Amsterdam Chinatown is just a few streets away from the famous De Wallen red light district. The main street of Amsterdam Chinatown is Zeedijk and over the years, it has grown into the neighboring Nieuwmarkt area. Despite being a relatively new Chinatown that evolved around the 1980s, Amsterdam Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the Netherlands and still growing.
You know you have arrived in Amsterdam Chinatown when you see street names in both Dutch and Chinese characters. Stormsteeg Centrum is also shown as 顺风里 in Chinese characters.
Shops, restaurants and a monastery
Perhaps more obvious signs are Chinese restaurants and shops offering different types of Chinese pastries or the roast duck shops where the roasted ducks are hung at the window for all to see. Although it is a Chinatown, you can also find other Asian cuisines especially Indonesian cuisine because of its past colonial relationship.
There are also Chinese supermarkets offering traditional Chinese food stuffs and spices, travel companies, and shops specializing in religious items such as deity sculptures and joss sticks.
Amsterdam Chinatown is also home to He Hua Temple, 荷花寺, the largest Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastery in Europe. This monastery is a tourist attraction and offers visitors a free tour at schedule times. Apart from tourists, the Chinese and Dutch devotees either attend courses or meditate in the temple.
Most Chinatowns have an open space for collective celebrations. In Amsterdam Chinatown, this space is at the Nieuwmarkt square with its iconic De Waag, which used to be part of a medieval city wall structure.
During festive celebrations, Nieuwmarkt square attracts many visitors who turnout to watch various performances especially the lion dance and dragon dance. During the Chinese New Year, fire crackers are used and have become an indispensable part and a highlight of the celebrations.
Most of the Chinese businesses are housed in traditional Dutch style buildings. However, the shops have incorporated oriental elements into the shop design. To see a totally Chinese architecture, visit the He Hua Temple. There, you see a traditional Chinese architectural styles set amidst traditional Dutch buildings.
As a very new Chinatown, it is impressive that Amsterdam Chinatown is home to the largest Chinese Buddhist monastery in Europe and has become a tourist attraction in its own right. All these achieved in about 30 years!