You don’t need to head to China to see in the Year of the Monkey this February. Make for Chinatown in cities from London to Kuala Lumpur and we promise you’ll feast just like you would in a Beijing hutong and party as if you were in downtown Shanghai. Pace yourself. Celebrations can last for two weeks after the 8 February event, until the annual Lantern Festival.
Billed as the biggest Chinese New Year knees-up outside of Asia, London’s celebrations get going on 14 February. The party centres on Chinatown and the surrounding streets, with a parade along Shaftesbury Avenue culminating in lion and dragon dances in Trafalgar Square.
Key event: Trafalgar Square concert
The end of the annual Chinese New Year parade will see dance groups and musicians take to the stage at this iconic London landmark.
Key sight: Gerard Street
The main drag through Chinatown will be a riot of sound and colour throughout the day, making it a must-see for all visitors.
Key foodie spot: Wong Kei
There are countless Chinese restaurants in central London. But this multi-floored marvel on Wardour St remains a cult classic for its brusque service and wanton noodle soup.
Manhattan’s booming Chinatown might be one of the world’s most iconic. But over in Queens, Flushing is home to a massive east Asian population of its own. Koreans join Chinese for a lengthy Chinese New Year parade through the borough which is known for running well into the night.
Key event: Chinese New Year Temple Bazaar, Flushing Town Hall
If you're partied out after the parade, the arts centre at Flushing Town Hall hosts a traditional New Year bazaar (flushingtownhall.org) with crafts on sale and musicians and performers to keep you entertained.
Key sight: Main Street and 39th Avenue
Flushing’s brash and brilliant parade finishes up at this major intersection in the heart of Chinatown.
Key foodie spot: New World Mall Food Court
This basement food court, on the corner of Main and Roosevelt, serves up some of the best Asian food anywhere in the USA. The pork belly and pickled green buns from Xiao Yuan Huang are essential.
KL’s massive Chinese population doesn’t need asking twice to celebrate Chinese New Year. There are national holidays on 8-9 February, meaning the city will be out on the streets, especially in the Golden Triangle area near the Petronas Towers.
Key event: KLCC Chinese New Year events
The Malaysian capital’s obsession with shopping malls means there are plenty of events happening in these retail meccas. The huge KLCC hosts lion and dragon dances throughout the festivities.
Key sight: Petaling Street
This old school strip in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is the place to be come 8 February. It’ll be rammed, but the food stalls and shops will make it worth braving the crowds.
Key foodie spot: Jalan Alor
This lengthy street, in Bukit Bintang, is home to scores of first rate Chinese restaurants. Make sure you leave room for the sticky chicken wings from Wong Ah Wah.
Home to the oldest Chinatown in America, dating back to 1848, San Francisco has pioneered an approach to Chinese New Year which marries traditional celebrations with western glitz. Hence the development of the city’s huge annual parade.
Key event: Chinese New Year parade
100 different floats and attractions make their way around the edge of the city’s Chinatown on 20 February. Crowds can number more than three million, so be sure to buy seats in the bleachers on Kearny Street. It’s worth the $30 fee.
Key sight: Dragon Gate
San Francisco’s Chinatown will be hectic throughout the festivities, but if it’s your first time, be sure to head to the Dragon Gate on Bush Street. Surrounding streets will be decked out in lanterns and other decorations.
Key foodie spot: House of Nanking
You won’t want for good Chinese food in San Francisco. House of Nanking’s sesame chicken is sensational, but take your waiter’s advice too and see what surprises come from the kitchen.
Residents of Melbourne’s Chinatown know how to see in Chinese New Year, with an array events over the whole two weeks of the annual festival. Parties start on 6 February and wind up over a fortnight later on 21 February.
Key event: Dragon’s Awakening Ceremony
Head to Little Bourke Street to see a hugely impressive Chinese dragon set off on a parade throughout the city. The event starts at 10am and runs through until 10pm.
Key sight: Melbourne Zoo
It’s the Year of the Monkey, so Melbourne Zoo is offering special access to its squirrel monkey enclosure. They’ll even take a snap of you with one of the critters.
Key foodie spot: ShanDong MaMa
Found in an unprepossessing arcade, ShanDong MaMa is renowned for its spectacular dumplings. It’s all about the mackerel.
Outside of China, Bangkok’s buzzing Chinatown is one of the best spots in Asia to see in the Chinese New Year. As befitting a city with a reputation for partying, events can run well into the small hours.
Key event: Yaowarat Road concert
The Chinatown Gate on Yaowarat Road hosts an annual concert, with singers, acrobats, drummers and dragons all performing from midday on 8 February, the first official day of the holiday.
Key sight: Wat Arun
Although outside of Chinatown, Bangkok’s magnificent Wat Arun hosts dragon parades during Chinese New Year, its pathways strung with lanterns and musicians performing traditional songs.
Key foodie spot: Yaowarat Road food stands
Yaowarat’s street food scene is legendary and comes into its own at this time of year. The rules are simple: find the stand with the biggest line and start queueing.
Like Kuala Lumpur, the city state of Singapore has back-to-back public holidays on 8-9 February, meaning locals can welcome in Chinese New Year without work hanging over them.
Key event: 9th International Lion Dance competition
Singapore takes the tradition of lion dancing very seriously. Taking place on 23-24 January, 16 troupes will battle it out for the title. Tickets for both nights can be picked up for S$15.
Key sight: Chinatown
A record-breaking 2,268 lanterns will light up Singapore’s Chinatown during New Year. All are designed by students from the city’s University of Technology and Design and will line Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road.
Key foodie spot: Chinatown Food Street
There are 30 joints to choose from in this fancy new street food location. Fried oysters from Katong Keah Kee should be your number one choice.
But if you do happen to be in China...
Hong Kong’s diversity, coupled with its love for a good time, makes it one of the finest places in China to experience New Year. Make sure you’ve got plenty of energy, because this city goes full throttle for days during the annual break.
Key event: International Parade, Tsim Sha Tsui, 8 February
Snaking through the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, floats full of dancers, musicians and singers representing Hong Kong’s international community make this parade even better than those in San Francisco and London.
Key sight: Sha Tin Racecourse
This annual horse racing meet takes place on the third day of festivities and is the biggest such event in the Hong Kong calendar. Bring plenty of cash, you’re bound to want a flutter after the opening lion dance.
Key foodie spot: City Hall Maxim’s Palace
This huge dumpling restaurant, where you grab plates of steaming buns from trolleys pushed between tables, is a classic with locals and tourists. You’ll need to queue, but we promise it’s worth it.