On a gorgeous day in September we visited Canada’s oldest Chinatown in Victoria, British Columbia. Only the Chinatown in San Francisco is older. The grand entrance way, Gate of Harmonious Interest, over the street is spectacular to see.
It is a maze of alleyways and courtyards containing restaurants, theatres, stores, gambling dens, coffee shops, cafes, studios and workshops which attracts tourists and locals at any time of the year.
It was the mid 19th century when Victoria’s Chinatown started with the arrival of miners from California. When gold was discovered in the Fraser Valley about 1/3 of all immigrants were Chinese and within a year immigration had started directly from China. By about 1911 it covered 6 city blocks in downtown Victoria. The area has had its ups and downs and in 1995 was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Fan Tan Alley is named after a gambling game, and is just as the name says, a narrow alley way between two buildings which in places is hardly wide enough for two people to walk down.
There was a huge variety of signs from store signs to street signs, in both Chinese and English.
There was also Theatre Alley and Dragon Alley to investigate. Both had numerous little businesses, cafes,courtyards and so much more to see.
This was our second visit to Chinatown, the first was in July 2008 and this one in September 2016. We loved browsing the stores with all sorts of things to buy from veggies to souvenirs.
The sights, sounds, and atmosphere truly made Chinatown an amazing place to visit. I hope that you have the opportunity to explore the area if you are in Victoria, British Columbia. We will be definitely be going back on our next visit to BC.