Chinatown: Must Not Forget While In Boston!

If there is one thing you’d better not miss on your visit to Boston, Massachusetts, it’s Chinatown! This is probably the closest thing you will ever see to the real China without ever having to leave the United States!
You may be wondering – like most people tend to do – how Boston’s Chinatown came to be. Well, back in the 1880’s the very first Chinese immigrants arrived in Boston. They began to pitch their tents in what is modernly known as “Ping On Alley.” Part of the neighborhood actually occupies a space that was reclaimed by filling in a tidal flat and the area was originally settled by European settlers. Slowly new groups moved in and then moved out before the Chinese immigrants decided to make what is now Chinatown their permanent residence.

The streets of Chinatown Boston
The streets in Chinatown Boston show off the unique culture and history of the area.

In modern times, this neighborhood is a unique center of Asian-American life. In fact, Chinatown is the only historically Chinese place in all of New England. You enter by what is known to the locals as the Paifang, or traditional Chinatown Gate, sporting a traditional imperial guardian faux lion on either side. As of 2000, Chinatown is now also an official red light district, which you would think would draw tourists away but hasn’t deterred the tourist trade a bit. Find out about all of the fantastic reasons that you, as a tourist, should not miss this once in a lifetime opportunity while in Boston!

The Paifang marking the entrance of Chinatown in Boston
The Paifang in Boston’s Chinatown marks the entrance to the Chinese area of the city.


The Hayden Building, located on Washington Street, was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson (a prominent American Architect who lived in the mid to late 1800’s). Constructed in 1875, the Hayden Building is the last remaining commercial retail building built by Richardson in Boston. This must see building was finally added to the National Historic Register in 1980.


The Chinese culture is one of the oldest in history and so very different from our American one! You can find delicious restaurants featuring traditional Chinese dishes, complete with chopsticks to eat it with. Chinese art, dress, and even language is seen everywhere. Murals are painted on some of the walls and promenades in the city, giving you a free and unique look into modern-day Chinese art. You are immediately immersed the moment you walk through the Paifang. It should be noted that although the majority of the population is Chinese, many other Asian cultures have made their mark on Chinatown, including the Vietnamese and Japanese. This is evident in the many different types of Asian restaurants one might find while walking down any street in Chinatown.

Other Place To See

The Chinatown Park, opened in the 1970’s, incorporates Chinese culture into its design. The gate surrounding the park is a bold red with interlinked lines crossing one another diagonal. Many who live in Chinatown enjoy going to this nice little park to relax, have a drink, read the paper, or play chess.

Chung Wah Hong Market, on Beach Street, is a local produce and goods market that would be a really worthwhile place to visit. Grab yourself some locally grown produce and take a literal bite out of this unique culture!

No matter what exact places you go to see, or whether you stop anywhere, just taking a simple stroll through the streets of Chinatown is well worth the effort. Never has it been easier to immerse yourself in a foreign culture or meet friendly people who themselves could tell you more about what you are seeing, hearing, tasting or smelling. Chinatown is certainly at the top of our list of things you must not forget to see while in Boston!

Author Bio: Lisa is a writer for which recently featured an article on The Most Dangerous Cities in the US. Have any questions or comments for Lisa? Connect with her @TownBubble on Twitter!

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