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A First-Timer’s Guide to Exploring Toronto’s Chinatown

A First-Timer’s Guide to Exploring Toronto’s Chinatown

A First-Timer’s Guide to Exploring Toronto’s Chinatown

Toronto’s Chinatown is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, frequented by visitors from all over the world.

From visiting a Chinese market for souvenirs to enjoying some of the best dim sum in town, it's easy to see why this area is getting so much buzz.

Here, we lay out a comprehensive 101 on Toronto’s Chinatown – from its rich history to what you should expect if you're planning on visiting it.

Toronto Chinatown History

The first Chinatown dates back to the 1890s as a neighbourhood in Toronto. It was originally located ​​along York Street and Elizabeth Street between Queen and Dundas Streets.

Sam Ching is the first recorded Chinese in Toronto’s 1878 city directory. He operated a laundry shop at 9 Adelaide Street East during the late 1800s.

However, during the 1950s, the area was expropriated to build the Toronto City Hall and the Nathan Phillips Square. Because of that, a number of businesses and residents moved towards the west of Spadina Avenue.

While a handful of Chinese businesses still thrive in Toronto's Chinatown, much of the community have largely migrated from the first Chinatown to the present Chinatown neighbourhood downtown.

Today, Chinatown is one of the most populated areas in Toronto and is a hub for business, shopping and entertainment.

Toronto Chinatown History
Photo by Alfred Pearson via Toronto History

Toronto Chinatown Festival and Other Events

There are many things you can do in Chinatown. Aside from the many options for restaurants, malls and shops, there are also festivals and events that visitors can experience. 

1. Toronto Chinatown Festival

Toronto Chinatown Festival
Photo by Global Times

Toronto Chinatown Festival is probably the most famous event in Chinatown happening annually. Each year, there are themes to the event that each business sector sponsors. 

This two-day event is an iconic Chinatown experience. Over 250,000 visitors flock to Chinatown every year to participate.

You can expect cultural performances, street eats, family events and fun booths for everyone to enjoy. Of course, the famous Lion dance and Kung Fu demonstration will also be performed in the festival.

2. Lunar New Year Celebration

Lunar New Year Celebration
Photo by

The Toronto Chinatown is one of the most popular places where people come to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Chinese community in Toronto does it with great enthusiasm and vigor.

The most famous performances to watch during the Lunar New Year celebration are the lion dance, Chinese folk dance, Chinese orchestra  and more. 

There are also cooking shows, raffle draws and cultural booths happening around Chinatown during this time. That is why locals and tourists enjoy visiting Chinatown during this time of the year. 

3. Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month
Photo by

Asian Heritage Month happens in May of each year. It is an event that recognises the contributions of Canadians in Asian heritage.

There are many events happening during this month, including photo contests, scavenger hunts, games and more. There are even cash prizes for the winners!

This event is free for all Ontario residents. 

Toronto Chinatown Restaurants

If you’re looking for a good place to eat, Chinatown Toronto is the place to go. There are tons of different restaurants that serve delicious and authentic Chinese food!

Here are some of the top restaurants in Chinatown:

1. Swatow Restaurant

Swatow Restaurant
Photo by  Tripadvisor
Location309 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON MST 2E6
Contact Number(416) 977-0601
Operating Hours11AM - 10:30PM

Swatow Restaurant has been a classic hit for over 40 years in Chinatown. They’re known for using the traditional Cantonese method of cooking that has been a favourite of locals and tourists. 

Popular dishes include shrimp wonton soup, chicken fried rice, beef fried noodle,  General Tao chicken, and their famous fried clams in black bean sauce. 

Swatow Restaurant is also available for delivery within the Greater Toronto area.

2. Mother’s Dumplings

Mother’s Dumplings
Photo by
Location421 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2G6
Contact Number(416) 217-2008
Operating Hours11:30AM - 9:30PM

Mother’s Dumplings is another crowd favourite, having been around for over 17 years. It has been listed in the Michelin Guide and recognised in a few Toronto magazines as one of the best dumpling restaurants in Toronto. 

