Chicago Chinatown Walking Tour

Understanding the world around us starts by doing our best to understand where we live. That’s why, wherever we live at the moment, we take it upon ourselves to experience our city and nearby towns. The beauty about living in the States, after all, is that you can drive pretty much everywhere.

One of our favorite cultural enclaves here in Chicago happens to be Chinatown. So when we learned that there was a dedicated neighborhood tour organized by the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, we were stoked. It was only $10 per person through

The tour starts at the Chinatown Square by the Zodiac Statues. Our tour guide Tim was a great storyteller and with every stop, he told us about the history of how this neighborhood came to be. This is one of the oldest cultural enclaves in Chicago, made up of hardworking people with incredible talent, business skills and beautiful traditions.

We were surprised to learn that the neighborhood wasn’t always located where it currently is (around South Wentworth and Cermak Ave). It used to be in the South Loop, but higher rent prices and constant conflict between the mainstream culture pushed them out. In 1912, they finally settled in what used to be an Italian neighborhood. They felt welcomed and they found a place for their businesses to thrive.

And they continue to grow today! Chicago’s Chinatown is currently the only Chinatown in the US that continues to grow, while similar neighborhoods are shrinking. While the neighborhood continues to be predominantly populated by residents from Southern China, you’ll find people for Northern China and other Asian countries.

Some of its Italian influence still lives today. Tim took us to St. Therese Christian Church on Alexander Street, in a section of the neighborhood denominated “Old Chinatown”. Established in 1904, it used to serve the Italian community and now there are 2 guarding lions in front, a symbol of Chinese Buddhism and a way to welcome the growing Asian population. This is the only Chinese Catholic church in the Midwest.

During our walk, we also stopped by the Chinese Christian Union Church, a very active institution in the community offering moral support, financial help and education to help others assimilate into their new culture. The Church bought the building that is now Pui Tak Center. Every year they serve over 3,000 individuals who live here, with all kinds of programs from computer courses to music to language courses.

Other important stops during our tour were the Nine Dragon Wall, the New Chinatown shopping and dining area, the residential area of Chinatown and Ping Tom Park, a beautiful park with amazing views of the city.

Here’s some footage to get you excited and encourage you to do the tour yourself. As a bonus, we feature the delicious dumplings made at Qing Xiang Yuan on Wentworth Avenue. We hope you enjoy and let’s continue to explore this city together.

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