Chinatown, San Francisco

4 out of 5 stars 4 Stars - 178 Reviews

Bordered by Broadway, Bush, Kearny, Stockton sts.

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    Chinatown Commercial Street
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    The Gateway to China town (January 2011)
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    Ornamental loveliness
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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Chinatown

    by richiecdisc Updated Sep 16, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    colorful Chinatown
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    Chinatown is no recent tourist invention, but a thriving neighborhood since the Gold Rush of 1849. Grant Avenue offers the heavily photographed Chinatown Gate and the most ornate Asian architecture but the true essence of the neighborhood is more readily observable a couple streets over on Stockton Street, especially in the early morning when locals are out buying their produce and freshly butchered meat. Live frogs, blue chickens, you name it. You’ll feel like you’re not in the United States, but you are. Chinatown is about as San Francisco as you can get so enjoy it. It’s free to look but get right in and buy something or have something to eat. It’s inexpensive, great quality, and fun too.

    On 2008 return visit, Chinatown was the first place we rushed to.

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  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    This is China Town in San Francisco

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 15, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    China Town

    More then 10.000 residents live her in China
    Town an you can find the traditional Chinese herbs and food etc.
    You go through Pagoda Gates at Grant Avenue and Bush ,and at night the neon lights are fantastic and give that Chinese atmosphere.

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  • smschley's Profile Photo

    China Town

    by smschley Written Mar 10, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    dragon-guarded gateway

    A city within a city San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in North-America, and the most commercial. San Francisco's Chinatown offers colorful sights and sounds best seen on foot. The obvious starting place is just north of Union Square at the base of Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco; pass through the dragon-guarded gateway, a gift from the Republic of China, and you enter the largest Chinatown in North America.

    There are some tacky curio shops, but the 30,000 Chinese, most of whom speak Cantonese, live in a tightly knit, distinctly un-Western community. It's a great place for casual wandering through narrow alleys, where on quiet afternoons you can hear the clack of mahjong tiles from behind screen doors, or discover a small eatery whose proprietor can teach you the intricacies of chopsticks, or see workers hand-making fortune cookies in Ross Alley.

    The narrow streets are crowded with residents and tourists, here for the curio shops, herb markets, pagodas and restaurants. The shops along Grant Street, the main thoroughfare, cater to the tourist trade. For a less commercial experience the area you should visit is located between Stockton Street and Grant Street, which has the best Chinatown atmosphere.

    Besides the well known Chinatown Gate, the approx. 24-block area contains a lot of pagoda-roofed buildings, as well as nicely decorated lamp posts and phone booths in Chinese style. Chinatown also has several temples; three of them are located in the Waverly Place, which is also known as the 'street of painted balconies'. This street is certainly worth a visit. Another nice and much-photographed place in Chinatown is the corner of California and Grant, which has some nice pagoda-roofed buildings

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  • Carmela71's Profile Photo

    Chinatown Entrance

    by Carmela71 Updated Sep 4, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Drago Gate

    The "Dragon's Gate" is at Grant Avenue and Bush Street. From here you enter to another world.

    Lots of shops (souvenirs), restaurants, temples.... But it was the people’s faces, the food vendors... and the dried fish.... what will go with me in my memory forever....

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  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    This is China Town in San Francisco.

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 15, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    China Town

    More then 10.000 residents live her in China
    Town an you can find the traditional Chinese herbs and food etc.
    You go through Pagoda Gates at Grant Avenue and Bush ,and at night the neon lights are fantastic and give that Chinese atmosphere.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Rixie's Profile Photo

    Chill Out in Chinatown

    by Rixie Updated Apr 9, 2007

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Traditional Chinese clothing on sale, Grant Avenue
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    The first time I visited San Francisco's Chinatown, I couldn't believe it. There were so many people, and they all looked like me! Growing up Asian in another part of the US, I had become accustomed to being different, but walking along Grant Avenue, Chinatown's main thoroughfare, I blend in with the crowd. It's the largest Chinese community outside of China.

    Chinatown still lifts my spirits. It's colorful, fun, and exotic (a Dutch friend of ours exclaimed, "It's just like walking down a street in Asia!") There are always interesting things to see and do, and they don't require a lot of money. Browse through the shops for souvenirs(children especially will love the inexpensive toys and sweets), have a bowl of noodles or a dim sum lunch, watch the old men play pa gow in Portsmouth Square, listen to the California Street cable car go clanging up and down the hill, buy moon cakes or lotus buns at the Far Eastern Bakery.

    Visit the current exhibit at the Chinese Culture Center -- there's a walkway from Portsmouth Square that goes over Kearny Street. The CCC also offers classes in Chinese art and culture, and gives historical walking tours of Chinatown.

    At Old St. Mary's, the red brick Catholic church at the corner of Grant and California, Mass is still celebrated in Cantonese, and all worshipers are welcome.

    The Chinese Historical Society on Clay Street has a museum with both permanent and changing exhibits, plus a bookstore.

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  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    This is China Town in San Francisco

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 15, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    China Town

    More then 10.000 residents live here in China
    Town and you can find the traditional Chinese herbs and food etc.
    You go through Pagoda Gates at Grant Avenue and Bush ,and at night the neon lights are fantastic and give that Chinese atmosphere.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    This is China Town in San Francisco

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 15, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    China Town

    More then 10.000 residents live her in China
    Town an you can find the traditional Chinese herbs and food etc.
    You go through Pagoda Gates at Grant Avenue and Bush ,and at night the neon lights are fantastic and give that Chinese atmosphere.

