Discover why Chinatown is one of the first places newcomers visit on Vancouver Island.
•Oldest Chinatown in Canada
•Fan Tan Alley
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Located on Fisgard Street on the edge of downtown Victoria, Chinatown is a bustling and vibrant community full of colour and life. Visitors can explore the many shops and restaurants and take in the sights and sounds of the culture. The traditional paifang arch is a popular landmark, and it’s easy to spend an afternoon wandering through the streets and taking in the sights and smells of Chinatown. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or authentic cuisine, Chinatown is sure to have something to offer.
Taking up only a couple of streets on the edge of downtown Victoria, it’s worth walking through and exploring the rich history of Chinatown. The narrow brick alleys are filled with colours that brighten any day. Within a 30-minute walk, you’ll be enriched by the 100-year history and surprised by the area’s dark past.
However, we recommend grabbing a coffee or tea and popping in and out of some colourful shops. Fisgard Street is the most vibrant place in Chinatown, and the home to the Gate of Harmonious Interest found at Canada’s Oldest Chinatown entrance. You do not want to miss other stops, including Canada’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Ally, or the oldest Chinese Temple in Canada, established by the Yen Wo Society in 1876.
A short walk down Fisgard Street in the opposite direction from the gate, you can find a brick building built in 1909 with traditional Chinese architecture. This building was a Chinese Public School where immigrants could learn the English Language, now serving as a cultural center teaching children about the Chinese Language and traditions.
Fan Tan Alley: Branching off Fisgard street, you will find Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street. “Fan Tan” is named after a game played in gambling dens above the alley. The lower storefronts housed opium dens, restaurants and shops. Opium was legal in Canada until 1908, but gambling was not. Trap doors to second floors and locked gates at each end of the alley helped slow down police during raids on the illegal gambling dens.
Market Square: Before 1900, a ravine and stream ran through Market Square, separating Johnson Street from Pandora Ave. As the first Chinese arrived in town in 1858, most newcomers settled north of the stream. More affordable and away from the center of town, this was the beginning of Victoria’s Chinatown.
Now the creek is filled in. And believe it or not, many of the buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s have become a big part of Downtown Victoria. The beautiful brick buildings have been combined with the inner block to build a beautiful square open area to sit, relax, listen to live music and have a beer in the sun.
Is this the largest Chinatown in Canada?
It was once but currently holds the title of oldest in Canada. The largest Chinatown is on the mainland and belongs to Vancouver.
When was Victoria Chinatown Made
The first Chinese migrants started arriving directly from Hong Kong to Victoria in 1859.
The Tam Kung Temple was built by Hakka people on Government Street in 1876
What should I do when in Chinatown?
Visit the shops, eat the food and walk down fan tan alley.
Is Chinatown in Victoria Safe?
Yes, on the edge of Victoria’s tourist and shopping district, it is common for tourists and locals to browse through authentic local stores.
This area is enriched in Canadian history. Unfortunately, like most colonialism, you were considered second-rate citizens if you were not Britsh, and Chinese migrants were no different.
In 1858 Chinese migrants arrived in British Columbia via ships from San Francisco to take part in the Gold Rush.
In 1860, the Sino-British Treaty’s first labourers allowed the first Chinese immigrants to arrive directly from Hong Kong.
By spring of 1860 Chinese population on Vancouver Iland reached 1,577, and the white population was 2,884. Less than one percent of the Chinese people were women.
Living in Victoria was historically rough for the Chinese. As time went on, the government stripped them of their working and voting rights—additional taxes and the stress of dealing with Anti-Chinese Associations.
If you are interested in the full timeline, you can visit it here
This street is bustling with locals and tourists with over 150 years of history, the struggle of Chinese immigrants coming to Canada and the Chinese Traditions that formed this area of Victoria. It’s worth a visit, and its location allows for easy access by water taxi or a stroll down the popular Government street accessing Victorias Inner harbour.
Great parking at 538 Fisgard St Parking lot. Or if you prefer A parkade try Centennial Square Parkade
More Victoria Experiences
More info about Chinatown:
Chinatown history walk PDF:
Online walking tour:
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