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 discounts on popular tours.
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. SF 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
Chinatown Tours for Less
You have several ways to book a Chinatown food tour. I post special discount offers on standard tours here (so check those first if you want to save).
No matter how you book your tour, 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.
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.
10 Popular Chinatown Shops
1. Asian Renaissance
Kimonos and other Asian imports.
Address: 662 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
2. Asian Image
Huge shop with everything Asian culture — books, crafts, Thai silk shirts, hand-painted jackets.
Address: 800 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
3. Bonsai Villa
Small shop with bonsai plants and books.
Address: 825 Clay St., San Francisco.
4. Canton Bazaar
Three floors of Asian chotchkies and home furnishings.
Address: 16 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
5. China Station
Fun place to pick up cheap souvenirs.
Address: 456-460 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
6. Chinatown Kite Shop
Traditional Chinese handmade silk butterfly kites and more.
Address: 717 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
7. Dragon House
Asian antiques and fine arts, ivory carvings, ceramics, and jewelry dates back 2,000 years and beyond.
Address: 455 Grant Ave., San Francisco, CA.
8. Great China Herb Co.
Chinese herbs and a doctor in residence.
Address: 857 Washington St., San Francisco, CA.
9. Han Palace Antiques & Art Center
Quality Chinese antiques from the Neolithic Period to the Qing Dynasty.
Address: 1201 Powell St., San Francisco, CA.
10. Superior Trading Company
Large source of herbs and ginseng imported from China, Korea and Hong Kong.
Address: 835-837 Washington St., San Francisco, CA.
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.
1. Golden Gate Bakery
Address: 1029 Grant/Pacific, San Francisco, CA
2. Golden Flower Vietnamese Restaurant
667 Jackson/Kearny, San Francisco, CA
3. Good Mong Kok Bakery
Address: 1039 Stockton St/Jackson, San Francisco, CA
4. Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant
Address: 960 Grant Ave/Jackson (upstairs), San Francisco, CA
5. House of Nanking
Address: 919 Kearny St/Jackson St, San Francisco, CA
6. Chef Jia’s
Address: 925 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA
(next to House of Nanking but less crowded)
7. New Hollywood Bakery & Restaurant
Address: 652 Pacific Ave/Columbus, San Francisco, CA
8. New Moon Restaurant
Address: 1247 Stockton/Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA
9. Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant
Address: 11 Walter U Lum Place/Clay, San Francisco, CA
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.
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.