Chinatown is one of a handful of Manhattan nabes that retains the historic character for which it is famous. A great place to explore, Chinatown offers hole-in-the-wall restaurants, open air fish markets, and tiny shops. Most of the apartment buildings in Chinatown are tenement-style, and many are over 100 years old. With one of the densest populations in New York, Chinatown is the definition of tight living. Located in downtown, Chinatown borders SoHo, the Lower East Side, Tribeca, and Civic Center. The neighborhood has 9 different subway lines, making it a great nabe for public transportation.
Top Votes – Score out of 100
Lowest – Score out of 100
Top Reviews from Travel Rentals Neighborhoods
Chinatown is great! (With a couple of caveats)
I’ve lived here for 3+ years. What’s great is the location – the proximity to the trains, the cheap and tasty food options, the ability to walk to the Lower East Side, East Village, Little Italy, and more. What’s not so good: the apartments are usually small, and they are often walk-ups. There are often rodent problems in the streets, and sometimes in your apartment. The smell during the summer months of July and August is enough to make you hold your breath. There is more and more development in this area because of it’s closeness to SoHo, and this means the rents are rising.What's awesome
Delicious, Cheap Food options, Proximity to trains and bridgesWhat's not so awesome
Very smelly in the summer, rodents in the streets (And sometimes in your apt)
Of all the `Chinatowns’ in the world, Manhattan’s is one of the largest. Rent is cheaper compared to other areas in lower Manhattan but this comes at a price. The neighborhood is pretty dirty due to the large amount of outdoor markets and this brings an odor. The streets are also jam-packed with residents as well as tourists looking to buy designer bag knock-offs. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the deeper into the heart of Chinatown you go, the less English-friendly the area becomes. Many restaurants have signs and menus only in Chinese, which can make exploring difficult for a non-native speaker.Beverly W.
It’s charming, and great for tourists, but I don’t like noise and crowds. As great as the food is, I don’t like shoving through tons of people. Just puts me in a bad mood.bbb
Chinese Food Here is Delicious
Wo Hop or Joe’s Shanghai? I just can’t decide. These two restaurants Wo Hop on mott st. and Joe’s Shanghai on Pell st. may be the two best places in Manhattan for Chinese food – literally.
Also there are plenty of little corner stores to buy cool little trinkets and souveneirs. This place seems like it’s poppin off by day, with crowds of people always maneuvering everywhere. It really assumes its own culture and is a real niche in such a big city.
Dragons, Dim Sum, and Tea
This is the Chinatown of all Chinatowns. I’ve traveled and lived in several US cities that boast their very own Chinatowns but having grown up in CT, I spent the majority of my time in New York’s Chinatown and will always think of New York’s as the creme de la creme of Chinatowns. I spent many a Chinese New Year here as a child and will never forget the exciting crowds, the dragons winding through the streets, fireworks, yummy food and the feeling that I was in this magical world in the middle of New York.
I live in Boston now and when I think of Chinatown, I think of the North End, oddly enough. The cultural comparison is obviously not there however the locals who are so passionate about their culture, and the transformation of a small city nabe into its own country is apparent in both and I love that about these nabes. It’s like escaping to a new little world every time I visit.
When it’s not Chinese New Year, the best thing to do in Chinatown, without a doubt, is to have a dim sum brunch where you sit at big round tables and waiters and waitresses come around with carts filled with delicious Chinese Yummies and you get to pick out what you want. SO MUCH FUN!
One of the big (and most unique) draws of the nabe are the many tea shops. These tiny shops are filled floor to ceiling with loose leaf teas of all sorts-it’s almost like you’re in China. In fact, I’ve been to China and I think I’ve seen a better selection of teas in Chinatown. Even if you’re not a tea drinker, this truly is a site to see (and smell!)
Whether you’re visiting New York as a tourist, or you’re a seasoned born and bred New Yorker, Chinatown is one of the most fun nabes to visit!
