Things to do in Chinatown
California’s first cathedral has a small but moving display of photos of turn-of-the-century Chinatown, and of the devastating aftermath of the 1906 Great Quake.
Climb up to the fourth floor to the country’s oldest Chinese temple, a shrine to Tien Hau, the Goddess of Heaven and the Sea. Fringed red lanterns throng the ceiling, and Taoists send up puffs of incense with their prayers.
Two stone lions practically purr for a photo op, flanking this pagoda-style arch.
This busy commercial strip teems with souvenir shops, antiques dealers, herbalists, and gawkers. You’ll find several treasures among the tat, like the bright kites at the Chinatown Kite Shop (717 Grant Ave.). Be sure to sample a moon cake at Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Ave.).
Locals do their shopping here, in a welter of groceries; follow your nose among the exotic fruit, dried mushrooms, mysterious spices, and buckets of shellfish. The Chinese Six Companies building (843 Stockton St.), once a politicians’ hub, is a vivid example of the neighborhood’s architecture.
A whiff of vanilla leads you to this cramped shotgun space. Workers deftly pull warm, golden discs off the spinning machines, then flip and fold them into fortune cookies.
In this glossy, tranquil shop, lift the lids from dozens of canisters to sniff the teas within. The staff enthusiastically describes everything from delicate oolong to smoky black teas; they’ll also steep tasting samples.
“Ruby King Bakery” are the only English characters featured on the broad red awning of this Chinatown storefront (the rest of the signage is written in Chinese characters).