A Visitor’s Guide to Chinatown
Being the largest of its kind in the United States, San Francisco’s Chinatown is always on the list of things to do when visiting the city. The neighborhood is located in the heart of the city bordered by many other tourist areas like North Beach and Union Square. While a few hours is enough to get a sense of the culture, it takes at least a day to get the most out of the various art galleries, temples, shops, bars, bakeries, nightlife and restaurants that Chinatown has to offer.
The region was established in the mid 1800’s when unsavory political and social conditions in China lead to an influx of Chinese immigration to the United States. Many came looking for work on the railroad and in the gold mines, and the location of Chinatown was the port of entry for a bulk of the immigrants. The current look of Chinatown came after the 1906 earthquake, when the area was completely demolished and reconstructed in its original location, this time with more attention to making it a tourist attraction. Though some of the architecture may not be truly Chinese, the food, culture and people continue to bring authenticity to the area.
The two main streets of interest are Grant and Stockton. Grant appeals more to tourists, as the streets are lined with green-tiled souvenir shops and dragon lanterns are usually are draped across the street. On Stockton, you’ll get more of the real cultural experience by interacting with the locals. You’ll hear the click-clack of live mah-jongg being played, the scent of incense wafting from the temples, and linger over countless Chinese food markets. But no matter which alley way you wander down, you won’t be short of food and drink options. Chinatown bars and restaurants combine traditional and authentic Chinese dishes from a myriad of different regions and influences. The streets are lined with everything from inexpensive bakeries and juice bars, to five star fine dining and chic lounges. Golden Gate Bakery, which turns out fresh and delicious fortune cookies among other decadent pastries, and Li Po Lounge, famous for Mai Tai’s, are two favorites among tourists. Dol Ho is a common recommendation for authentic Dim Sum, while R&G Lounge makes several appearances on “best restaurants in Chinatown” lists by locals.
For the full Chinatown experience, stop by The Chinese Historical Society of America or the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Both Centers offer walking tours, recommendations on food and beverages for whatever your taste, and information on events dedicated to preserving Chinese culture and art.
Parking in Chinatown is not only complicated, but sometimes unavailable completely. Consider a ride service such as NLS Limo to make your trip to Chinatown memorable and easy. We’ll drop you off and pick you up in one of our clean and elegant vehicles anywhere you like. Whether you’re headed to Chinatown for a day of shopping and sightseeing, a romantic evening, or to experience the nightlife with friends, let us make your trip memorable and worry-free. For more information, contact us today at 800-339-85936.