Canada’s oldest Chinatown is right here in Victoria…and it’s full of fascinating history.

posted on September 9, 2011 by Kara Johancsik

Chinatown has got to be one of the most alluring areas of downtown Victoria. The narrow brick alleys, colourful crooked heritage buildings, and wafting smells of authentic Chinese food will lure you in, but it’s the history of Chinatown that’ll keep you there. 

In 1858, when gold was discovered along the banks of the Fraser River, Chinese people flocked from China and set up settlements in the Pacific Northwest. The area where Johnson Street runs now was at one point a shantytown of tents and shacks housing Chinese gold prospectors. Gradually, the settlement grew towards where Fisgard and Comorant streets are today as Chinese workers flocked to British Columbia to work on the railways, meet with family, or set up shops. 

The result of this growing community was a unique municipality with distinctly Chinese food, art, and architecture. Behind the storefronts were gambling dens and and courtyards that were only accessible to Chinese people. They featured an elaborate network of escape routes in case the police conducted a raid. 

Today, Chinatown has been revitalized and preserved as a national historic site. You’ll love the unique shopping, tasty Chinese treats, and energetic vibe of its bustling streets. Don’t forget to come back at night—even though most of the shops close at the end of the day, Chinatown, always bright with Chinese lanterns and bright coloured lights, is the perfect place for a romantic post-dinner stroll. 

 Want to learn more about Chinatown? It’s easy. Go on a guided walking tour.  You can find out about tours here:

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