtown Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without a walk through Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. Not only is Vancouver’s historic Chinatown the largest in Canada, but it’s also the second largest in North America and there are an endless number of things to do in the area.

Centered on Pender Street, Chinatown is a bustling hub for locals and tourists alike. You might find yourself thinking “It’s the middle of the winter and the rain is falling. There is no way am I going out for a walk!” But this is Vancouver. If you aren’t prepared to go out in the rain you might as well just hole up in your hotel for the next four months. Most of us living in the city have learned to embrace the mantra: there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So put on your waterproof shoes, your Gore-Tex jacket, grab your umbrella and let’s go!

Chinatown Millennium Gate

West Pender Street, near Carrall Street

The Millennium Gate
The Millennium Gate

Towering over West Pender Street is Chinatown’s Millennium Gate – a great place to start your walk. Whether you are viewing the gate from up close or far away the gate is a feast for the eyes with its beautiful terra cotta roof. The eaves are delicately and colourfully painted and the characters inscribed in the center of the gate translate as ‘Remember the past and look forward to the future.’

Sam Kee Building

8 West Pender Street

Believe it or not, this really is the narrowest building in the world. Built in 1913, this building‘s unbelievably narrow footprint is only 1.5m deep on the 1st floor. Be careful not to miss it!

Ming Wo Cookware

23 E Pender Street

This culinary mecca opened its door in 1917 and has been providing high-quality cookware to local foodies for over 90 years! It’s always a fun shop to wander through. I never manage to leave without a few little treasures for my kitchen.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden & Park

578 Carrall Street

The entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden & Park
The entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden & Park

This little slice of paradise is touted as the first Ming Dynasty scholar’s garden to be built outside of China. The outer park features a traditional pagoda, a koi pond and many spots for you to relax and reflect. You’ll often find locals lunching here in the park. The tour is a great option for those who are interested in learning about the history and significance of the garden.

Treasure Green Tea Company

227 E Georgia Street

If tea is your thing, then Treasure Green Tea Company, which was established in 1981, is a must visit. Following in her father’s footsteps, tea master Olivia still serves some of her father’s original customers. You’ll find the shop full of rare and exclusive blends of tea.

Bestie

105 E Pender Street

At this point in your journey, you may be feeling a little peckish. This German-inspired eatery is a newer addition to Chinatown. You’ll find them serving up sausages, currywurst, pretzels and beer in huge white steins. I like to ask for my currywurst “schranke” – with mayo on top!

New Town Bakery

148 East Pender Street

New Town Bakery & Kitchen
New Town Bakery & Restaurant

This traditional bakery has been around since the 1980’s! Grab yourself a number when you walk in and get some of their famous pastries. I always go for the steamed pork buns, egg tarts and anything with coconut in it!

Sai Woo

158 East Pender Street

Restaurant Sai Woo
Restaurant Sai Woo

You can’t miss this Asian fusion restaurant’s stunning neon sign as you walk up Pender. Chinatown was renowned for its dazzling neon sign and Sai Woo’s is a reminder of the area’s former glory. The owners had the sign recreated to match the original one that graced the Sai Woo entrance between 1925-1959.

Phnom Penh Restaurant

244 E. Georgia Street

This Vancouver establishment is always busy, with a lineup that often spills out the front door. But trust me, it’s well worth the wait. Once you have a few bites of some of the city’s best Cambodian and Vietnamese flavours, you’ll thank me. The beef luc lac with egg, chicken wings and butter beef are few of the must-try dishes.

Juniper

185 Keefer Street

Juniper Kitchen & Bar
Juniper Kitchen & Bar

This is one of my favourite spots for a cocktail. As the name suggests they have a plethora of gin-based cocktails and a lovely selections of snacks and nibbles to go along with them. You’ll be in the minority if you manage to try only one of their beautiful creations.

Matchstick Coffee

213 E Georgia Street

Is something warm and cozy a little more your speed? Then Matchstick Coffee should be your next destination. They roast all of their own beans and always prepare it lovingly. Order yourself a coffee, choose a window seat and enjoy the view. It’s a great way to spend a little time out of the rain.

Kissa Tanto

263 East Pender Street

Kissa Tanto
Kissa Tanto (© Ian Lanterman)

This gem was recently named the best new restaurant in Canada. It is tucked away in an unassuming building on the outskirts of Chinatown. Upon opening the door and climbing the stairs you are immediately transported into a 1960’s-style Tokyo jazz club. This sophisticated Japanese-Italian restaurant is the perfect spot to end your walking tour and while away the evening enjoying their amazing food and cocktails. Walk-ins are welcome and the bar is first come, first served.

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