    Was this review helpful?

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo

    CHINATOWN

    by LoriPori Written Jan 9, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Chinatown

    Among the exotic live markets, dim sum dinners and herb shops, are the nearly 9,000 residents of Asian descent that call CHINATOWN "home".
    You can taste delicacies you have never seen before. Bargain with shopkkeepers for imported delights, check out the numerous souvenir and specialty shops and experience a cultural haven with a flavor all its own.

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  • davequ's Profile Photo

    Chinatown street scene....

    by davequ Updated Oct 17, 2006

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    California cable car at Grant St
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    Part of one of my favorite walks....
    Take the California St. cablecar up to Grace Church on Nob Hill.

    Then walk back down the hill (east) into Chinatown and enjoy something San Francisco can give you that few other cities can...

    a quick snap from Grant & California St. --------->

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  • tarced's Profile Photo

    Walking Through Chinatown

    by tarced Updated Jun 3, 2005

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    An afternoon of checkers in Chinatown

    The main gate is beautiful and the first five or six blocks from it are very crowded, but as you go further from the main gate, the sidewalks are less congested. Along the main thoroughfare (Grant), there are numerous stores that sell jade and their carvings are exquisite - they weren't affordable for my pocketbook, but I truly enjoyed looking at all of them. Walking through Chinatown, we felt that we had entered another country (especially when we stopped walking along the main thoroughfare). We were observing life as another culture lived it and we were enthralled. We enjoyed watching a group of children get out of school for the day and were impressed that families still spoke Chinese to each other; unlike our own families who did not think it was important to teach us the language of our cultures. We entered the park where women played Mah-jong and the men played checkers. In the men's checker area, I quickly noticed that there were no other women so I scooted and interestingly enough, my husband hadn't noticed. I don't know if they were/would have been offended that a woman was in that area, but I didn't want to take any chances. Chinatown is a "must-see" when in San Francisco, especially when you take the time to see the roads less traveled.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    More than Grant Avenue

    by goodfish Updated Jun 11, 2010

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Alley, Chinatown
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    Take a wander through the park, back streets and alleys for a taste of where the Chinese community lives, shops and socializes. This is not Grant Avenue, with its wall-to-wall souvenir shops and tourist-mobbed sidewalks, but dim little corridors of commerce - and long-ago prostitution, opium and gambling dens. Much of today's Chinatown is elderly and poor, the younger generation gradually migrating to the suburbs, and many live in single-room tenements above street- level shops and markets. Above your head is a clutter of fire escapes and laundry, and through open windows and doorways is the clatter of countless mahjong games. You'll pass by tiny groceries, herbalists, tea rooms, restaurants, fraternal halls, temples and even a fortune cookie factory.

    Portsmouth Square is to this community what the piazza is to Italians. Once a Spanish plaza, this green space above a massive, underground parking garage is the gathering spot for grandfathers to throw games of dice, grandmothers to stretch though morning tai chi exercises, children to run the playground and others to just chat in the sunshine. You might run into a festival or flea market here and it's a fun spot for watching the activity over a take-away dim sum lunch.

    Alleys/backstreets: see website for complete list but a good walk is to head north on Hang Ah St. at Stockton, jog 1/2 block right to Spofford St. at Clay, and another small jog right at Washington to Ross Alley. Also the 2 blocks of Waverly Place - next block east of Hang Ah.

    Portsmouth Square: corner of Clay and Kearny or Kearny and Washington.

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  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo

    Chinatown

    by karenincalifornia Written May 6, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Chinatown, San Francisco

    San Francisco's Chinatown is vibrant and bustling. Some tipsters have said Chinatown is touristy - I disagree. This is an authentic Chinese community. The restaurants are excellent. An ability to read Chinese is a plus if you plan to shop at any one of the many Chinese markets.

    The best streets are Stockton and Grant.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    North America's oldest and biggest Chinatown

    by Jefie Written Oct 3, 2009

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    Chinese architecture on Grant Avenue
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    San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in North America. It is often described as being home to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, and I have no problem believing it! Unlike many North American Chinatowns that only seem to keep up appearances to attract tourists, San Francisco's Chinatown is home to a bustling Asian community. Perhaps Grant Avenue is a little more geared towards visitors, but as you walk along some of the side streets you'll find it easy to imagine you've found a secret passageway to China! Between a group of elderly citizens practicing Tai Chi at Portsmouth Square and women seemingly arguing for the price of fish at one of the small markets, the cultural immersion can seem pretty complete :o)

    Although I'm not a big fan, we did stop for some Dim Sum at one of the many Chinatown restaurants. I guess it was alright, but it didn't make me change my mind about it - I'm still not a big fan. However, we did go to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory for dessert (56 Ross Alley) and that, I liked! As soon as we walked in we were given a free sample fresh from the oven and were invited to take as many pictures as we wanted. We watched the ladies work for a little while and left with a small bag of fortune cookies (only $1) for the road.

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  • altizachen's Profile Photo

    Slave girls and underground gambling houses

    by altizachen Updated Aug 25, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    the big building is McDonalds

    There are 2 ways to see Chinatown.
    One way is on your own. A nice 2 hour walk would do fine. You could shop and eat for a low price. (stay away from the camera/electronics shops)

    The second way is by walking tour, which I would recommend. You can't understand Chinatown without learning the history. Did you know that there are underground passages and opium houses? Don't get ripped off by a $40 tour. Try this www.walkingtourssf.com and check out their Chintown tours there only $15.

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