Discover the Adventure
Chinatown San Francisco

Oldest and Largest Chinatown in North America

Chinatown San Francisco lays claim to two venerable titles: that of Oldest Chinatown in North America, and Largest Chinese Community outside of China. Also, according to some, it's quite reminiscent of the city  of Hong Kong.

Chinatown today continues to attract Asian immigrants to its streets and alley ways.

As older immigrants become more assimilated into the American community and move out of Chinatown, there is always a stream of replacements coming along.

That's why, as a neighborhood, Chinatown is still vibrant and alive.

But, Chinatown is also one of San Francisco's most popular tourist attractions, known for its exotic charm and character; drawing people to its pagoda roofs, Asian temples, herbal shops and Chinese groceries; enchanting visitors with its alien sights, sounds, and smells.

Chinatown San Francisco
Brave New World with an Ancient History

Chinese Bazaar by Suzi RosenbergChinese Bazaar by Suzi Rosenberg

It's a busy, noisy, streaming place, and only partly because of tourists!

Walk through the dragon-topped pagoda-style gateway at Grant and Bush, and you'll be walking into another world.

Chinatown San Francisco shopping is a novel experience - a popular San Francisco attraction because of its uniqueness!

There are two main streets in Chinatown, and both are worth a visit, though for different reasons.

Grant Avenue is the main street for tourists.

It's chock full of kitschy shops, authentic Asian markets, and touristy mega-stores perfect for a good browse.

You'll find Asian imports of every description, plus kites, jewelry, antiques, books, fine art, swords - you name it, Chinatown probably has it!

The other Chinatown main street is Stockton. This is where you'll discover Chinatown, the Neighborhood - the one where the locals live and shop!

Stop in at the colorful produce markets and join the shouting over Chinese cabbage, winter radish, yard-long beans, and bok choy.

Be sure to check out the live markets... maybe buy a turtle, pick the clucker you want out of a crate full of chickens, or take home a frog or two.

Must-See Chinatown San Francisco Attractions

Chinese Market; Photo courtesy of George ZimChinese Market; Photo courtesy of George Zim
  • The Golden Dragon Fortune Cookie Factory, where they've been hand-folding fortune cookies since 1962;
  • Portsmouth Square, the heart of Chinatown where they might let you join in a game of elephant chess if you know how to play (and can speak Chinese);
  • The Chinese Historical Society Museum and Learning Center, housed in the old YWCA building (I lived in that very YWCA when I moved to San Francisco as a young woman in search of adventure!);
  • Old Saint Mary's Cathedral, originally built by Chinese laborers in 1854 using granite from China, has been in almost continuous use for over 150 years;
  • The Tien Hau Temple, said to be the oldest Taoist temple in the United States;
  • The Bank of Canton - formerly the Chinese Telephone Exchange;
  • The Eastern Bakery, where we always stop in for the biggest and best Steamed Pork Buns ever;
  • Golden Gate Bakery, where everyone goes for the best egg custard in The City

Plan on spending at least a couple of hours exploring this San Francisco attraction because you'll want to leisurely stroll, and take it all in! And when you've worked up an appetite, you might want to try the Hang Ah Tea Room for dim sum and a pearl drink.

Follow one of the links in the right-hand column for more SF attractions.

Or follow the links below to discover more about San Francisco, beyond the most famous tourist attractions:

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