Howard Street Gem
Howard Street is this interesting dynamic. Part of it is super typical Chinatown with little shops and the best sushi place EVER. It is right next door to a 100 year old store that makes hand made shoes and riding boots. Across are lots of designer stores and great art galleries. This street is the division and yet combination of Sohoand Chinatown, and probably one of the most diverse and interesting gems of NYC.
Also, if you get a chance, do your grocery shopping on the Southern, right hand side of Canal Street. Great, super cheap produce and fish!
Kind of a labyrinth…
Chinatown is one of the few areas where I can still manage to get lost. I love coming down here and just wandering, checking out all the stores I don’t understand. A Chinese friend of mine likes to breakdown which areas are Cantonese, Fujianese, etc. I hear the noise and trash get on the nerves of people who live down here, though I know some people, both born and raised and more trendy transplants, who wouldn’t live anywhere else. Les Enfants Terribles is a great and uncharacteristically trendy place for a drink.
Noisy during the day, and with some of the most horrifying smells throughout the summer. I don’t think I could stand to live there. I can barely deal with holding my breath walking past some of those stands! Fun place to visit though -and great place to find cheap things to decorate your homeAnne B.
I lived in Chinatown in the smallest apartment in the world for a year, and by the time I finally moved I couldn’t wait. Once again, I could own things that took up room. I looked for furniture that I could spread out a little instead of trying to figure out where I could stuff it when having more than one or two friends over so that there was room for everyone. I don’t feel cramped in anymore, and considering how little square footage I had, I was paying an exorbitant amount of money. Now for the same price, I’m renting a much larger apartment in El Barrio. A long commute, but I can stretch out again.ictor M.
Chinatown: A short trip into a new world
When i first went to Chinatown as a child, i felt as though i had stepped on a train inHarlem and stepped off in China. Chinatown is like a entirely new world, from Chinese products, to Chinese restaurants, there are tons of them. There is something for everyone, and the people are amazing. My favorite place to visit is the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, their amazing variety of flavors and combinations are like no other. Not to mention that you can get the cheapest, trendiest clothing and accessories from Chinatown… Yes, i know what your going to say, most of it is fake or stolen, and believe me, i don’t usually condone such behavior, but lets be serious, in this economy, do you really care? Yea, me neither.
Gotta love it!
Let me start by saying I love Chinatown in New York City. I have been to Chinatown in Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco, but this is by far the best. What makes this Chinatown so great? Food, shopping, and the culture.
Shopping in Chinatown is very unique to other US Chinatowns. Canal Street is lined with tiny shops that offer to sell you pretty much anything you can imagine. If you see an item you like you can always bargain on the price. Sometimes by simply walking away the seller will agree to the low price you had originally offered.
The items for sale in Chinatown are almost all copies of real designer merchandise, and for an untrained eye it can be hard to tell the difference. If you have always wanted a designer purse you can now have one for $30 or less, just don’t tell anyone your secret.
Chinatown looks amazing, but simply walking down Canal will not give you a full experience. You have to enter the stores. All stores that sell purses and other knock-off items have fake doors that lead to back rooms with more merchandise. If you ask to see Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, or another top brand you will be lead to one of these illegal rooms. You will also see as you walk down the street that certain businesses will be closed with stickers posted on their doors stating that they were closed for forgery or copyright infringement.
Other items besides personal items are also for sale. For example you will soon get to know the man who sits on the ground and sells bamboo and illegal baby turtles for five dollars. Just up the street from him you can buy a bonsai tree for a fraction of the price you would pay in a store. Fruit is also extremely inexpensive from street vendors who carry whatever is currently in season around the world. One of my favorites also has to be the many pastry shops that offer desserts for just a dollar or less.
When your shopping is done and you are hungry the options abound for food. There are Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, as well as many other ethnic foods available. Overall the prices are reasonable too. A Pho dinner will cost you no more than six or seven dollars, while wontons could cost you as little as a dollar for ten.
While Chinatown does had its shady side when it comes to the law, it is a great place to spend a Saturday. There is always a feeling that you can find anything you are looking for there. It is simply a matter of choosing what shop to explore.