Canada’s Oldest Chinatown

Gates of Harmonious Interest in Victoria by Destination BC and Tanya Goehring
Gates of Harmonious Interest by Destination BC and Tanya Goehring
Photo by Destination BC and Tanya Goehring

Standing 38 feet tall and spanning a full city street, the Gates of Harmonious Interest is an eye-catching red and gold beauty. Featuring three arches, each of the pedestrian pathways is guarded by a stone lion. It was erected in 1981 and marks the entrance to Victoria, B.C.’s Chinatown. 

However, the historic destination wasn’t always so ornately decorated and lovingly maintained. Chinatown was founded in 1859 by Chinese merchants from San Francisco. They’d come north for the Fraser River Gold Rush, building simple wood shacks that served as homes and businesses. Initially, the new settlers were connected to the city center by three narrow footbridges that spanned the Johnson Street Ravine — a natural waterway that was used for waste disposal. 

Over time, Chinatown blossomed into a thriving metropolis of its own, establishing a school, hospital, and three different theaters. At one point it was the largest Chinatown in all of Canada. Today, it spans just three blocks. 

While its modern-day footprint may be petite, its cultural and historical impact is not. Designated a national historic site in 1995, it offers a glimpse into the rich history of Victoria’s thriving Chinese community. And there are plenty of things to do in Victoria’s Chinatown. The following showcases some of the best places to eat and things to do.

Want to explore this historic Chinatown? We offer daily scheduled flights directly to Victoria’s Inner Harbour or to Victoria International Airport.

Best Places to Eat in Victoria’s Chinatown

Loy Sing Co. — Hong Kong-Style Roast Meat

The oldest Chinese business still operating on Vancouver Island, Loy Sing Co. is more than 130 years old. A cash-only establishment, it’s known for its Hong Kong-style roasted meats, many of which can be seen on display in the window. What meats are on the menu? Barbecue pork is the crowd favorite, with its sweet and savory caramelized crust. Additionally, you’ll find soy sauce chicken and roasted duck and roasted suckling pig. 

Dumpling Drop — Dumplings

Though one of the newer restaurants in Victoria’s Chinatown, Dumpling Drop has earned a loyal following. And with good reason. Their menu is loaded with flavor that ranges from traditional to Asian fusion. Unlike the steamed and pan-fried dumplings, you may be familiar with, these dumplings are deep-fried. The resulting crispy exteriors and juicy fillings are like a warm hug.

In addition to dumplings, be sure to peruse the Chaiyo menu — a collection of authentic Thai food dishes up in shareable plates. Of particular note are the refreshing Green Papaya Salad (which comes loaded with cherry tomatoes and green beans) and the rich and luscious Masaman Gai (chicken thighs with potatoes in a coconut-tamarind sauce).

Dumplings at Dumpling Drop in Victoria BC

Wah Lai Yuen — BBQ Pork Buns

Widely recognized as the best Chinese BBQ in Victoria, Wah Lai Yuen is part bakery, part restaurant. The windows here are graced with roasted ducks and on cold days their selection of soups and congees will warm you from the inside out. But it’s the selection of buns that steal the show — especially their BBQ Pork Buns. Sweet, juicy, and meat-filled, you may want to order extra to enjoy one right away and one later. 

Don Mee — Dim Sum

For more than 80 years, Don Mee has been a community hub, inviting patrons to enjoy dim sum, a traditional Chinese meal featuring small plates of dumplings and other small bites. Best enjoyed with a party, dim sum is typically a family meal. Dishes are sold from pushcarts that move among the tables. Cups of hot oolong and chrysanthemum tea are staples. But arrive early. Dim sum is only sold until 2:30 PM. 

Didn’t quite make it in time for the famed small-bite extravaganza? Have no fear. Don Mee’s impressive seafood-loaded menu is filled with classic flavor-packed dishes. 

Băo Victoria Co. — Bao Buns

Băo is one of Chinatown’s underestimated gems. A petite restaurant, where you order at the counter and then saddle up to a table for a pillowy treat. Traditionally a street food, these Taiwanese steamed buns are filled with a plethora of options that run the spectrum from classic (grilled pork belly, a constant favorite) and BBQ pork shoulder to vegetarian-friendly black bean croquette. There’s even a sweet option, filled with bananas and Nutella and then deep-fried! 


The Cozy Place — Authentic Chinese Fare

True to its name, The Cozy Place is a destination for authentic Chinese comfort food. Dishes range from savory and sweet to complex and fiery. The dishes are served family-style, encouraging conversation and communal eating.  

Top Things to Do in Victoria’s Chinatown

Gates of Harmonious Interest

You’ll be hard-pressed to visit Victoria’s Chinatown without seeing the Gates of Harmonious Interest. But be sure to leave a little time to admire them. In addition to the eye-catching red and gold decor, this historic landmark features intricate details and plaques worth seeing. 

Chinese Canadian Museum

The Chinese Canadian Museum is home to a carefully curated display of old photographs, artifacts, and stories. It showcases how Victoria’s first Chinese immigrants lived by helping to preserve the community’s struggles, resilience, and achievements. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays. 

Fan Tan Alley

The narrowest street in Canada, this pedestrian pathway tappers down to just 35 inches in one section. Its history is colorful. The alley was once a hotbed for gambling and opium dens. However, the tight passage has long since shed its racy past. 

Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Victoria. Home to a host of shops and restaurants, it’s a must-visit when in the British Columbia capital. 

Dragon Alley

While its more popular sister, Fan Tan Alley, gets plenty of attention, Dragon Alley is equally as intriguing (though not as narrow). The brick walkway runs from Fisgard Street to Herald Street. It features several local businesses. Plus, as you wander its stone footpath, you’ll find it opens up into a beautiful courtyard. 

Fan Tan Alley in Victoria BC

The Chinese Public School

The origins of The Chinese Public School date back to 1899, when a public school first opened in Chinatown. Originally, the school was a two-classroom educational facility that was called Lequn Yishu Chinese School, which translates to, “to enjoy the company of a free school.” While the history of public education in Victoria’s Chinatown is interesting, to say the least, the school remains a focal point for the Chinese community in Victoria. 

Tea at Silk Tea Road

Opened in 1992, Silk Tea Road has been a local favorite since day one. Offering a selection of organic tea blends, it is both a storefront and a tasting bar. Among the can’t-miss blends is the Anglewater tea. The tearoom’s bestselling blend, it is an aromatic mix of spearmint, lavender, and rose.

More Fun Things to Do in Victoria

70 Things to Do in Victoria, BC this Fall

Victoria BC in the Fall
Discover 70 unique and exciting things to do in Victoria, BC this fall, ranging from the best places to grab a bite to can’t-miss iconic landmarks.

Can’t-Miss Eggs Benedict in Victoria BC

Best Eggs Benedict in Victoria BC
Dubbed the Brunch Capital of Canada, the B.C. capital’s blossoming food scene is home to some of the best egg-wielding chefs in the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to a breakfast-worthy getaway, eggs Benedict takes the plate. And, Victoria has Bennies (Victorian for eggs Benedict) in ready supply.