Los Angeles‘ cosmopolitan nature is made evident by the multi-ethnic neighborhoods that characterize it. In addition to Little Italy, El Pueblo, and Little Tokyo, Chinatown is another picturesque area of the city that you should consider visiting if you have additional days. It is not difficult to get to because it is located in Downtown Los Angeles. While you spend about 2 or 3 hours walking around Chinatown, you can admire the main attractions of the neighborhood, breathe in the atmosphere, and maybe taste some excellent Asian cuisine in one of the many typical restaurants that have become popular among Californians and the many visitors who explore this area. Below I will propose to you an itinerary for a walking tour of Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
- How to Get in Chinatown Los Angeles
- Visit Chinatown: Things to Do and Places to See
- Where to Stay
How to Get in Chinatown Los Angeles
Chinatown is located in Downtown Los Angeles. You can get to the neighborhood by car or public transportation. If you are driving and are using a GPS, you can enter Union Station as your destination. The real center of the neighborhood is actually Central Plaza, but our walking route departs from Union Station where you may find parking more easily.
If you use public transportation, Union Station is the station that is closest to Chinatown and many metro lines and buses pass through there. In the neighborhood, you’ll also find the Chinatown Metro Station, which is accessible via the Gold Line. This beautiful station, which opened in 2003, features works by artist Chusien Chang. The result of the architect’s design, which incorporates I Ching, Feng Shui, the contrast between Yin and Yang, and the elements of Ba Gua, is truly breathtaking.
Visit Chinatown: Things to Do and Places to See
The first Chinese community settled in the area around Union Station in the mid-19th century. Today, Chinatown is north of Union Station. More precisely, it is less than one square mile and it is bordered by Main Street to the east, Yale Street to the west, Cesar Chavez Ave to the south, and Bernard Street to the north.
From Union Station to the Chinese American Museum
at toAnyway, our itinerary starts from Union Station both because of the historical value of this place and because you can easily get there from various parts of Los Angeles and nearby areas. In addition, in a matter of 4 minutes, you can walk from the station to the Chinese American Museum.
The Chinese American Museum is located in a historic red brick building, the Garnier Building, at 425 North Los Angeles Street. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Admission costs $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for students and seniors over 60. The museum opened in 2003 and is located in the oldest building built by the Chinese community in Los Angeles. Inside it houses collections and exhibits that describe the history of the first Chinese immigrants in the city, the development of the Chinese community, and the community’s relationship with the state of California and other communities over the centuries.
From the Chinese American Museum to the Dragon Gate
The Dragon Gate, also known as the Chinatown Gateway Monument, is a gateway to modern Chinatown. Two dragons facing each other characterize this entrance on N Broadway designed by artist Ruppert Mok. It was inaugurated in 2001. Since 2004, the lights that illuminate the Dragon Gate have made the place a must-see attraction for anyone who wants to take a selfie during an evening in Chinatown.
From Dragon Gate to Thien Hau Temple
Continue along N Broadway to the junction with Alpine Street. Along the way, you may want to stop at the Far East Plaza at 727 N Broadway, one of the first ethnic shopping malls in America. You will also pass Cathay Bank at 777 Broadway Street, the first Chinese bank in Chinatown. Turn onto Alpine Street and continue walking until Yale Street, turn left and you will reach Thien Hau Temple. This Taoist temple is located at 756 Yale Street and it is a wonder to behold. The temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and was built by Vietnamese immigrants in the 1980s.
From Thien Hau Temple to West Plaza and Chung King Road
From the temple go north along Yale Street. At the intersection of Yale Street and College Street, you’ll find the Castelar Elementary School, famous not only because it’s the second oldest school in Los Angeles but also because of its large mural on College Street. The mural by artist Shi Yan Zhang is entitled “The Party at Lan-Ting” and depicts one of China’s most important calligraphers, Wang Xi Zhi of the Jin Dynasty, who lived between 321 and 376 AD.
After admiring the details of the mural, start walking on Hill Street until you reach West Plaza. Here you’ll find the West Gate to Chinatown and a fountain of wishes. This area, particularly Chung King Road, is renowned for its traditional restaurants and art galleries. If you love antique shops, don’t miss the chance to visit Fong’s at 943 Chung King Road and the F. See On Company at 507 Chung King Road.
From West Plaza to Metro Gold Line Station
Walk on Chung King Road towards Bernard Street, the northernmost street in Chinatown. From there, take Broadway and go to the East Gate. This gate provides access to Central Plaza and is perhaps the most famous gateway to Chinatown. Built by You Chung Hong, it is also known as the Gate of Maternal Virtues, which was built in honor of all mothers and filial love.
Past the East Gate, you will enter Central Plaza, the heart of Chinatown. Here you will find the statue of a key figure in Chinese history, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China and the first president of the Republic of China. You’ll also see a mural of a dragon painted by Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong and the handprints of Chinese movie star Chow Yun-fat.
Central Plaza is also the place where the main events of the Chinese community of Los Angeles are held. In January or February, Chinese New Year festivities take place here. Meanwhile, in autumn, the Moon Festival is celebrated and in the summer, the square is the centerpiece of a major outdoor film festival.
From the center of modern Chinatown, head to the Metro Gold Line Station. You should go see the replica of the Yong Bell in the South Plaza, a 2,000-year-old bronze bell that represents perpetual peace. This station, with its pagoda roof and harmonious architectural design, is the last stop on our journey through the main streets and squares of Chinatown in Los Angeles.
Where to Stay
If you want to spend the night in the area, you can read our recommendations for hotels in Downtown Los Angeles, while if you want to learn about the pros and cons of the various neighborhoods of the city you can read our in-depth guide on the subject by clicking on the link below.