Chinatown

Chinese immigrants set up shop in this central D.C. neighborhood in the 1930s, and it’s been a feast for the senses ever since.

Experience a kaleidoscope of colors and cuisines in Chinatown, the epicenter of Asian culture in Downtown Washington D.C. Travel from Beijing to Shanghai via a couple of D.C.’s city blocks, taking in the rainbow of lanterns, latticework, and traditional Chinese signage. If the way to your heart is through your stomach, you’ll probably fall in love in Chinatown. Go on a taste-bud tingling tour of Chinatown’s teahouses, restaurants, cafés, and stores or experience the district’s showcase of traditional arts.

First, a little history: start your trip to Chinatown with a visit to the Friendship Arch. This brightly colored archway marks the entrance to the enclave with traditional architectural flourishes and ornate designs. While only 20 or so buildings remain from the original 1930s neighborhood, each resolutely hangs on to its historic character in contrast with adjoining modern developments. Chinatown is a jewel in the daytime, but it really sparkles at night. Let colored lanterns, bright lights, and Chinese symbols lead the way as you explore the district.

We hope you’re hungry: Chinatown is best entered on an empty belly. Follow your nose to teahouses serving up fresh brews and steamed wontons. Get a serve of a sizzling Szechuan dish or try home-style Hainan cuisine. Other Asian gastronomies are also represented in this district, including Japanese and Korean. Peek into the local grocers and pick up crafts, herbs, and spices.

That’s just scratching the surface. Join the locals for a sermon held in Cantonese, Mandarin, or English at the Chinese Community Church or check out the Chinese New Year Parade between late January and mid February. Live music, dragon dances, and martial arts demonstrations make up just a fraction of this colorful celebration. To the south of the neighborhood, the Verizon Center hosts a non-stop program of sports matches and concerts.

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