Top 7 Things to do in Chinatown, San Francisco

If you’re headed to the City by the Bay, visiting its iconic Chinatown should be on your bucket list.  San Francisco’s Chinatown is not only the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, but it is also the oldest in North America and one of the this city’s top tourist attractions.  There is plenty to see in this area near North Beach and Telegraph Hill, so it’s best to come prepared.  Here is a list of the top things to do in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Chinatown Gate

This beautifully decorated gate marks the entrance to Chinatown on Grant Avenue.  The gate was unveiled in 1970 and marks the spot as one of the district’s central points. The gate has many intricate carvings and is inscribed with the saying, “All under heaven is for the good of the people,” by Dr. Sun. Yat-sen.


Portsmouth Square

Thought by many to be the true “Heart of Chinatown,” this open square at the corner of Kearny and Washington is the spot where you’ll see both history and culture in action. There are at least four historical markers in the square, and you’ll find locals having group dances, practicing Tai Chi, or playing Chinese Chess.

Chinese Cultural Center

This non-profit center is located at 750 Kearny Street and is a community-sponsored cultural center and museum.  There is an art gallery here as well as a large auditorium for events and a bookstore.  The Chinese Cultural Center is the spot to take in Chinese opera or even to learn about some local tours of Chinatown.

Authentic Chinese Dining

Few people visit Chinatown without having an authentic Chinese meal on the agenda.  You certainly won’t get more authentic than the experience at Z & Y Restaurant, located at 655 Jackson Street.  Z & Y  Restaurant is known for its mouth-watering Chinese dishes made from fresh ingredients. The restaurant is a Michelin Bib Gourmand choice several years running and has served both locals and distinguished guests from around the world.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

After you walk off some of that delicious Chinese food, check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Located on Ross Ave. near Jackson St., the store is a miniature factory that sells freshly-made fortune cookies.  You can watch as they make and hand-fold the cookies, which you can purchase for cash-only.

Grant Ave. Shopping

If you want to shop in Chinatown, Grant Avenue is the main tourist street for this activity. There are shops along the street that range from polished and glitzy to the more kitschy and antique.  If you’re looking for a more local experience, check out Stockton Ave., where you can browse through the local food markets and bakeries.

Buddhist Temples

Be sure to stop at one of the Buddhist temples while you’re in Chinatown for both the history and the experience.  Buddhas Universal Church on Washington Street is the largest Buddhist church in the country.  Norras Temple on Waverly Street is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city, and Kong Chow Temple on Stockton Street has some ornate and colorful altars that are worth the visit.


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