San Francisco Walking Tour: Chinatown
Let your senses get lost in the country’s oldest Chinese neighborhood.
North America’s oldest Chinatown is a sensory immersion: You’ll hear clicking abacus beads, catch a whiff of incense, and gaze up at the buildings’ flaring pagoda flourishes and varying flags (the red Chinese banner or Taiwanese blue). Saturdays are busiest, when locals join the shopping swarm.
1 Chinatown Gate
Two stone lions practically purr for a photo op, flanking this pagoda-style arch.
2 Grant Avenue
This busy commercial strip teems with souvenir shops, antiques dealers, herbalists, and gawkers. Youâ€™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.).
3 Stockton Street
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 politiciansâ€™ hub, is a vivid example of the neighborhoodâ€™s architecture. The red, yellow, and green paint job signals luck, power, and prosperity.
4 Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
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.
5 Red Blossom Tea Company
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; theyâ€™ll also steep tasting samples.