Chinatown
About
San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinese enclaves outside Asia. The best time to visit is during Chinese New Year, when the area comes alive with a grand celebration. Enter through the much-photographed Dragon Gate and take your time to explore the winding back alleys. Don’t miss China Live, a multi-story building filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and a food demonstration hall. Before you leave, stroll down Grant Avenue, the main tourist thoroughfare lined with shops. Restaurants here get really crowded at dinnertime; reservations are highly recommended. – Tripadvisor
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area
Address
Neighbourhood: Chinatown
As the oldest in North America, San Francisco's Chinatown is an exotic experience. A unique neighbourhood decorated with colourful shops, historic streetlights, hanging lanterns, and pagoda roofs awaits behind the stone-carved dragon gates. Feast on dim sum at the tea houses, or meet the locals who gather at historic Portsmouth Square to play chess or practice Tai Chi. Fish markets, produce stands, tourist shops, jewelry stores, fortune tellers, temples and restaurants come together to create a world unto itself in this historic neighbourhood.
How to get there
  • Montgomery St • 10 min walk
  • Montgomery St • 10 min walk
See what travellers are saying
  • TravelingSoccerLoon
    Saint Paul, Minnesota3,562 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Grab Dinner in Chinatown
    Not only one of the oldest and largest but I think the best Chinatown in the US. Colorful and unique atmosphere and fun place to visit. A visit to San Francisco should include experiencing this neighborhood. Although it is a challenge to find a restaurant that gets consistently good reviews, having dinner in Chinatown on one of your nights in the city is a must when visiting San Francisco. Easy to reach off the cable car line either from the California line or get off at Powell and Washington.
    Visited October 2022
    Written 29 April 2023
  • BobiTychynskiShimoda
    Oakville, Canada347 contributions
    3.0 of 5 bubbles
    Worth visiting for an hour or so.
    Certain parts were nicer then others. Be careful of some merchant trying to rip you off with overpriced jewelry (not anyone Chinese fyi). Lots of nice Chinese made pottery and jade jewelry.
    Visited June 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 8 June 2023
  • Kelvin
    Dunedin, New Zealand574 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Authentic……
    Another really iconic location in San Francisco and we spent a few hours exploring the streets and having a good Chinese meal. Although there were plenty of places that really looked the same and were selling the same stuff, it was still pretty cool being in a pretty authentic China Town. Well worth a bit of time here.
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 4 July 2023
  • pecanpie2205
    Essex, United Kingdom1,054 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Vibrant and Bustling
    A visit to Chinatown is a must if you are visiting SF. Chinatown is not very big and the best way to explore is to just wander. Saying that, a guide would be beneficial so you don’t miss anything or even an organised tour. It was very busy when we visited with both locals and tourists. Vibrant and bustling with an energetic vibe. Chinatown is open 24/7 although each shop opening times varied. It is one of SF most visited places and well worth a visit.
    Visited August 2022
    Travelled with family
    Written 9 July 2023
  • ken
    Rancho Cucamonga, California8 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Dim Sum Fun
    Always a fascinating place to visit. If you stay on the main Chinatown avenues the area was actually on the safe side. Wander through the little shops and partake of a genuine Chinese dinner at one of the highly rated restaurants.
    Visited June 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 11 July 2023
  • Claudia S
    15 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    good place to potter
    We had a fun morning wandering around Chinatown, looking at the shops and restaurants, the Dragon Gate. Lovely little tea shops, and fun places to pick up cheap presents and souvenirs. Also some very authentic Chinese food shops with all kinds of dried food goods. Don't miss the Jade tea rooms - they do fantastic mango lassi and different drinks.
    Visited July 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 20 July 2023
  • Douglas Womelsdorf
    Nanticoke, Pennsylvania376 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Great Neighborhood
    The neighborhoods in and around Chinatown are some of the coolest neighborhoods in the city! I am so happy I got to explore the city on my own for a few days. The neighborhood was safe and busy with the hustle and bustle of the normal day. I was able to get lost in the neighborhood and just absorb all of the energy!
    Visited July 2023
    Written 24 July 2023
  • shy_kitten
    Saint Louis, Missouri127 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    MUST VISIT - rich culture and foods
    Our awesome Chinese friend who grew up in San Francisco took us to OLD China Town. Showed us all the shops, best places for dim sum, groceries, new foods and shopping. Introduced us to shops with dried ingredients for making broths "like mom used to make". Be adventurous! We ordered dim sum pieces not found in our home region and tried succulent duck. Our friend showed us the old shops that closed and why. Famous bakery (closed during our visit), famous textiles shop for exclusive fabrics and stores for specialty gowns. Fantastic prices. Our host advised us that haggling is expected culturally, but it didn't feel right considering the quality, affordability, service (suggesting and offering more options, discounts, specials) and friendliness of all the shops and staff. We could have spent more time exploring. We barely saw a fraction of the shops and wares available. Plan several hours-half a day to really appreciate.
    Visited August 2023
    Travelled with friends
    Written 8 August 2023
  • MLE
    47 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Chinatown is alive and well
    We had heard all sorts of bad things about San Francisco and its homeless problems, but had a few hours to kill before our late afternoon flight home. We drove into the city and walked around a bit, including Chinatown. The sidewalks were clean, we saw only a few homeless people, and Chinatown hasn't changed much in the 50+ years we've been visiting. Lots of the same touristy souvenir stores, shops full of unidentifiable foods and many restaurants, which we unfortunately did not have time to try. Will go back soon!
    Visited August 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 25 August 2023
  • Waddler
    York, United Kingdom10,803 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Worth exploring
    We enjoyed our early morning in Chinatown, though many shops had not yet opened (some open at 11am). We finished with mid-morning dim sum. In the meantime we checked out alleyways, the fortune cookie factory and a couple of playgrounds (Willie Woos being much the better for kids to play as the one in Portsmouth Square is overrun with adults doing exercises and is more urban and less attractive). We enjoyed strolling around and if you continue to California Street you can get classic cable car views down the hill to downtown.
    Visited August 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 6 September 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Popular mentions

