Discovering multicultural magic in Chinatown in Antwerp
If you’re looking for a multicultural experience in this vibrant city, be sure to visit Chinatown – the only officially recognized Chinatown in Belgium. Located near the central train station, Chinatown invites you with vibrant colors and captivating smells. Let’s explore why Chinatown in Antwerp is worth a visit.
A Brief History of Chinatown Antwerp
The story of Chinatown Antwerp traces back to the second half of the 1970s when Chinese migrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China settled in Antwerp. They brought a taste of their homeland, establishing restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses to serve the local community and their fellow immigrants. Gradually, their neighborhood blossomed into a vibrant Chinatown. It’s worth noting that while the name “Chinatown” suggests a purely Chinese identity, this neighborhood also warmly embraces various other Asian communities, including Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, and Nepali.
Official recognition of Chinatown arrived in 2001 when the Antwerp government placed four marble lions at both ends of the main street, Van Wesenbekestraat, symbolizing protection and prosperity for this unique cultural hub.
In 2010, a majestic Chinese archway, or paifang, was erected at the southern entrance of the street, infusing an elegant and authentic touch to Chinatown. The archway was crafted in China and then meticulously assembled by skilled Chinese artisans in Antwerp.
What to see and do in Chinatown Antwerp
Chinatown Antwerp is a small but lively area that offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors. Here are some of the highlights that you should not miss:
1/ Savor the Asian flavors
Chinatown Antwerp is a paradise for food lovers, as it boasts a wide range of restaurants offering different types of Asian cuisine, such as Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, Thai, and Nepali. From tasty dim sum to savory sushi, spicy curry to mouthwatering pad thai, momo to much more – Chinatown has it all. Some of the popular restaurants include Fong Mei, Pho Viet, Ni Shifu and Kuala Lumpur, which exude enticing aromas of spices, sauces, and fried dishes.
2/ Shop exotic treasures
If you’re hunting for exotic ingredients, spices, snacks, or souvenirs, Chinatown’s Asian supermarkets and shops have you covered. The biggest and most famous one is Sun Wah, which sells products from China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. You can also find other smaller supermarkets, such as Kam Yuen and Seing Thai where you can browse through the shelves and bins filled with a variety of products that you may not find elsewhere.
3/ Discover tranquility at the Fo Guang Shan Temple
Nestled in Van Wesenbekestraat, behind a modest yellow façade, lies the Chinese-Buddhist Fo Guang Shan temple—a serene oasis founded in 1998 by the Parent Monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Managed by International Buddhist Progress Society Belgium (IBPS) members, this temple opens its doors to the public, offering regular services, meditation sessions, cultural events, and educational programs. Inside, you’ll encounter a breathtaking interior adorned with statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas, vibrant paintings, lanterns, and banners.
4/ Immerse in festive celebrations
Chinatown Antwerp truly comes alive during special occasions and festivities. The highlight is, without a doubt, the Chinese New Year celebration, typically falling between late January and early February. During this time, Chinatown is full of red lanterns and banners. It hosts a parade with lion dances, dragon dances, firecrackers, martial arts demonstrations, and cultural performances. Other Chinatown festivals include the Mid-Autumn Festival, which involves eating mooncakes and lanterns; the Dragon Boat Festival, which consists of racing dragon boats and eating zongzi; and the Buddha’s Birthday, which involves bathing Buddha statues and offering flowers.
Chinatown is an interesting stop for anyone keen on exploring the multifaceted character of Antwerp. It’s a place to immerse yourself in a different world and broaden your horizons.
Consider taking a multicultural tour of Antwerp
If you’re eager to delve deeper into the history and culture of Antwerp’s Chinese community, why not embark on a multicultural tour? Walking in Antwerp offers a fascinating 2-hour guided tour through the station district and Antwerp North, shedding light on the migration histories of various communities, including Moroccan, Jewish, Turkish, African, and Asian. The tour celebrates urban diversity and promises to be an enlightening experience.
You Can Book Your Private Tour
You can book a private tour of Antwerp’s most multicultural neighborhood anytime. The cost is 155 euros per group, accommodating up to 16 participants. Choose your preferred language (English, French, or German) and the starting time.
Join the Scheduled Dutch-Speaking Tour
If you are fluent in Dutch, mark your calendar for Saturday, October 7, 2023, at 2 p.m. On this particular day, you can join a scheduled tour of the multicultural neighborhood for just 15 euros per person. Book your spot now.