If you are planning a visit to San Francisco, spending some time in its historic Chinatown is a must. Now one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city, San Francisco’s Chinatown sees nearly 2 million visitors each year who come to soak up the Chinese culture.
This iconic Chinatown is located near Telegraph Hill and North Beach and is the oldest Chinatown in North America. The area is a protected historic district, and you’ll find plenty of sights, smells, and tastes to light up your senses during your visit. Here are ten can’t miss attractions to put on your list for a trip to this iconic neighborhood.
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- Dragon Gate. Also known as the Chinatown Gate, the Dragon Gate is the ornate gateway to Chinatown on Grant Ave. The archway gate was donated by Taiwan in 1970 and features a variety of carvings as well as an inscription that says “All under heaven is for the good of the people,” by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
- Portsmouth Square. Said by many to be the heart of Chinatown, this open area at the corner of Washington and Kearny is where you will find several historical markers and see some of Chinatown’s culture in action. You might find groups practicing Tai Chi, dancing, or gathering for other activities.
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. This tiny fortune cookie factory has been handcrafting different types of fortune cookies since 1962. Located at 56 Ross Alley near Jackson St., you can watch the cookies being made and taste a free hot sample.
- Tin How (Tien Hau) Temple. This tiny fourth-floor temple is the oldest Taoist/Buddhist temple in the U.S. The temple was founded in 1852 and is located at 125 Waverly Place.
- Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Located at 660 California St. at Grant Ave., this Catholic Cathedral was the first Asian church in North America. The church was built in 1854 and then rebuilt in 1909 after the city’s major earthquake and fire.
- Z & Y Restaurant. If you are looking for some authentic Chinese cuisine during your Chinatown visit, there is no better place to eat than Z & Y Restaurant. Located at 655 Jackson St., Z & Y Restaurant is a Michelin Bib Gourmandchoice and is widely known for its authentic Chinese dishes such as chicken with explosive chili peppers.
- Chinese Cultural Center. Located at 750 Kearney St., the Chinese Cultural Centeris a non-profit community-sponsored museum and cultural center. You can visit the center’s art gallery, bookstore, and even attend events in its auditorium.
- Ten Ren Tea. On Grant Ave near Jackson St. is this delightful tea company, where visitors can sample one of the many teas that the shop has on hand.
- Chinatown Kite Shop. Located at 717 Grant Ave., this kite shop sells a variety of unique and whimsical kites to satisfy nearly anyone’s fancy. You can find kites depicting insects, planes, cartoon characters, and much more.
- Grant Ave. Shopping. Who goes to Chinatown without doing a little shopping? If you want to browse the shops, check out the wide range of options on Grant Ave. You’ll find stores with Chinatown souvenirs as well as antique shops and everything in between.
When you go to Chinatown, avoid taking a car as there isn’t much parking available. Instead, use this opportunity to experience the city’s cable cars. The California Line stops in the heart of Chinatown at Grant and California.