4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles7,137 reviews
Excellent
2,189
Very good
2,598
Average
1,703
Poor
449
Terrible
199

Jillian H
Charleston, WV7 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Couples
Chinatown was super fun and a great cultural activity. The only reason I’m not rating 5/5 is because we got there kinda early (9:30 am) thinking we could beat some crowds and nothing was open. We were then told things don’t open there till around 11 and even after waiting around a bit it was still slow till about noon. Don’t go till noonish. Otherwise it was very cool
Written 27 March 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

OceanLovingCouple
San Francisco, CA5,770 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Solo
Its a draw for Americans who have never been to Asia. Locals by and large avoid it except to buy illegal fireworks. More Asian than the China Pavilion at Epcot, but a far cry from the actual orient, worth a couple hours strolling along Grant Ave starting at the gate on Bush then walking North I suppose. Better than New York, LA or Vancouver Chinatowns. But if you have been to Asia dont bother. .
Written 17 March 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Tracie V
Rosemount, MN3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Family
The sights, the history, the culture - I only wish I had more time to spend and immerse myself. The aroma from the restaurants made it hard to choose just one!!!
Written 7 March 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Grace P
1 contribution
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Family
Very run down, unsanitary and disgusting. I tried to enjoy the charm but it’s riddled by disgusting trash, stray cats and honestly I do not understand how anyone can live here..
Written 6 March 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

tinaNtravel
San Jose, CA2,011 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Friends
Chinatown is mostly one long street on which are a lot of shops along with some grocery stores and restaurants. Many of the shops are souveneir shops, but there are also a lot of jewelry and scarf shops. All in all, it is well worth a visit to walk around.
Written 25 February 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

P&K USA
Durham, NC317 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Couples
We visited San Francisco’s Chinatown numerous times in summer 2023, as our hotel was on the outskirts at Union Square and we passed through the area as we went to and from exploring the city during our 5 day visit.

