Victoria’s Chinatown is located 550m northwest of the downtown core and is the oldest Chinatown in Canada. The area has had a major facelift in recent years while still maintaining its old town charm and rich history dating back 150 years. It really is a must see while visiting Victoria.
At its peak Chinatown stretched over 6 city blocks and was home to more than 3,000 people. Today, much of the history is well preserved and has been revitalized with bold colors, unique architecture, hidden alleys and numerous shops.
The main hub is the 500 block of Fisgard Street which is lined with coffee shops, tea houses, Chinese grocers, and restaurants – perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll.
Early Chinese immigrants arrived from San Francisco in 1858, with the influx of gold seekers from California. Many traveled onwards to the Fraser River in hopes of riches, but those who stayed built Canada’s first Chinatown. Starting out as crude wooden huts, Victoria’s Chinatown soon grew to a thriving neighborhood and a place for returning gold miners to spend their hard earned money.
Exploring Chinatown in Victoria is easy to fit into a morning or afternoon. Check out the free self-guided walking map below for a bit of history as you wander through the neighborhood!
Gate of Harmonious Interest
The Gate of Harmonious Interest at the entrance of Fisgard Street was completed in 1981 to commemorate Chinatown’s revitalization.
Fan Tan Alley
Looking down Fan Tan Alley at the boutique shops in the narrowest street in Canada.
Don Mee Seafood Restaurant
A Chinatown staple for more that 80 years Don Mee serves up some of the best Dim Sim in Victoria. Don Mee Menu
One of the many shops along Fisgard Street stocked with imported goods.
Dragon Alley connecting Fisgard and Herald Street.
Chinese Public School
The Chinese Public School on Fisgard Street first opened it doors in 1899. Photo of the 9th graduating class found here (City of Victoria Archives, M07972)
Habit Coffee on Pandora Avenue – one of the many coffee shops in Chinatown.
Check out this FREE self-guided walking map
- In the late 1800’s one of Canada’s main exports was opium. Along with having multiple parlors for consumption, Victoria’s Chinatown was also packed with opium factories until it was outlawed in 1908.
- Fan Tan Alley is named after a gamblers game called “fan tan” and at its peak there were at least eight hidden clubs in Alley. At the time gambling was illegal so a lookout was placed at either end of the alley to watch for cops. There is still a lookout’s peephole in the brick wall close to Fisgard Street.
- Parts of Victoria’s Chinatown were featured in the film “Bird on a Wire” were Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn are on a motorcycle and cased through the streets. Bird on a Wire Motorcycle Chase
- The street signs in Victoria’s Chinatown are bilingual but are not exact translations. The Government Street sign translates to “wealthy Canadian families”.
- Market Square was built on top of a stream that once separated north downtown from south. The rent north of the stream was cheaper in the late 1800’s and is where many of the first Chinese immigrants settled.