Britain’s longest-established Chinese community made ‘Chinatown’ their home from home from the late 1850s on, when the city had strong trade links with east Asia (especially Shanghai and Hong Kong – from where we’d import silk, cotton and tea). It was Liverpool’s Blue Funnel Shipping Line’s employment of Chinese seamen that secured the bond, with many seaman living in shipping company houses on shore leave.
In time, some Chinese sailors decided to jump ship and settle in an area of the city close to the docks: around Cleveland Square, Pitt Street and Frederick Street. Soon after, in the 1890s, Chinese people began to set up their own shops, cafes and boarding houses to cater for the needs of this growing community.
Nowadays, the area is a buzzing nexus of streets lined with restaurants (Ma Bo, 16 Nelson Street, is considered the most authentic, old school, Chinese in the city) and specialist supermarkets. The entrance of Liverpool’s Chinatown is marked by a gorgeous Chinese arch, built to commemorate the twinning of the two cities – Shanghai and Liverpool.
The structure was imported piece by piece from Shanghai and reassembled by Chinese artisans. Look for its 200 dragons, intertwined in the stunning gold, red, green embossed work, and the Chinese Royal colour of yellow. The archway stands at 15m high, which makes it the largest Chinese Arch outside China.
Chinatown is within easy walking distance of the city centre. Liverpool Central on the Northern Line is the closest train station; the number 82 bus stops opposite the Chinese arch from the city centre.