They offer a wide selection of dumplings that are specially-handmade and generously-sized main courses that could serve a larger group. 

Although the space is small, with only eight tables, it is still undeniably the go-to dumpling house of Torontonians and tourists alike!

3. Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant

Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant
Photo by
Location421 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, M5T 2W4
Contact Number(416) 551-3366
Operating Hours9AM - 10PM

Just like Mother’s Dumplings, If you’re looking for a variety of dimsum, Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant is also a must-try. 

Located just a few steps away from the Art Gallery of Ontario, Dim Sum King is definitely a destination when in Chinatown, Toronto. 

The restaurant serves authentic Cantonese-style food, including a wide selection of seafood dishes.

4. Taste of China Seafood Restaurant

Taste of China Seafood Restaurant
Photo by IS Palette S. on yelp
Location338 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2G2, Canada
Contact Number(416) 348-8828
Operating Hours12PM - 12AM

Taste of China Seafood Restaurant is a popular seafood restaurant that serves Cantonese cuisine, featuring seasonal seafood that’s always fresh.

Originally the place was a Pho restaurant, then later on turned into a Chinese restaurant when the owner traveled to China and tasted their food, hence the restaurant name.

They offer a wide selection of seafood and also serve sizzling plates, hotpots and congee. Customers can choose to dine in the restaurant or have their food delivered.

5. Rol San Restaurant

Rol San Restaurant
Photo by Michael C. on yelp
Location323 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2E9, Canada
Contact Number(416) 977-1128
Operating Hours10AM-12AM

Rol San Restaurant is popular for its all-day dim sum. The restaurant opened in 1994 and is still the same after all these years.

They have a dedicated dim sum chef that makes everything upon order so you can make sure that your dishes are served fresh.

The restaurant serves alcohol as well, making it a perfect late-night dining spot.

6. Sky Dragon Chinese Restaurant

Sky Dragon Chinese Restaurant
Photo by Cisi Z. on Yelp
Location280 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 3A5, Canada
Contact Number(416) 408-4999
Operating Hours9AM-10PM

Sky Dragon offers the classic Hong Kong-style dim sum cart experience.  

The place is located on the 5th floor of Dragon City Mall which gives customers a better view of Chinatown. 

7. Rosewood Asian Restaurant

Rosewood Asian Restaurant
Photo by
Location463 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, M5T 1G8
Contact Number(416) 593-9998
Operating Hours10AM-3AM

Rosewood Asian Restaurant offers contemporary Cantonese and Authentic Fuzhou cuisine. 

They offer a wide selection of Cantonese dishes and dim sum that can be enjoyed a la carte or eat-all-you-can at a very reasonable price. 

8. Fudao Noodle Restaurant

Fudao Noodle Restaurant
Photo by
Location358 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2G4, Canada
Contact Number(647) 346-8588
Operating Hours11AM-10PM

Fudao Noodle Restaurant is an authentic Chinese restaurant that serves their famous Crossing the Bridge rice noodles. It is a specialty dish of Yunnan Province in China in the city of Meng Zi. 

What makes their rice noodles special is its unique and flavourful both, made from premium bones of pork, chicken and duck that’s been boiled for over 10 hours.

9. Juicy Dumpling in Chinatown

Juicy Dumpling in Chinatown
Photo by Irene H. on
Location280 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 0A1, Canada
Contact Number(647) 352-5678
Operating Hours11AM-9PM

If you’re looking for authentic Shanghai-style dumplings and wontons, then Juicy Dumpling in Chinatown is an excellent choice.

They serve affordable dumplings in a fast food set up so guests can make sure that they get their food quickly and efficiently. 

They have limited options on their menu but each food item is definitely a hit.

10. Canton Chili

Canton Chili
Photo by Jennifer K. on yelp
Location418 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2G7, Canada
Contact Number(416) 595-8288
Operating Hours4PM-2AM

Canton Chili offers a fusion of traditional Cantonese cuisine and Indian fare.

