Fan Tan Alley – Victoria, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

Fan Tan Alley

The narrowest street in Canada was once a spot for dastardly doings, now a historic piece of Chinatown. 


Fan Tan Alley holds the record for narrowest street in Canada and is a central piece to Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

Just 0.9m wide (about 4 feet) at the narrowest point, it is filled with boutiques and shops selling clothes, jewelry, music, shoes and other items to locals and tourists. But Fan Tan Alley wasn’t always the kind of place where you would want go browsing for trinkets.

With British Columbia’s gold rushes in the late 1850s many immigrants moved north, among them many Chinese men. In Victoria they created a community next to the downtown area.

The alley used to be a popular place for a variety of less-than-legal activities, with gambling and opium dens common in its early days. As the Chinese population was a huge portion of the town’s general population, the alley stayed a center for the Chinese community until the 1920s, when the population began to spread throughout the city and decline.

Fan Tan Alley now draws visitors for a variety of reasons, as it has been featured in films (such as 1990’s Bird on a Wire) and children’s books, is a national record holder, is a vibrant shopping area and is a part of Victoria’s popular Chinatown area.

Know Before You Go

Connects Fisgard St. and Pandora Ave. between Government St. and Store St.

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