9 essential Chinatown experiences

Colourful and buzzing, Chinatown is a sparkling jewel in Melbourne’s cultural crown. Here’s the lowdown on where to eat, quirky arcades to explore and hidden bars to discover.

Dine on dumplings

If the queues are any indication, Shanghai Street is a hit with regulars. Try pork mini buns, vegie dumplings or the fried variety with chicken and prawn. Mood lighting and an intimate atmosphere at Hutong suits their most renowned dish – fragrant, juicy xiaolongbao. The spicy wontons and pan-fried dumplings are not far behind.

Cheap and cheerful, China Red is perfect for families and casual groups. Order on touch screens and marvel as mouth-watering morsels appear at your table. Shandong Mama’s modest outlook belies a legendary reputation. Home-style cooking from the Shandong province includes mackerel dumpling with ginger and coriander. Want more? Check out our guide to dumplings in Melbourne.

A bamboo container full of dumplings

Dumplings at Shanghai Street

Feast at yum cha

Some call it dim sum, but we know it as yum cha. Verging on a Melbourne obsession, our town proudly hosts an endless selection of yum cha feasting. Notable daily destinations include Shark Fin Inn and Dragon Boat, where a dazzling variety of dishes await. Or bring a big appetite to House of Delight, where a sumptuous yum cha buffet is on offer everyday.

Drop it like it’s hot pot

Rivalling yum cha in the culinary obsession stakes, hot pot is having a moment in Melbourne. Chinese hotpot meets Thai soup at newcomers Jiyu Thai Hot Pot. Choose between hot-and-sour tom yum or coconutty tom kha gai, or go for both with a multi-sectioned bowl. Or take your hot pot Japanese style at Momo Sukiyaki & Shabu Shabu – perfect for communal dining. Keen for an evening of Sichuan food with old-world grandeur? The lantern-lit Xiao Long Kan in Tattersalls Lane offers exquisite hot pot dining among mesmerising decor.

Grab an OTT treat

Indulge with a famous custard tart at Maxims Cakes and Pastry, or try cereal ice cream fusion at Dessert Kitchen. Cap off your trip with bubble tea from BlackBall, where the beloved combo of brown sugar syrup and creamy milk tea reigns supreme.

A white plate with a shaved ice dessert in it

Deconstructed boba at Blackball

Karaoke the night away

If karaoke is your thing, check out the sparkly Stars KTV & Lounge with 21 dedicated rooms to belt out your favourite songs. Or try Heroes, which combines a hawker-style menu with karaoke and a rooftop bar. Been there, done that? Find more Melbourne karaoke.

Get drinks at a hidden bar

Some of Melbourne’s most well-known laneway bars are nestled among the street art in Chinatown. Section 8 has been there since 2006, along with upstairs incarnation Ferdydurke. The evergreen laboratory bar Croft Institute also lurks just off Little Bourke. Or take a step underground at Bar Clara, where dessert cocktails are served beneath the haze of their glowing neon sign.

And while it may not exactly count as hidden, Park is brand new to Little Bourke and worth a dedicated lunchtime or post-work session. Think alfresco hang-out meets colourful murals and gorgeous greenery.

A caravan in a beer garden serving drinks to people sitting at tables

Park Melbourne

Explore the shops and arcades

Head off the main drag and into the treasure trove of Chinatown’s shops and arcades. 206 Bourke Street has everything from the Michelin-rated Tim Ho Wan, to Japanese and Korean cosmetics salon Yuki House. Midcity Centre Arcade offers the full hidden dining treatment, housing Kaneda Japanese, Mr Ramen San and Royal Custard Puff – just to name a few. Even the Target Centre offers more than you’d imagine. Pick from a collection of popular lunch spots like Grand BBQ and the Spicy Fish Restaurant. Then there are souvenirs aplenty at China Town Gift City, while Happy Town Korean is your one-stop-shop for K-pop merch.

Discover Chinese culture

Any time of the year you can discover the fascinating and lengthy history of Chinese immigration to Australia at the Chinese Museum. There’s heritage tours as well as contemporary art. Then go beyond ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and catch the latest Chinese-language releases from Hong Kong and China at the Chinatown Cinema.

Stay up late at Supper Inn

Patiently waiting on the stairs for a table at Supper Inn is a Melbourne tradition for late-night revellers. Located in the wonderfully named Celestial Avenue, it’s open until 2.30am for all your Cantonese food requirements.

Chinatown street at night with neon signs, a hanging lantern and people walking

Chinatown