Manhattan’s Chinatown is one of the largest enclaves of Chinese immigrants in the western hemisphere. In the 1980s it has even surpassed San Francisco’s famous Chinatown, and it is still growing. Currently Chinatown reaches from Broadway in the west to the Lower East Side in the east, and from Broome Street in the north to Worth Street in the south. Little Italy, once a real neighborhood, is basically surrounded by Chinatown.
Chinatown’s population is very divers, with Cantonese speaking immigrants from Hong Kong being the largest and oldest community. The portion east of the Bowery just fully developed in the 1980s, when large numbers of Fozhou people from the Fujian province of China migrated to New York. Since the Fozhou people have a different cultural background and don’t speak Cantonese, they were unable to integrate well into the existing Chinatown. So they established their own Fozhou community primarily on East Broadway and Eldridge Street. Today, the epicenter of the massive Fozhou influx, however, has shifted to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
The most bustling area is around Canal Street with tons of small shops trying to sell all kind of cheap and fake things to the tourist. Never be satisfied with the price they offer first! Chinatown gets more authentic if you head into the side streets and move away from Canal Street, for example on Grand Street or on East Broadway. There you can get the smell of fresh fish, see whole roasted pigs hanging in butcher-shop windows or buy some traditional Chinese herbal medicines. If you want to eat out, there are of course some great Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants.
On East Broadway, near Manhattan Bridge, you can catch one of the best deals by boarding the so-called “Chinatown Buses”, the cheapest way to get from New York to the Chinatowns of Boston, Philadelphia or Washington D.C.