by Eileen Schuelbe
In 1878, Sam Ching opened a hand laundry business at 9 Adelaide St. West in Toronto and ever since, he is quoted as one of the first Chinese who settled down in this city. Many of his compatriots followed him, building up this fascinating and exotic place in the heart of Toronto.
First thing you will notice coming to Toronto’s Chinatown is the huge advertising in Chinese letters of the many stores, restaurants and little shops, which will give you a good first impression what to expect here. Those multifaceted shops and restaurants are pressed against each other, each of them trying to catch the attention of pass-byers; and it works. You can’t just walk by, not stopping by at one of those little grocery stores, which show off their goods, fruits and dried fishes in the middle of the sidewalk. You just have to take a look, wondering if this is the real Chinese food and how to possibly eat it. And indeed, Toronto’s Chinatown is famous for their fantastic restaurants. Ever been asked in a Chinese restaurant if you want to eat American-Chinese or Chinese-Chinese? Here in Chinatown you can be sure, what is served, is an authentic Chinese dish.
If you’re worried to get lost in this vibrant part of town, consider taking a guided tour, which is a great way to also learn something about the history of this district.
Toronto’s Chinatown as we know it today is located between Toronto Downtown on the East and Little Italy on the West, with the main knob at the intersection of huge Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue. In earlier times, between late 19th and early 20th century, Chinatown was situated in Bay and Elizabeth Street, but had to relocate after the city decided to build the new City Hall in this area. You can still find a few, scattered Chinese shops around Bay and Dundas St, but most of Chinatown moved westwards at the beginning of the 1960, when construction work for the City Hall started. While in former times most newcomers settled down in Chinatown, today due to better job opportunies, many young Chinese move to other parts of the city, which leads to a higher diversity of people moving to Chinatown, e.g. Vietnamese and Latin Americans, giving it an even more extraordinary and absorbing appearance.
There are also many activities going on over there you shouldn’t miss. Probably the biggest one is the Chinatown Festival, held every year in summer, attracting over 100, 000 people. It’s a buzzing and lively festival to celebrate the diversity of Asian culture, which lasts a whole weekend. There are shows, music and the admission free. If you can’t make it to Toronto in summer, don’t worry, there’s still Chinese New Year taking place in January or February, depending on the Chinese calendar. Just be sure to wear some red for good luck the next year, and enjoy the free parade, which is open for visitors.
If you’re looking for Asian malls, Chinatown offers you two: Dragon City or Chinatown Centre.