Walking Tour: Inside Chinatown

  • Start Chatham Sq
  • End Museum of Chinese in America
  • Length 0.9 miles; 1½ hours

Begin exploring at Chatham Square, home to the Kim Lau Memorial Arch, erected in 1962 to honor the Chinese Americans who have fallen in battle. There’s also a statue of Lin Ze Xu, a Qing-dynasty scholar whose anti-drug trafficking stance largely led to the First Opium War in 1839.

From Chatham Sq head northwest on Worth St until you hit Columbus Park, Chinatown's unofficial living room. In the 19th century, this was NYC's notorious Five Points slum, famous for its debauchery. To the east, slip into Mosco Street, known in the 19th century as Bandits Roost, a menacing hangout for Irish gangs. Turn left into Mott St, right into Pell St, then right into Doyers Street, a crooked lane dubbed 'Barbers Row' for its bounty of hair snippers. The lane's popularity with feuding tongs (secret societies) early last century earned it the nickname Bloody Angle. American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin practiced upstairs at number 10, while at number 12 stands the neighborhood's oldest Chinese restaurant, wokking since 1920.

Turn left into Bowery and head north. At the southwest corner of Pell St and Bowery stands Edward Mooney House, NYC's oldest town house, built in 1785 by butcher Edward Mooney. This Georgian-Federal–style veteran has housed a store, hotel, billiards parlor and Chinese social club; it's now a bank. Continue north on Bowery to Canal St, where you’ll see Manhattan Bridge and, just beyond that, the Mahayana Buddhist Temple. See the massive golden Buddha inside, then dive into Canal Street, Chinatown's hyperactive spine and NYC's one-time Jewish Diamond District. Make a right on Mott St for superlative steamed bao (Chinese steamed bun, usually served as dim sum) at Golden Steamer. Turn left into Grand St and left again at Centre St, delving into the Chinese-American experience at the Museum of Chinese in America.