Chinatown, San Francisco

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

Author and references


  • History
  • To see
  • Events
  • Where to Eat
  • How to reach us

It is America's oldest and largest community of Chinese, nearly one micro cosmo within the city of San Francisco.
Having become very famous due to photos, cinema, literature and art that have adopted it as the protagonist, Chinatown gives the real impression of being on the streets of Hong Kong, especially in less touristy areas such as Stockton Street, where you can still smell the strong smells of typical cuisine and where it is not uncommon to find groups of elderly people intent on playing chess or Chinese checkers.

Founded in 1840, it is located in the heart of the city and bounded by Taylor Street and the Nob Hill neighborhood to the west; from Montgomery Street and the financial district to the east. To the south, however, it is bordered by Bush Street and Union Square, while to the north it is closed between North Beach, Green Street and Columbus Street.


The history of Chinatown begins in the second half of the 800th century, when a wave of immigrants from southern China invaded the city of San Francisco. The majority of them were men, who worked for starvation wages in factories, railway yards and mines. The first women who arrived here were largely prostitutes.

Over the years, the Chinese community became larger and larger, and more and more powerful, so much so that the government passed a law that prohibited Chinese immigration, a law that was first lightened, and then eliminated, around the 50s. it's 60s.

The Chinatown neighborhood as we know it now is the result of the reconstruction carried out in the years following 1906, when a violent earthquake it destroyed the entire neighborhood and damaged a large part of the city. Despite pressure to move the neighborhood to another area, Chinatown was eventually rebuilt on the same spot as before, but took on a different air, more suited to attracting Western tourists.

To see

Strolling through the chaotic streets of Chinatown, while being assailed by a mix of pungent smells, you can meet typical Chinese markets, Buddhist temples, and taste foods with a unique flavor.
To savor the true essence of Chinatown, you don't have to limit yourself to the main streets, but also explore the smaller and hidden ones, such as the characteristic Waverly Place, Spofford Alley and Ross Alley.

Chinese Historical Society of America

Located in a beautiful red brick building in the heart of Chinatown at 965 Clay Street and designed by the architect Julia Morgan, the Chinese Historical Society of America houses a beautiful museum entirely dedicated to Chinese culture.

Opening time: Tuesday to Friday 12 - 17, Saturday and Sunday 10 - 16. Closed on Fridays, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and public holidays.
Ticket cost: $ 15 for adults and free for ages 12 and under.

Tin How Temple

Visiting this centenary Buddhist temple is like taking a dip in the past: the residents of the neighborhood come here to pray and know what their fate will bring.
Built in 1852, it is dedicated to the deity Mazu, venerated today in particular by migrants.

Great China Herb Ho.

Curious to see how a real Chinese pharmacy works? Then this is the place for you. Great China Herb Co. is an authentic traditional Chinese pharmacy, where you can find all kinds of herbs and natural remedies.

Ming Lee Trading

Do you fancy something tasty? Then you must take a tour of this large old-fashioned emporium, where you can find everything from spices, dried fruit, sweets and traditional noodles.
Address: 759 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Golden Gate Cookie Factory

Located on Ross Street, the Golden Gate Cookie Factory, operating since 1962, is the largest fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. As soon as you enter, you are assailed by the vision of hundreds of fortune cookies of all shapes and colors, and just go a little further into the room to see live how the real fortune cookies are prepared.

Old St. Mary’s

Built in 1854 at the behest of Father Henry Ignatius Stark, who aspired to bring the Catholic religion to the heart of the Chinese people, Old St. Mary's was the first cathedral in all of California, a record it maintained until 1891. The stones used for the its construction come from Cape Horn and China. The building was razed to the ground by the 1906 earthquake and had to be completely rebuilt.


Chinese New Year

During the celebrations for the arrival of the new year, according to the Chinese calendar, various events are held in Chinatown, such as the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and the Chinatown New Year Parade, with music, dancing and performances. It is listed as one of the ten best parades in the world.

San Francisco International Film Festival

Established in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running festival of its kind in the entire United States. The demonstration held every spring and welcomes about 80.000 people a year; the festival is an important showcase for actors and directors, who present unique and innovative films here.

Chinatown Night Market Fair

The Chinatown Night Market Fair is an event created to give breath to the neighborhood after the 1989 earthquake. For two months Portsmouth Square it becomes a real Hong Kong market, with lots of goods to trade, art and shows.

Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival

The Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival is an event held annually in September, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the Moon is full. Usually it is celebrated 2 consecutive days towards the middle of September (in 2016 it was celebrated on 10 and 11 September).

Born as a way to cheer citizens up after the 1989 earthquake, this festival is a truly special moment for the whole community: during the days of the festival, which opens with a great parade, which starts on California Street and ends near Whashigton Street, a beautiful fair is also set up.

Where to Eat

R & G Lounge. Located at 31 Kerny Street, this restaurant offers its customers typical Cantonese specialties, especially those made with Dungeness crab. The atmosphere is that characteristic of many Cantonese restaurants around the world, with uniformed waiters, fish tanks and lively chatter.

Lai Hong Lounge. The restaurant is located at 1416 Powell Street and is frequently stormed by patrons, especially on weekends, given the excellent Dim Sum that is served.

Lucky Creations. When you enter this small, nondescript restaurant at 854 Washington Street, you feel like you are catapulted into one of Hong Kong's Wachai cafes. Here you can enjoy delicious vegetarian food.

House of Nanking. At 919 Kerny Street there is House of Nanking, a much loved restaurant, often besieged by endless queues; but there is no need to be afraid, because the efficient staff is ready to offer tasty snacks to waiting customers!

How to reach us

By car

The more daring can decide to drive right into Chinatown by car, or, if you don't feel so safe, you can leave it at Golden Gateway Garage where, for $ 3 a day, you can park and take one of the free shuttles that go back and forth from Chinatown.

Autobus e Cable Cars

Chinatown is easily accessible by i city ​​buses: 1 California (transits Clay St. and Sacramento St.), 12 Folsom (transits Pacific and Broadway), 30 Stockton, 45 Union - Stockton.
Chinatown can also be reached with the characteristic Cable Cars, which serve the neighborhood via the California and Powell / Mason lines.

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