Chef-recommended dishes include General Tso Chicken, Dry Sauteed String Bean Szechuan Style and Hakka Chow Mein that are specially prepared by their renowned chef.

BONUS: Other Non-Chinese Specialty Restaurants

1. Anh Dao Restaurant

Anh Dao Restaurant
Photo by ​​Anh Dao Restaurant 
Location383 Spadina Avenue Toronto, ON M5T 2G6 Canada
Contact Number(416) 598-4514
Operating Hours12NN -9PM / 12NN-10PM (Fri-Sat)

Vietnamese foodie hotspot Anh Dao Restaurant  has been serving Torontonians and tourists for over 30 years now. 

Bestsellers include their take on pho and spring rolls which are classic Vietnamese favourites. 

The restaurant is bustling with crowds on Fridays, so if you’re up for some fun Friday nights, you’ll definitely enjoy the place. 

2. Banh Mi Nguyen Huong

Banh Mi Nguyen Huong
Photo by B T. on Foursquare
Location322 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 1J6, Canada
Contact Number(416) 599-4625
Operating Hours8AM-7PM

Another Vietnamese favourite is Banh Mi Nguyen Huong, offering the traditional Vietnamese sandwich – banh mis.

Their popular flavours are the garlic honey sausage, lemongrass sausage and BBQ pork. 

They also offer Vietnamese coffee, which pairs well with their banh mis. Customers love visiting the place because of its casual and classic vibe. 

5 Toronto Chinatown Hotels

Chinatown is a great place to stay in when you’re in Toronto. The area is filled with great restaurants and bars that are all within walking distance of one another.

Here are some nearby hotels you can try:

1. Cloud3 Hotel Toronto

Cloud3 Hotel Toronto
Photo by iBOOKED
Address405, Dundas Street West, Toronto, Canada
Contact(647) 725-2534
Room rateStarts at CAD 124

Cloud3 Hotel Toronto is located in Downtown Toronto and is conveniently near Chinatown. The Art Gallery of Ontario and Campbell House Museum is within reach of Cloud3 Hotel. 

The hotel is also a few metres away from Chinatown Centre and approximately just a 7-minute walk. 

Their rooms have terraces that guests can enjoy and an equipped kitchen that can be used. 

2. The Alexandra Hotel

The Alexandra Hotel
Photo by
Address77 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, ON M5T 2V4
Contact1 800-567-1893 / [email protected]
Room rateStarts at CAD 159

Located in Downtown Toronto, The Alexandra Hotel offers affordable rooms for guests. The hotel is just walking distance from the subway and streetcar stops.

The Art Gallery of Ontario and Chinatown are just a kilometre away from the Alexandra Hotel. 

It’s also near the Kensington Market and Entertainment District and is a few minutes away if you’re walking to Chinatown Centre. 

3. Hotel Ocho

Hotel Ocho
Photo by
Address195 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2C3, Canada
Contact(416) 593-0885/ [email protected]
Room rateStarts at CAD 249

If you’re looking for a boutique hotel near Chinatown, Toronto, then Hotel Ocho is a good choice. The hotel is approximately 400 metres away from the famous Chinatown and would take roughly 5 minutes on foot to get there.

The hotel has its own restaurant and bar lounge that guests can enjoy. They also cater to any events as they have function rooms available.  

The hotel is also metres away from streetcar stops and subway stations, so commuting is not an issue. It is also conveniently near Kensington Market, which is about 10 minutes on foot. 

4. Studio 6 Toronto

Studio 6 Toronto
Photo by
Address165 Grange Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2V5, Canada
Contact(416) 603-7700
Room rateStarts at CAD 110

Studio 6 Toronto is an all-studio hotel in a six-storey building. The hotel has on-site parking so guests can bring and park their own private cars securely. 

Studio 6 is near Chinatown, Kensington Market and Entertainment District, making it easier for guests to tour the area.  

The hotel is also just 5 minutes away by walk to the famous Dragon City Mall and about 7 minutes to the Toronto Western Hospital.

Each room has an equipped kitchenette that guests can use and daily maid service.  

