Sydney isn't the only global city with a Chinatown, but this one is bigger, better and boasts more than most thanks to the Chinese immigrants that started arriving in the 1800s. You can find everything here, from small specialist stores and sprawling Asian grocers to noodle bars in hidden food halls and tucked-away fine-dining restaurants. Not to mention lively markets and late-night karaoke.
The pedestrian thoroughfare of Dixon Street is the beating heart of Chinatown and it really comes alive during the spectacular Lunar New Year celebrations for the traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian lunisolar calendar. Celebrations go on for weeks and everyone is welcome.
Enjoy world-class shows at the historic Capitol Theatre, a beautiful heritage-listed venue on Campbell Street, built from 1893-1928. Check out the exciting events calendar for musicals, ballet, comedy, concerts and other performances or sign up for a backstage tour of the theatre.
Lunar New Year Celebrations, Chinatown
Chinatown has something for every kind of shopper. Browse boutiques tucked away in arcades or flex your bargaining muscle at Paddy’s Markets, which dates back to colonial times. Upstairs, Market City is home to factory outlets and nearby World Square is filled with high-street shops and restaurants.
A short walk from Chinatown, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is a tranquil oasis of pretty pavilions, waterfalls and lakes brimming with koi, winding paths and lush plant life nestled at the south end of Darling Harbour. Take a leisurely walk through the green space, before stopping at the onsite heritage-listed teahouse for some dumplings.
If you crave Asian flavours, Chinatown's food experiences are as authentic as they get. Held weekly on Friday evenings, the Chinatown Night Markets on Dixon Street are a taste of a bustling outdoor Asian food hall. The area around Pitt and Goulburn Streets is known as little Thai town, while Pitt and Liverpool Streets is nicknamed Koreatown.
Not sure where to start? Hit up the classics. For Chinese, The Eight's yum cha has already become an institution and Emperor’s Garden makes some of the best Asian-style roast meats around – as well as its famous 60c cream puffs, which you grab hot from oven from a separate shop window. Arisun is all about Korean fried chicken, Mamak is known for its wafer-thin roti and people line up at Gumshara for tonkotsu ramen. For Thai, head to the beloved Chat Thai or the quirky Thanon Khaosan. For delicious Malaysian in a laneway street stall-style setting, go to Ho Jiak.
Thanon Khaosan, Haymarket
If you want to do as the locals do, eat your way around Asia at Eating World, Sussex Centre and Dixon House, three of the best food courts in Chinatown. Of course, cheap eats abound: try the curry fish balls at Kowloon Cafe, soup dumplings at Nanjing Dumpling, rou jia mo (aka the 'Chinese burger') at Xi'an Cusine and the signature beef noodles at Mr Chen Beef Noodle. Keen for the experts to lead the way? Join Local Sauce Tours for a two-hour guided foodie safari, meeting local Chinese-Australians and stopping for street food along the way.
All that dining will work up a thirst. Bancho is a small bar with a focus on whisky and cocktails, Nakano Darling is a Japanese izakaya serving up Japanese whisky and sake and Batch Brewing Company is bringing their beloved Marrickville craft brews to Darling Square at their new taproom.
Banchō - Credit: Jeremy Plaisance | Osaka Trading Co.
It's an easy walk to Chinatown from Central or Town Hall stations, or you can take the light rail.
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