Home Travel 10 Things to See and Do in San Francisco’s Chinatown

10 Things to See and Do in San Francisco’s Chinatown

One of San Francisco’s historic neighborhoods, Chinatown, has been a main draw for tourists for over 150 years. You can spend the day there and take one of the free walking tours, soaking up the historical sights and rich culture. Here are ten places that you can enjoy while walking around in Chinatown.

  1. Chinatown Gate (Bush St and Grand Ave) Also known as Dragon’s Gate, this ornate gateway arch was designed by Clayton Lee and donated by Taiwan in 1970.
  2. Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral (660 California St.) Grant Ave is chockful of shops. Two blocks away is San Francisco’s first Catholic cathedral, founded in 1854 and built with Chinese granite.
  3. San Francisco’s Chinatown Kite Shop (717 Grant Ave) After viewing the Sing Chong and Sing Fat pagoda buildings, which are across the street from St. Mary’s, you can visit this kite shop that sells a myriad of whimsical and fanciful kites of all kinds: planes, cartoon characters, insects, and more.
  4. Eastern Bakery (720 Grant Ave) Just across the street from the kite shop is the oldest bakery in Chinatown, with delicious moon cakes and cookies.
  5. Z & Y Restaurant (655 Jackson St) Around the corner is Z & Y Restaurant, a featured establishment on renowned restaurant critic Michael Bauer’s Top 100 Restaurants of the Bay Area. For a spicy dish, try the chicken with explosive chile peppers. With over 150 dishes, you’ll be sure to find something delicious. Z & Y can be busy during the weekday lunch hour, so make a reservation ahead of time.
  6. Waverly Place After you grab a moon cake or two, turn left onto Clay St, and then a right onto Waverly Place. “The Street of the Painted Balconies” was also called “15 Cent Street” because of the 15-cent haircuts–now with the updated modern price of at least $6.
  7. Tin How Temple (125 Waverly Pl) As you walk north on Waverly Place, Tin How Temple, founded in 1910, is Chinatown’s oldest Taoist temple, where prayers are offered to Tin How, which means Empress of Heavens in Cantonese, also known as Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess. The temple is dedicated to Tin How, to honor her for blessing the Chinese immigrants on their journeys to the United States.
  8. Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (965 Clay St) Make your way back down from the temple and continue up Clay St to the museum which was founded in 1963. Learn about the effects of the 1906 earthquake on Chinatown and the history of Chinatown’s YWCA, which is also the location of the museum.
  9. Stockton Street Go back down Clay St and turn left onto Stockton St, Chinatown’s commercial district. You’ll have a feast for all of your senses with the myriad of shops. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company is a right on Jackson St and another right down Ross Alley. You can sample freshly baked fortune cookies and watch the cookies be folded by women.
  10. Ten Ren Tea (949 Grant Ave) On Jackson St, turn right, then turn right onto Grant Ave for Ten Ren Tea, where you can imbibe a free sample one of their many teas.

[Image credit: ramvanman / Instagram]