5. Ace Hotel Toronto

Ace Hotel Toronto
Photo by Ace Hotel Group on
Address51 Camden St, Toronto, ON M5V 1V2, Canada
Contact(416) 637-1200
Room rateStarts at CAD 449

Another beautiful boutique hotel that is centrally located in Downtown Toronto is Ace Hotel. This hotel chain has branches in some major states in the USA, Sydney, Japan, – and their very first Canada branch is in Toronto. 

They offer world-class dining and cocktails in their lobby cocktail bar and rooftop bar.

Ace Hotel is a walking distance to some cultural hotspots such as Queen West and Chinatown, which is approximately 10 minutes away on foot. 

What to Do in Chinatown Toronto

What to Do in Chinatown Toronto
Photo by Zain Ahmed on Unsplash

Whether you’re looking for shopping centres or museums, there are lots of things to do while in Chinatown. 

Here are some ideas on what you can do in Chinatown Toronto:

1. Shop at Chinatown Centre.

Shop at Chinatown Centre
Photo by Greg’s Southern Ontario Flickr

Chinatown Centre is one of the best shopping destinations in Toronto. It offers a variety of food items, as well as souvenirs that can be bought at very reasonable prices.

In fact, many visitors prefer to shop at this place when they want to buy something unique or want to get some good deals.

A trip here will definitely be fun because you will get to see different shops selling various products from China and different parts of the world.

You can also buy some authentic Chinese souvenirs such as chopsticks or tea sets if you are planning on taking them home with you as gifts for your loved ones back home.

2. Pay a visit to Kensington Market.

Pay a visit to Kensington Market
Photo by Jason Ng on Unsplash

Kensington Market is a historical district and is home to many shops, restaurants, and cafes. It was originally a residential area, but today it is primarily a commercial district.

There are also a lot of souvenir and gift shops in Kensington Market. Most tourists prefer to visit this place because of the wide selection of shops to choose from

3. Check out Dragon City Mall.

Check out Dragon City Mall
Photo by Chinatown BIA

The Dragon City Mall is centrally located at the heart of Chinatown. Here, you can spot many stores that sell Chinese crafts, clothing, food, and more.

It’s also a great place to comfortably enjoy some authentic Chinese fare!

Explore the Art Gallery of Ontario
Photo by Frank Wang on Unsplash

The Art Gallery of Ontario is located in Chinatown, Toronto. It is one of the largest art galleries in Canada and in North America.

The gallery has a variety of works from the past and present that are worth seeing.

The gallery has hosted many events over the years, including performances by artists Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell

5. Take photos against some really great street art.

Take photos against some really great street art
Photo by Chinatown BIA

Chinatown has some of the best street art around! You can find murals everywhere you look. Some are more traditional while others are quite modern, but they all have great stories behind them.

Getting Around Chinatown Toronto

Getting Around Chinatown Toronto
Photo by Marcin Skalij on Unsplash

You can get around Chinatown Toronto by walking or taking public transit.

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the area, it might be worth investing in rental cars or one of the many taxi cabs that are available for hire.

Taxis are also great for getting from point A to point B quickly and efficiently, but if you’ll only need one ride out at most (or none at all), then public transit may be more convenient.

Public transportation options and routes to Chinatown

TransportationRoutes & Numbers/Lines
BusDavenport (127) , Avenue Road (13), Bay (19), Yonge (97), Bathurst Night Bus (307), Bathurst (511)
StreetcarCarlton (506), Spadina (510)
SubwayYonge-University Station (Line 1)
TrainBarrie Line, Lakeshore East Line, Milton Line

Taken from Routes & schedules ( and GO Transit

Streetcar and Bus stations near Chinatown

Dundas St West at Spadina Ave2 min walk
Spadina Ave at Dundas St West South Side3 min walk
Bathurst St at Queen St West3 min walk
Elm St at University Ave East Side8 min walk

Information from

FAQs about Toronto Chinatown

We hope you’ve been able to get a lot of practical and exciting information from our guide to Toronto’s Chinatown.

Torontonians, share your experiences and tips in the comments below!