Chinatown Sydney's humble beginnings as a fruit market has grown and developed through the years to a lively shopping and dining hub. Let us introduce you to some of the history and tradition of Chinatown as you tour through this iconic precinct.
Dixon Street Ceremonial Arch. At each end of the Dixon Street mall, these ceremonial archways were erected in 1980 on ground that originally housed sprawling timber and grain yards. Jostling horse and carts off loaded cargo from nearby Cockle Bay. The street is named after landowner John Dickson and it quickly became a bustling centre of commerce.
Kwong Wah Chong, 84 Dixon Street. Chinatown’s oldest remaining shopfront, established in 1912 after the Australian Government allowed Chinese immigrants to purchase property. Around this time, many Chinese merchants took the opportunity to purchase property, setting up private banks, mail houses, tearooms and food businesses. The area became renowned for its noodle cafes and gambling dens.
Sydney Entertainment Centre. Providores of fruit and vegetables occupied the area where the Sydney Entertainment Centre now stands. A stone’s throw away, the waters of Cockle Bay submerged the land until it was reclaimed from the harbour, making it possible for the vibrant Darling Harbour to be built.
Market City Complex. In the early 1820s this area accommodated ship chandlers, steam power mills, iron forgers, grain providores and market gardeners. The site later evolved into a produce market and by 1842, a weekend market operation was well established. Paddy’s Market as it is known today has grown into a world famous tourist venue housing over 200 stalls. Its façade still retains the original Fruit Market heritage of the 1920s.
Golden Tree, Sussex Street. Sussex Street is bustling commercial hub with many Asian traders. Fine jewellers are nestled amongst herbalists and shops of dried seafood. Further south you will find a special donation to Chinatown from the City of Sydney, a gift that is said to bring good fortune to the local community. It is the Golden Water Mouth Tree. Made from a dead yellow box gumtree, its symbolism of dripping water and golden treads represents “money and life”.
Leung Wai Kee Buddist Centre, 764 George Street. A visit to this store is an insight into the 3000 years of Buddhist culture. Be amazed at the immense range of joss sticks, incense, temple offerings, crafts, charms, souvenirs, books, CDs and feng shui fountains. Learn about the age old shrine rituals.
Campbell Street / Capitol Theatre. Campbell Street was the previous centre of Chinatown from the 1920s to 1980. It was a bustling street of cafes and BBQ meat shops some of which still exist today. If you look carefully at the building facades you will see hints of the old Chinatown. Eventually most traders outgrew the street but the magnificent Capitol Theatre remained in all its Florentine glory and 3000 seating capacity. From 1980, Dixon Street strengthened its foothold as the focus for trading in Chinatown.
Today Chinatown is one of the most lively and active day and night areas of Sydney. As one of the highest concentrated areas for culturally diverse restaurants, hotels, bars and karaoke bars Chinatown follows the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as being the top three Sydney destinations visited by international tourists.
CHINATOWN BY NIGHT
Haymarket Chinatown boasts a plethora of nightclubs & karaoke bars. So get amped up, grab a brew & feel like a rock star for the night
Capitol Theatre (pictured), 13 Campbell Street
Sydney Entertainment Centre, 35 Harbour Street
Mizuya Japanese Restaurant and Karaoke, 614 George Street
Dynasty, L1, 63-69 Dixon Street
Star Hotel, 21 Goulbourn Street
Mt Batten Hotel, 71 George Street,
Triple 8 Hotel, 25-29 Dixon Street
K Square, 64/730-742 George Street
HIDDEN ARCADES & SHOPPING CENTRES
Hidden arcades and malls abound in Chinatown where you can find a host of great shopping including crafts, jewellery, clothing and some excellent eateries:
City Mark Arcade, 683-689 George Street
East Ocean Shopping Arcade, 427 Sussex Street
Sussex Arcade, 631-635 George Street
Sussex Centre, 401 Sussex Street
Market City, corner Hay Street & Thomas Street
World Square Shopping Centre, 644 George Street
POPULAR YUM CHA SPOTS
You will be spoilt for choice when seeking out a restaurant for your yum cha or dining experience in Sydney’s Chinatown. Here are a few favourites.
East Ocean Restaurant, 421-429 Sussex Street
Emperor’s Garden Restaurant, 100 Hay Street
Hingara Chinese Restaurant, 82 Dixon Street
Marigold, Level 4&5, 683 George Street
Eight, L3 Market City, 9 Hay Street
Zilver, Level G, 477 Pitt Street
Chinatown boasts an interesting mix of shops and galleries which provide a uniquely cultural experience. Here are a few to add to your must visit list.
Chinese Ginseng & Herbs Co, 75-77 Ultimo Road
Leung Wai Kee Buddhist Crafts and Joss Sticks, 764 George Street
4A - Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, 181-187 Hay Street
Haymarket and Chinatown is transforming rapidly through its Asian investment, creative and high investment developments being built in and around Haymarket and a thriving local residential and business community that grows each year.
Sydney's Chinatown stands as one of the leading Chinatowns internationally through its recognition of the past, present and embrace for its flourishing future.