Neighbourhood Guide: San Francisco’s Chinatown

Hi everyone. Today I am starting a new series on my blog, where I tour you through different neighbourhoods around the world. The first neighbourhood in this series is San Francisco’s Chinatown! As I am part-Chinese, I was very excited to visit San Francisco’s Chinatown, also known as the biggest Chinatown outside of Asia. I have never been to China myself (although I will definitely visit in the future), but I can assure you that this is the closest experience you will get to real China outside of the country. Enough said, let’s begin this post!

Thanks to Google Maps, you can visit Chinatown without having to leave your room! Click here to experience Chinatown for yourself. The map begins at Dragon’s Gate (read more about it below) and allows you to walk through Chinatown choosing whatever path you’d like.

What To See:

Here are some of the most popular, ‘must-visit’ sites in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Fun Fact: Chinatown apparently draws more visitors annually then the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dragon’s Gate:

The most famous site in all of Chinatown is the entrance gate, known as Dragon’s Gate. It is also the most photographed site in Chinatown, which makes perfect sense as it is so photogenic. The gate stands on Grant Avenue, one of the oldest streets in San Francisco, and it marks the official entrance to Chinatown!

Here’s a close up of the sign on the gate. I am taking Mandarin this year as a language class, but as this is my first year I wasn’t able to read this entire saying. I believe the entire gate’s signs come together to read “All under heaven is for the people”.

Sing Chong Building:

A few blocks down from Dragon’s Gate, you will find the historic Sing Chong Building. It was one of the first buildings built after the devastating earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906. It also has a very interesting architectural design, not exactly authentically Chinese, but very attractive overall.

Old St. Mary’s:

Right across the street from the Sing Chong building is the Old St. Mary’s church. It is California’s oldest cathedral, and for that fact it is also a California Registered Historical Landmark. This building also survived the 1906 earthquake, but fell to the fires a day after, with only the bell tower and brick walls remaining. Three years later, renovation of the church was completed and it is now one of the most visited landmarks in Chinatown.

I was fascinated to see how much San Francisco has changed over the years, as there is a 100 year old church right next to a huge office building 😉

What To Do:

Here are some things to do while in Chinatown. Fun Fact: San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest on its continent.

Admire The Art:

While exploring Chinatown, you will find that there are tons of beautiful murals spread throughout the city. I discovered this really interesting site that shows all of the murals throughout Chinatown, which you can visit here.

This mural, depicting the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals as well as a few places to visit in Chinatown, was on Clay Street. Visit the mural on Google Maps here.

Another cool mural I discovered was this one, called the “Gold Mountain”. It is located on Sacremento St. and Grant Avenue. Visit the mural on Google Maps here.

Explore The Streets:

Truly the best way to experience Chinatown is to explore the neighbourhood as a whole. This way you will discover hidden gems, such as some of the murals I mentioned earlier. 

Another thing you will discover in Chinatown (as well as all of San Francisco) are the street musicians. Many of those performers in Chinatown play traditional Chinese instruments, such as the Erhu (二胡) and Guzheng (古筝).  I recently had a Chinese New Year piano recital and I learned about some of these instruments, so seeing them being played was really amazing. 

If you walk a bit farther down from Dragon’s Gate, you will discover these beautiful lanterns hung above the streets. I’m not sure if they are here all the time, as we visited around the Chinese Lunar New Year, but they make for a great photo-op!

San Francisco’s Chinatown is also a great place to purchase souvenirs. Yes, there are quite a few tacky tourist traps here, but if you really explore you will find nice stores that are perfect to get something to remember your trip by.

Where To Eat:

Here are some of the best places to eat I discovered in Chinatown! Fun Fact: San Francisco’s Chinatown is the densest part of the densest city in its state (California).

Dim Sum – Great Eastern Restaurant:

As I am half Chinese, Chinese is one of my favourite types of cuisine. I absolutely love Dim Sum, so I was really excited to have some traditional Chinese Dim Sum from a real Chinese restaurant. I spent some time looking up Dim Sum restaurants in Chinatown, and it seemed like Great Eastern Restaurant was a good choice. No surprise, it was amazing! 

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with photos of President Barack Obama visiting Great Eastern Restaurant! Obviously, this was a huge stamp of approval for the restaurant, and it only made us more excited to try some of their foods. 

Here are a few of my favourite Dim Sum dishes!

One of my favourite Chinese desserts would have to be Egg Tarts (蛋挞). The ones from Great Eastern were very good, though how could you go wrong making these?

Another one of my favourite dishes are Shrimp Dumplings (虾饺). These ones were especially delicious, more so then quite possibly any I’ve ever had!

This is by far my favourite Chinese dish, rice noodles with shrimp (面条 饭). This is by far the best version of this dish I have ever had!

We had many more dishes than just these three, but I only wanted to share my favourites.

Bakery – Eastern Bakery:

Chinese pastries are my other favourite Chinese dessert, and I haven’t had really good ones since some of the ones I had in my (once) hometown of Toronto. But, when I discovered the ones from Eastern Bakery, my standards were instantly raised! Eastern Bakery is the oldest bakery in Chinatown, and known for delicious Chinese desserts, specifically Mooncakes and buns. My favourite buns were the Buttercream, Coconut, and Pineapple buns. The bakery also got the stamp of approval from President Bill Clinton, as he visited in 1996. 

That’s it for my post today. I worked really hard on it and I hope you enjoyed! Have you ever been to any Chinatown? Leave a comment below letting me know. 

Thanks for reading.

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8 Comments

  1. JW
    March 19, 2017

    This was a very good tour. It felt like I was really there! I have been to Toronto’s Chinatown a lot of times, because I live very close to it. I wish I can visit someday to enjoy the Dim Sum!

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      March 20, 2017

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  2. PW
    March 19, 2017

    Did you get any souvenirs from Chinatown? As usual, your photos are spectacular. I’m glad you had clear skies that day!

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      March 20, 2017

      Sadly I didn’t, which is one thing I regret from my trip! Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  3. nana jw
    March 20, 2017

    Another great blog I loved the painting’s on the wall and all the food my favourite is also the coconut cream bun can’t wait for your next blog N J W

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      March 21, 2017

      Thank you Nana!

      Reply
  4. Kenza
    March 26, 2017

    It’s really great idea to do this kind of neighborhood guide ! 🙂

    I loved strolling around Chinatown in SF !!

    Kenza from http://travelwithkenza.blogspot.fr/

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      March 26, 2017

      Thank you – I thought it was a really good idea and I’m glad you agree 🙂

      Reply

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