Ten 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. Need more dumpling inspiration?

A bamboo container full of dumplings

Shanghai Street

Get the family together for 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.

Eat a custard tart at Maxims

Indulge your sweet tooth with a famous custard tart at Maxims Cakes and Pastry or try an Instagrammable fusion dessert at Dessert Kitchen.

Have drinks among the street art

Some of Melbourne’s longest running and most well known laneway bars are nestled among the street art in Chinatown including the original ‘pop-up’ (it’s been there since 2006) shipping container bar Section 8 and its upstairs incarnation, Ferdydurke. The evergreen down-an-alley-and-another-alley laboratory bar Croft Institute  also lurks just off Little Bourke.

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 everything from hair and nail salons and authentic Asian dining to the Chinatown Cinema.

In the Target Centre grab a cheap takeaway lunch or try your luck at the claw machines at Lovely Monster 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.

Go to a festival

You never have to wait long for a new festival in the city, and Chinatown has some crackers. Coming up on Saturday 22 September is the Moon Lantern Festival in Chinatown Square. There’s food and market stalls along with music, performances and traditional dancing. As the sun sets, a Lantern Parade will feature children parading their own creations.

Mark your 2019 diaries to see in the Lunar New Year with the Chinese New Year Festival. Celebrations extend right across the city with light installations and fire balls, street performers, music and of course, tempting food stalls. The Dai Loong Dragon Parade is the highlight, with the famous dragon carried by over 200 people through the centre of Chinatown.

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 the Chinese Museum

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.

Catch a film at Chinatown Cinema

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