If you’re not familiar with Chinatown, you can just wander around and see what you can see. Or scroll down this page for popular spots to visit and tours to take, some with special discount offers.
San Francisco’s Chinatown, as a residence, has its own social identity, and SF locals from other neighborhoods head over for dim sum, Chinese herbs, and to shop at the Asian markets. But most people know Chinatown as the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia.
To get your bearings, you should know the two main Chinatown streets are Stockton Street and Grant Avenue and Stockton St. which run north and south between Broadway and California Streets. And between the two main streets you can explore interesting alleys and side streets. On Washington and Jackson Streets, you’ll find old-world herbalists and medicinal herb shops.
You’ll find the fun touristy shops and restaurants on Grant Ave, the location of many Hollywood scenes set in Chinatown. You’ll see iconic dragon lamp posts and calligraphy street signs, Chinese-American restaurants, and historic sights like the Sing Chong Building, and Old St. Mary’s, California’s first cathedral built in 1854. For the authentic Chinatown experience, head over to Stockton Street. There you’ll find touches of Hong Kong, like roasted birds hanging in the windows, residents haggling in Chinese for fresh fish and produce. Keep in mind that in this part of the neighborhood, the restaurants have no english on the menus.
Popular Things To Do in Chinatown San Francisco
- Chinatown Dragon Gate (Grant & Bush) — Also known as Gateway Arch, guarding the south entrance to Chinatown is North America’s one and only authentic Chinatown Gate, made with historic building materials from The Republic of China.
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley/Jackson St) –Some 20,000 fortune cookies a month are made here by hand. You can taste a free sample fresh from the oven and buy a snack bag to take with you.
- Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral (660 California/Grant) — The first Asian church in North America, Old St. Mary’s was built in 1854 and rebuilt in 1909 after the earthquake.
- Tin How (Tien Hau) Temple (125 Waverly Place/Washington) — The oldest Taoist Buddhist temple in the United States, founded 1852 to honor the Goddess of Heaven and Sea, Tien Hau.
Guided Tours of Chinatown San Francisco
To really experience San Francisco’s Chinatown, it helps to see it with someone who really knows the area. The right tour guide can share interesting stories and point out things only locals know, like where to eat and shop — and where not to.
If you’re looking for a relaxed and interesting SF Chinatown tour focused on delicious Chinese food, you can’t go wrong with one of the popular Chinatown food tours. You’ll find out where to buy the freshest gourmet tea, sample the most authentic Dim Sum, and order the best Cantonese, Sichuanese and Hunanese food. Some tour guides will also show you where and how they make fortune cookies, and take you to visit iconic Buddhist Temples. Want to know something about the area’s storied history? Humor? Crime? There are tours for those, too.
If you’re looking at guided tours, start your search with the following great deals and discounts from trusted sources.
Chinatown Tours with special promo prices
Discount Tickets $48 (reg. $69)
Deal: Chinatown Food Tour: Savor China’s Culinary Treats.
Location: Chinatown Food Tour at East West Bank, 1066 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133.
9 Places to Eat on the Cheap in Chinatown
If you’re going to Chinatown, you have to stop for a meal, it’s an absolute requirement. Here are a few affordable eateries recommended by locals. These are not the typical tourist places, so if you don’t speak Chinese, just point to what you want. All casual, and some a just for take out.
- Golden Gate Bakery — 1029 Grant/Pacific
- Golden Flower Vietnamese Restaurant — 667 Jackson/Kearny
- Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant — 11 Walter U Lum Place/Clay
- Good Mong Kok Bakery — 1039 Stockton St/Jackson
- Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant — 960 Grant Ave/Jackson (upstairs)
- House of Nanking — 919 Kearny St/Jackson St
- Chef Jia’s — 925 Kearny St (next to House of Nanking but less crowded)
- New Hollywood Bakery & Restaurant — 652 Pacific Ave/Columbus
- New Moon Restaurant — 1247 Stockton/Pacific Ave
Popular Chinatown Shops
- Asian Renaissance — 662 Grant Ave. Kimonos and other Asian imports.
- Asian Image — 800 Grant Ave. Huge shop with everything Asian culture — books, crafts, Thai silk shirts, hand-painted jackets.
- Bonsai Villa — 825 Clay St. Small shop with bonsai plants and books.
- Canton Bazaar — 16 Grant AveThree floors of Asian chotchkies and home furnishings.
- China Station — 456-460 Grant Ave. Fun place to pick up cheap souvenirs.
- Chinatown Kite Shop — 717 Grant Ave. Traditional Chinese handmade silk butterfly kites and more.
- Dragon House — 455 Grant Ave. Asian antiques and fine arts, ivory carvings, ceramics, and jewelry dates back 2,000 years and beyond.
- Great China Herb Co. — 857 Washington St. Chinese herbs and a doctor in residence.
- Han Palace Antiques & Art Center — 1201 Powell St. Quality Chinese antiques from the Neolithic Period to the Qing Dynasty.
- Superior Trading Company — 835-837 Washington St. Large source of herbs and ginseng imported from China, Korea and Hong Kong.
Know Before You Go
- Where to Park: Parking is rarely easy in San Francisco, and SF Chinatown is no exception. After taking a quick look around for street parking, we usually head for the big city garage under Portsmouth Square (you’ll find the main entrance on Kearny Street just north of Clay Street). Depending on where you’re headed, you can also try the big parking lot under St Mary’s Park (on California Street, about a half block west of Grant Ave). Plan ahead for a lot of one-way streets.
- Public Transportation: Take BART to Downtown San Francisco (exit Powell Street Station), then go above ground and transfer to 30 Stockton, 45 Union-Stockton. You can also take a cable car to Chinatown. From Fisherman’s Wharf you can take either the Powell-Hyde line (PH) near Ghiradelli Square, or the Powell-Mason line (PM) at Bay and Taylor Street. Get off at Washington & Mason (near Cable Car Museum) or Powell & California, a few short blocks from Chinatown.