Washington, DC’s Chinatown Neighborhood

categories: USA Travel

Chinatown Neighborhood

Like many major metropolitan areas, Washington D.C. is a city of neighborhoods. Chinatown is one of the smallest of these historic neighborhoods, consisting of a handful of businesses along H and I Streets between 5th and 8th Streets, Northwest.

Oddly enough, the Chinatown area was originally populated by German, not Chinese, immigrants. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Chinatown neighborhood as we know it today began to form. Chinese immigrants began to settle in this area when they were displaced from Washington’s original Chinatown along Pennsylvania Avenue by the development of large government office complexes.

Unfortunately, like so many other unique Washington neighborhoods, Chinatown declined sharply after the 1968 riots. Ethnic Chinese residents, as well as many others, left for suburban areas, spurred further by the city’s rising crime and taxes.

Friendship Archway

One of the early efforts to rebrand and gentrify the neighborhood came in 1986 with the construction of the Friendship Archway, a traditional Chinese gate. The colorful, $1 million work of public art includes 7 roofs up to 60 feet high, 7000 tiles, and 272 painted dragons.

It wasn’t until the 1990s and 2000s though when real gentrification efforts took hold following a $200 million renovation that brought in stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Oddly enough, local laws dictate that new businesses in the Chinatown area must have signs in English and Chinese, to preserve local character. Ironically most of the new businesses are national chain restaurants and stores, meaning that Starbucks and Hooters hang their names in Chinese outside their stores.

Chinatown sign

What to Do:

International Spy Museum – the first and only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage – 800 F Street, NW Washington, DC

National Building Museum – America’s premier cultural institution dedicated to exploring and celebrating architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning – 401 F Street NW Washington, DC

Old Patent Office Building – This historic edifice is home to two Smithsonian Institution museums: the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Verizon Center – In addition to many exhibitions and entertainment events, the Center is also home to the NHL’s Capitals, NBA’s Wizards, and WNBA’s Mystics. – 601 F Street Northwest Washington, DC

Where to Eat

Most of the truly great restaurants in Chinatown are located along H Street Northwest, in the heart of the neighborhood. While there are many mainstream dining options such as Legal Seafoods and Hooters, the real draw of course are the Chinese restaurants.

Tony Cheng's Restaurant

My favorite restaurant is Tony Cheng Restaurant, located at 619 H Street Northwest. Cheng’s occupies a large space, allowing for a short wait at this popular eatery. In addition to a great dim sum menu, the offerings here are so comprehensive that almost everyone can find something great.

How to Get There

The easiest way to visit Chinatown is via metro, the stop is Gallery Place/Chinatown and is served by the RED,YELLOW and GREEN lines.

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Matthew Long

by Matthew Long

Matthew Long, Editor-in-Chief and creator of LandLopers.com , has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to do it all on a budget. Matt is a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger, as well as a contributor to many other travel sites. Matt’s new eBook Money Saving Travel Tips is an essential guide to traveling well and affordably. Contact Matt at Matt@LandLopers.com.

3 Responses to “Washington, DC’s Chinatown Neighborhood”

Anis Salvesen


I love the government’s efforts “to preserve local character.”
We don’t have a similar law here in San Francisco (that I know of).
Then again, our Chinatown is more traditional.

Also, it’s really interesting that the area used to be populated by Germans so (relatively) recently. It sounds like fodder for a trivia game.

David @ Malaysia Asia


One thing about Chinatowns all over the world, their main Arches are always impressive. Thanks for sharing this.




It’s always useful knowing where a Chinatown is in a foreign city because it almost always is a very interesting place to visit and most of all a place for good value delicious eats.

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