There are only five China Towns England. One of them is in Newcastle upon Tyne. You can find the other four British China Towns in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
Up until a few days ago, I had no idea Newcastle has a China Town. When I found out about it I became curious and decided to go there and see what it’s like. I got quite a surprise.
It’s easy to find the Geordie version of China Town. It’s only a 5-minute walk from Eldon Square Shopping Centre. [MAP]
If you get the bus to Newcastle, Eldon Square is likely to be the place where you get off.
Even if you are travelling by car or arrive in the city via a train, Eldon Square is a place you may want to take some time to explore. Especially if you are a shopaholic. When it first opened in 1976, Eldon Square was the biggest shopping centre in the UK.
Newcastle’s China Town is officially a part of Grainger Town, which is deemed the historic heart of the city. Like the China Towns in many other cities, the official entrance is marked by a huge Chinese arch.
The Chinese arch stands on St. Andrew’s Street. It’s very close to St James’ Park Football Stadium.
If you walk to China Town from Newcastle’s Eldon Square, the first time you see the arch you will be viewing it from the other side with the football stadium in the background.
However, no matter what side of the Arch you come in from you may be quite surprised how small the Newcastle China Town is.
I’ve been to China Towns in many European cities and the one in Newcastle is the smallest I’ve ever encountered. It’s so small it would be better to call it China Street because that’s all it is—one short street filled with Chinese restaurants and shops. It’s called Stowell Street.
A Geordie China Town History Lesson
Newcastle’s China Town doesn’t have a particularly long and interesting history. It’s not even the first area of the city that was home to Chinese businesses.
The first Chinese Restaurant in Newcastle opened up a couple of miles (3.2 km) away on Scotswood Road. That was in 1949. By 1962, the city had another 14 Chinese restaurants. None of those were in Stowell street either.
The first Chinese business arrived in Stowell Street over a decade later, in 1975, when the Wing Hong Chinese supermarket relocated there from another part of the city. It’s still there to this day. You can find it at the far end of Stowell Street.
After the Wing Hong supermarket made the move to Stowell Street, other Chinese businesses started coming to the street as well.
Then, in 1988, the council gave the businesses permission to display their signs in Chinese as well as English.
If you decide to visit Newcastle’s China Town, take a look at the plaques on the wall that bear the street name. They bear a Chinese version as well.
The Chinese Arch is a more recent addition to the Newcastle China Town. It was built in 2004 by a group of craftsmen from Shanghai and has two guardian lions in front of it that are carved from stone.
Stowell Street and Newcastle China Town: What to Expect
China Town in Newcastle is Stowell Street. If you don’t stop to look in any windows, you should be able to walk from one end to the other in less than two minutes. If you are a fast walker, you may be able to do it in a minute.
I went to Newcastle especially to visit the Chinese section and found it a somewhat disappointing experience. I walked around hoping there would be more. When I couldn’t find anything I stopped a passing couple and asked them if they lived in the area. They said that they did so I asked if China Town was only one street. They said that it is.
So the present China Town is not really a zone, it’s just a street. If you know that before you go it may save you from feeling incredibly underwhelmed.
The truth is, if you are going to Newcastle anyway it’s worth visiting China Town. However, I wouldn’t recommend going there specially to see it. Add it to your list of things to see and do in Newcastle. Maybe grab a Chinese meal while you are there and then go and see something else.
In my opinion, it would be more fitting if the arch was at end of Stowell Street. Although some of the neighbouring streets apparently used to be home to Chinese businesses, these days, it no longer appears to be the case.
If you enter China Town via the arch, and plenty of visitors probably do, the first thing you see is Tyneside Irish Centre on your left-hand side. The centre is home to the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society. Seriously! That’s as far away from being Chinese as you can get.
However, if you walk to the China Town Express and then turn right you will be on Stowell Street. Although it’s a pretty short street it offers plenty of choices if you want to eat some Chinese food. There are a few Chinese shops as well, but the street is more geared towards eating than shopping.
When you are walking down the street notice the Chinese lanterns hanging from wall brackets at either side of the street. I’ve been told they are illuminated at night.
I visited the street during the day, so I didn’t get to see them lit up. That’s a pity because I’m sure the lanterns will look quite pretty. In fact, the street look better by night than it does by day. You may want to bear that in mind if you are planning a trip to Newcastle and want to see its China Town while you are there.
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