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Toronto Chinatown - Impressions

Shopping in Chinatown Toronto
Shopping in Chinatown Toronto

Toronto Chinatown

During our stay in Toronto, we take our time to stroll through Chinatown. This is arguably one of the most famous ethnic neighborhoods in the metropolis on Lake Ontario. Chinatown is the Toronto neighborhood that best shows the culture of its residents. For me it symbolizes the diversity of this multicultural city. It is unmistakably Chinese with the works of art that stand in the center of the Chinese quarter on the corner of Spadina and Dundas. With the Chinese characters emblazoned on house facades and shop signs. The grocery stores, where fruit such as rambutan, lychees or dragon fruit appear exotic at their fruit stands. Some fruits and vegetables have names that don't tell us anything. When asked what that is, we get the Chinese name as an answer. After that we are as smart as before. There is a lot to discover in Toronto's Chinatown. We invite you for a walk through the Chinese district of Toronto.

Chinese shops
Chinese shops

Chinatown Toronto - center at the intersection of Spadina and Dundas

We start our walk at the intersection of Spadina and Dundas. There is a stop for the street cars. A sign on the facade of the Hsin Kuang Center announces the opening of the Golden Diamond restaurant. In addition, it says that all day Dim Sum is offered. This is the delicious Chinese finger food. This can be brought to the table in bites by the waiter. Then you choose the dishes that suit you the most. There is no fixed price. Instead, you pay for the amount of snacks you have eaten. There is also tea. Foo Hung recommends drinking this too. Dim sum is very oily. The tea ensures that the food is well tolerated.

Dim Sum at the Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant
Dim Sum at the Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant

Shopping in Chinatown Toronto - not that easy

Ever the food in Chinatown. It is not that easy to find your way around. Some grocery stores adapt and present their goods in English. Others don't. Or they can't because there is no English name for their products. So we stand in front of some shop windows or shop shelves with a questioning look. If we are looking for help from the employees of the shops, the questioning look is often simply returned. Either because they don't understand what we're asking. Or because there are no English names for the dishes. English is not the main language in this part of the city. We are therefore looking for stores where the goods are also explained in English.


There is something exciting to discover. Pink rice cakes, yeast snails, like the ones we have around the corner at the bakery. Dumplings filled with pork, green beans or black beans. They are rolled in sesame seeds. Or spring rolls filled with vegetables. At a bakery we discover lotus pastry, pastries made from sesame seeds. This is baked in the shape of a flower and appears almost lifelike in its colors. In the shop display, it decorates a structure for wedding cakes.

Pork dumplings and green bean dumplings
Pork dumplings and green bean dumplings

Exotic dishes in the Chinese Quarter

In other stores we see mangoes, sweet cherries, pineapples, papayas, bubble tea or sugar cane juice. The signs on the shops advertise the harvest from the Orient. They recommend tropical fruits or herbs from China. Or the nearest pasta restaurant. Most of the time, however, we cannot read them because they only announce in Chinese characters what is sold behind the facade. It is an exotic and fascinating world that we are immersed in here.

Sesame balls with black beans in Chinatown
Sesame balls with black beans in Chinatown

Toronto's Chinatown is getting smaller

Toronto's Chinatown is not as big as it once was. By the construction of the New City Hall and the facility of Nathan Phillips Square, the Chinese were pushed west from their once larger neighborhood. Where Chinese restaurants, laundries and shops crowded together, the city's new town hall soars into the sky today. The Chinese quarter around the corner of Dundas and Spadina only developed after the 1950s. At that time, the wealthy shopkeepers moved their shops into what is now called Old Chinatown, actually a misnomer.

Shopping in the Chinatown Toronto market
Shopping in the Chinatown Toronto market

In addition to South Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese, immigrants are now coming from China

The population of Chinatown has changed in recent years. Initially, it was immigrants from southern China and Hong Kong who moved to Toronto. Since the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997, immigrants from mainland China and impoverished Vietnamese Chinese have mainly come here. They settle in Old Chinatown. The wealthy Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, on the other hand, do not live here. They prefer the residential areas of Markham and Richmond Hill.

Exotic fruits at a fruit stall in Chinatown, Toronto
Exotic fruits at a fruit stall in Chinatown, Toronto

Discover the smells and scents of Chinatown in Toronto

Our tour of Toronto's Chinatown takes us into one strange world with smells and scentsthat arouse curiosity and about which we want to learn more. We discover dishes that we do not know but like to taste. We meet people whose language we don't understand. We look as exotic to them as they do to us. We are faced with a culture that we would like to get to know better. A reason to take a closer look at the way of life of these people in Toronto? What do you all mean? I think so, and maybe that's a topic for one of our next visits to the city on Lake Ontario.

Fruit stall in a supermarket in Chinatown, Toronto
Fruit stall in a supermarket in Chinatown, Toronto

Here you will find more About Toronto's Chinatown.

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Source: own research on site with the kind support of Tourism Ontario. Our opinion remains our own.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline

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