Walking Tour of Chinatown Calgary

By Ron Lee

Standing on the crest of the hill of Rotary Park looking south one surveys the Calgary downtown core. In the foreground is the Centre Street Lion’s Bridge that crosses the Bow River and at the base of the bridge the two blocks on the East side and the one block on the West side constitute Calgary’s Chinatown that lies between Riverfront avenue and fourth avenue south , and between 1st street South East and 2nd Street South West.  Along centre street is where the four quadrants North, South, East and West Calgary intersect within a three block radius known as Calgary’s Chinatown.

A walking tour of Calgary’s downtown Chinatown can be completed within an hour at a leisurely stroll. There is parking along Riverfront Avenue, the Harry Hayes building, the James Short Parkade and two Imparks along Centre Street.

One can begin a walking tour by parking in the James Short Parkade that is accessible from 4th Avenue Southwest. On the corner of Centre Street and Fourth Avenue from the James Short Parkade, cross Fourth Avenue at the traffic lights and walk due north along Centre Street and one has now entered Chinatown.  Continue north along centre until you come to the corner on third avenue Southwest. Behind you is the Thai Tai Bubble Tea Shop.

At this point one is in the centre of Chinatown where the four quadrants of the city intersect.  Cross third avenue at the traffic lights and immediately turn left and walk west on third avenue past the Five Harvest High Rise, and an Impark and upon arriving at 1st street southwest, turn right and walk east past the Wai Kai Manor to second street southwest. On the left is the Chinese Cultural Centre. One can quickly cross the street and enter the Cultural Center to view the blue, yellow and green brocaded ceiling of the Heavenly Temple that is a replica of the Heavenly Temple in the Forbidden City of Beijing but on a smaller scale.

If you have time, visit the artifact Chinese museum in the basement that has replicas of artifacts from the Terra Cotta warriors and a history of Calgary’s early Chinese communities.  Use the east entrance to exit the Cultural Centre and walk east along second street  southwest until second avenue southeast, turn right and walk east along second avenue east until one meets Centre street and find the base of the Centre Street Lion’s Bridge and the Chinese Senior’s Centre on one’s left.

Turn right and walk south along centre street and in the distance is the Bow Tower, The Hyatt Regency and the Calgary Tower.  On the other side of Centre street is the red brick building built in 1905 called the Canton Block, a two story building with a long history of restaurants, herbal shops,  Chinese associations, bachelor apartments and where Dr. Sun Yat Sen gave a lecture to raise funds for the revolution.  By the time you arrive at Centre Street and 3rd Ave. Southwest you have completed walking your first block of Chinatown.  

Walk south and cross 3rd avenue Southwest and then immediately turn left at the traffic lights and cross centre street and walk west towards 1st street southeast, past the HSBC bank. On the other side of 1st street southeast is the Federal Government’s Harry Hays building.

Turn right on first street southeast and walk due south until you meet 4th avenue southwest, turn right and walk south along 4th avenue past the Regency Palace Restaurant until one returns to Centre street . On the corner of Center Street and Fourth Avenue is the Dragon City Mall, a series of Chinese boutiques that includes clothes, jewellery, DVD’s, travel, eyeglasses and the Regency restaurant on the second floor.  Turn right and walk north along Center Street past the Dragon City Mall, the Post office, the Y2K, and the herbal store and cross third avenue southeast and one has now complete walking the second block of Chinatown.

On the corner of 3rd Avenue Southeast and Centre Street, turn right, and walk due east along 3rd avenue southeast past the Silver Dragon restaurant, the Kuomintang Chinese National League, The Chinese Masonic Hall, The Wah Ying Masson Senior’s Home and the South Chinese Shopping Mall.  At the end of the block on the other side of first street southeast is the Federal Government’s Harry Hays building.

On first street southeast turn left and walk  north past the Vietnamese submarine shop and the Fukienese community centre that leads to second avenue southeast, turn left onto second avenue. Along this avenue are at least seven different restaurants. Walking west one arrives at the corner of 2nd avenue west and Centre Street on which is the beginning of the Canton Block that extends the length of the block to 3rd avenue southeast. One is at the base of the Centre Street Bridge on the left and one has completed the third and final block of Chinatown.  

It is now time to find our final destination Sien Lok Park a recreational park along Calgary’s Bow River pathways created by the Sien Lok society as a living legacy to commemorate the contributions made by the first Chinese pioneers and the hardships they overcame through their hard work and resiliency.

Cross Centre Street at the base of the centre street bridge and immediately turn right and cross second avenue southwest and one is now on the other corner of the center street bridge. Proceed north through the Chinese Moon Gate and follow the path past the Chinese Senior’s Centre beside the bridge to Riverfront Avenue. Cross Riverfront Avenue and walk west.  

From the center street bridge between Riverfront Avenue and the Bow River until second street southwest is the green space known as Sien Lok Park. Enter Sien Lok Park where the two white lions guard the entrance and admire the 15 ton granite stone that was brought from Hoiping China and carved into a monument that pictorially describes the Early Chinese Gold miners of the 1850’s and the railway workers of the 1860’s that were the first wave of Chinese immigration to Canada. Sit on the green metal benches that encircle the Golden Mountain and rest your feet and contemplate in the warm sun your journey through Calgary’s Chinatown.