Essential Chinatown experiences

Colourful, buzzing and bursting with enticing aromas, Chinatown runs the length of Little Bourke Street from the top of Spring down to Swanston. There are countless things to eat, quirky arcades to explore, arts and culture and hidden bars. Don’t miss these highlights.

Feast on dumplings

If the queues are any indication, Shanghai Street is a hit with regulars. Cheap and cheerful, try pork mini buns, boiled vegie dumplings as well as the fried variety with chicken and prawn. Mood lighting and an intimate atmosphere at Hutong adds to the anticipation of their most renowned dish – the fragrant, juicy and delicious xiaolongbao. The spicy wontons and pan-fried dumplings are not far behind.

China Red is for families and casual groups. Order via the touch screens at each table and marvel as mouth-watering morsels appear at your table. Shandong Mama’s modest outlook belies a legendary reputation. Home-style cooking from the coastal Shandong province includes their delicious boiled 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 with the family at yum cha

Some call it dim sum, but we know it as yum cha. Verging on a Melbourne obsession, our town proudly holds the Guinness world record for the largest ever yum cha for 750 people, set during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in 2013. Notable daily lunchtime yum cha destinations include Shark Fin House and Dragon Boat where a dazzling variety of tempting tiny dishes await.

Grab an instagrammable treat

Indulge your sweet tooth with a famous custard tart at Maxims Cakes and Pastry or try a cereal ice cream fusion treat at Dessert Kitchen. Cap off your foodie feast with bubble tea from BlackBall, where social media’s favourite combo of brown sugar syrup and creamy milk tea reigns supreme.

A white bowl with shaved pink ice in it, next to a transparent cup of bubble tea

Tea and treats from Blackball

Get drinks at a hidden bar

Some of Melbourne’s longest running and most well known laneway bars are nestled among the street art in Chinatown. Section 8 -the original ‘pop-up’ shipping container bar – has been there since 2006, along with its upstairs incarnation Ferdydurke. The evergreen down-an-alley-and-another-alley laboratory bar Croft Institute  also lurks just off Little Bourke. Or take a step underground at the brand new Bar Clara, where decadent dessert cocktails are served beneath the haze of their glowing neon sign.

A group of people drinking on a balcony with a street art mural in the background

Ferdydurke

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. Just up the road, Midcity Centre Arcade offers the full hidden dining treatment, housing delicious eating spots Kaneda Japanese, Mr Ramen San and Royal Custard Puff – just to name a few.

The Target Centre offers more than you’d imagine, where a curated collection of popular city lunch spots share real estate with arcade wonderland Lovely Monster –  a claw machine dedicated gaming parlour. There’s souvenirs and knick-knacks a plenty at China Town Gift City, while Happy Town Korean in the Paramount Centre is your one-stop shop for K-pop cultural ephemera.

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 barbecue with karaoke and a rooftop bar. Been there, done that? Find more Melbourne karaoke.

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 revelers. Located in the wonderfully named Celestial Avenue, it’s open until 2.30am for all your Cantonese food requirements.

A busy city street at night with a Chinese ornamental arch and lots of neon signs with Chinese lettering

Chinatown