Chinatown is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. People travel from all over to see the 30-block authentic Chinatown that is the largest one outside of Asia. While experiencing the culture is worth the effort of fighting crowds, it’s still a good idea to have a game plan when visiting Chinatown. This includes wearing comfortable walking shoes, bringing a light jacket regardless of the season, and allowing a full day for exploration. If possible, it’s best to visit Chinatown on a weekday and to start the visit in the morning.
Chinatown Transportation Considerations
Visitors to Chinatown can get there with their personal vehicle, by cable car, or by taking a bus labeled 30-Stockton. Those who choose the first option should attempt to park at the Portsmouth Square Plaza Garage, which is located at 733 Kearney Street. The underground parking garage provides protection for cars from the elements as well as Chinese symbols with matching American words to help visitors find their car at the end of a long day. The bus drops passengers near the produce markets on Stockton Street.
Places to Visit in Chinatown
Chinatown is home to several well-known landmarks that travelers won’t want to miss. Some of these include:
- Chinatown Gate: Located at the official entrance to Chinatown on Bush Street, the gate is decorated with two stone lions, dragons, and Koi fish. The country of Taiwan presented the gate as a gift to the city of San Francisco in 1969. The gate also includes a quote that reads “All under heaven is for the good of the people” when translated to English.
- Chinese Historical Society of America: To learn more about Chinese immigration to America beginning in the 1850s as well as their lives in the modern day, visitors won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit this attraction inside the local YMCA. The address is 965 Clay Street. The Chinese Historical Society presents multiple exhibits on the cultural, political, and social contribution of Chinese people living as American citizens.
- Tin How Temple: Located at 125 Waverly Place, the Tin How Temple appears as a four-story apartment building. Inside is a legitimate Buddhist temple where visitors can burn incense for a deceased loved one, pray to Buddha, or ask to have their fortune read. Donations are optional.
Where to Eat in Chinatown
Those searching for an authentic Chinese dining experience won’t be disappointed by the many restaurant options available in Chinatown. One of these is China Live, a newer restaurant located at 644 Broadway in San Francisco. The basement contains a grocery store with authentic Chinese cooking tools, a grab-and-go café, and a restaurant known for its tasty dumplings. Upstairs is a scotch bar, cold drinks, and a restaurant called 8 Tables.
No visit to Chinatown would be complete without a visit to Z and Y Restaurant. In fact, the eatery is so popular that it recently opened a second location across the street to accommodate overflow. Z & Y is well-known for winning numerous awards as well as having Chef Han on staff. Chef Han has prepared and served food for China’s presidents and other high-ranking officials. He is exceptionally talented at combining Northern Chinese food with spicy Schezuan flavors. A lunch or dinner here is the perfect way to end a full day in Chinatown.