Insider’s Guide to San Francisco’s Chinatown

San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese immigrants originally developed Chinatown when they first began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s. After an earthquake and fire destroyed most of the original San Francisco Chinatown in 1906, new immigrants along with the second and third generations of the original immigrants worked hard to rebuild it. San Francisco’s Chinatown remains the oldest located in a non-Asian country.

Four streets border modern-day Chinatown in San Francisco, which are Powell, Kearney, Bush, and Broadway Streets. Nearly 175 years after the first Chinese immigrants developed the 24-block radius known as Chinatown, the sub-city of San Francisco remains rich in cultural heritage. People visit Chinatown from all over the state, country, and world to experience authentic Chinese food, shopping, and experiences.

The Gift Given to the City of San Francisco by the Republic of China

As Chinese immigrants began settling in San Francisco in large numbers, representatives of their former home country saw fit to give them a gift of a large gate decorated with a replica of a dragon’s head. The gift, now referred to as the Dragon Gate, marks the entrance into Chinatown. People who have visited Chinatown in the past recommend starting at the front gate and getting plenty of photos of this historic treasure.

Travelers Should Also See These Historic Chinatown Landmarks

The history of San Francisco’s Chinatown pre-dates its physical presence by approximately five years. On July 9, 1846, the first settlers in the area raised the Chinese flag in Portsmouth Square. Visitors to the area can still see the exact location today.

One of the earliest buildings to go up in San Francisco’s Chinatown was St. Mary’s Church located at the intersection of California Street and Grant Avenue. Newly-arrived residents from China built the church themselves in 1853. Sadly, the church was one of the dozens of buildings to fall victim to the great earthquake and fire in San Francisco in 1906.

Just as they had the first time, members of San Francisco’s Chinatown community came together to rebuild the church. St. Mary’s reopened its doors just one year later in 1907. The church remains in the same condition over 100 years later.

Where to Eat in Chinatown

For an area with a radius of only two city miles, San Francisco’s Chinatown offers dozens of restaurants to meet any culinary need. People can find 12 unique restaurants on Jackson Street alone that extend to Kearney Street and Grant Street. Chinatown visitors looking for authentic dishes containing noodles, rice, peppers, and dumplings will not feel disappointed.

Chinatown visitors who just want a light snack can find one at one of several bakeries. Egg custard is a particular favorite. People who want to enjoy a snack and learn something at the same time should stop at the Chinese Fortune Cookie Factory for a tour and product sampling.

Parking Can Be Difficult in Chinatown

Finding an open spot to park on the street in Chinatown is rare, but it does happen. Most people choose to leave their car in a paid parking lot or use public transportation to get to the area. Joining an organized tour is another option. Besides having a tour guide, not having to think about parking at all is a huge benefit of signing up for a group tour.

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