The Victoria Experience

The Complete Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

Chinatown

Time to explore: 2+ hours

 

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Victoria's Chinatown has the honour of being the second oldest in North America behind San Francisco and the oldest in Canada.

Many shops and restaurants can be found in this vibrant area. Several of the Chinatown shops are stacked with an amazing array of items from incense to pots to toys. There are a few Asian grocers where you can find fresh vegetables, freezers with take home dim sum, and many vinegar and sauces that would be tricky to find elsewhere. 

There is no shortage of Chinese restaurants where you can find dim sum, home made dumplings and soup and standard Chinese fare. You can also find a sushi restaurant, Indian and several coffee shops. 

Go down Fan Tan Alley and you will find shops selling shoes, jewellery locally made clothing and more. Fan Tan Alley was named after a gambling game that used to be popular in the area.

The area was established at the time of the Fraser River gold rush in 1858 due to increasing immigration. As the provincial capital, Victoria was the only place that prospectors could attain the necessary permits to seek gold on mainland British Columbia.

However, as noted here, it wasn't the only reason that the influx of Chinese immigrants was so high. Troubles back in China also contributed to the growth of Victoria's Chinese population. 

 

At its height in 1911, Chinatown was much larger than it is today, reportedly stretching across six city blocks and having a population equal to the non-Chinese residents in Victoria. 

A decline in Chinatown's fortunes between 1920 to 1970 has been attributed to increased discrimination against the Chinese. It was finally arrested in the 1980s when a revitalization programme was started by local organisations.