Within an hour of checking into our hotel on Wednesday August 9 2023, we were off to explore Chinatown - the oldest in North America - and our first glimpse was the magnificent Dragongate on the sloping street of Grant Avenue.

Chinatown was an incredible assault on our senses, from the sights, sounds and medley of smells (not all good)! On our first visit we sought out one specific location which had been made famous in the movie ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ - Ross Alley.

Upon entering the alley, we watched a couple of artists at work, hand-painting the wall with traditional artwork and symbols. As quickly as we took their photographs, they had packed their kit away and vanished.

Ross Alley is one of Chinatown’s busiest alleyways and is a mix of residences and businesses. Known for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which opened on August 5th 1962, it is a very popular visitor spot. Frank Sinatra and The Beatles are known to have visited in the past and we lined up with the other curious tourists, eager to see inside the factory, as a large sign above us stated that the business was celebrating its 60th anniversary. The vanillery aroma wafting from inside added to the anticipation!

It wasn’t long until we crossed the threshold and got to see the dexterous ladies at work, folding the hot baked fortune cookies into the recognisable shape, quickly encapsulating the secret message inside before the wafer permanently hardened. The staff were very skilled at their jobs and we watched them for a few moments. We were offered copious amounts of free unfolded samples (including a huge one) from a friendly lady and we couldn’t visit without purchasing a selection of fortune cookies to support the business, even though a couple was probably more than enough. We bought a small packet of 10+ for $4.50 and were given a branded bag in vibrant red to carry them in.

Many of the messages in our cookies turned out to be in foreign languages, which shows the cleverness of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Co. - the messages could be personalised and they even had ‘adult only’ ones!

We spent a few moments re-enacting a scene from ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, where protagonist Jack Burton swerves his big-rig truck into the narrow alley, before we went on our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

On subsequent visits to Chinatown, we called into a few souvenir stores and found the owners to be very friendly. The items we picked up - tacky tourist magnets (a must) and a Route 101 road sign - were considerably cheaper there than at other stores in San Francisco.

Chinatown was home to street performers, capitalising on the passing crowds, and we stopped and watched musicians playing the erhu, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. These were typically older men sat on street corners with a wheeled kart plus a speaker playing a backing track. Erhu music is an acquired taste, but we handed over a couple of dollars nevertheless to thank the guys for entertaining us.

On Saturday August 12 2023, we set off from our hotel for the 1.5 mile walk to Pier 33 for a cruise to Alcatraz, and once again cut through Chinatown. We unexpectedly encountered community and business leaders promoting the 2nd Annual Lion Dance Festival at the Dragongate on Grant Ave.

The festival aimed to show off Chinatown in a positive way and was an opportunity for all aspects of the community to participate - residents, business owners and visitors alike. It had a fun and friendly atmosphere.

We bumped into CHiPper the Chipmunk, the costumed mascot of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), but the highlight was being allowed to sit inside the patrol car at the wheel! The San Francisco Fire Department had a gleaming fire truck on display nearby.

As we only had a little spare time, we lingered as long as we dared and managed to watch the first Lion Dance of the day with an excellent viewing position - right at the front of the crowd!

During the introduction to the Lion Dance, one of the performers explained the meaning behind the dance. Shortly afterwards, one of the festival organisers gave her welcome on the mic and she asked the crowds (rhetorically) if we knew about the meaning of the dance. She noticed me nodding and came over with the microphone and put me on the spot! Cornered, I said: “Your friendly colleague has already explained it to us!” A spectator to my left said, “Good answer!” and chuckled! I went as red as some of the pretty lanterns hanging above us!

The Lion Dance was exciting, energetic and full of color. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had a firm booking for our Alcatraz visit which was due to set sail in only an hour’s time so we had to dash off.

We felt safe in San Francisco’s Chinatown, unlike when we visited New York’s Chinatown many years before, perhaps because it wasn’t as busy as NYC. We passed through the neighborhood a few times at dusk too and had no issues then either. We did use the Stockton Street tunnel several times and were always on guard as we traversed through, often holding our breath for the unpleasant smells and particularly being alert when we passed undesirables. On one occasion as we approached the tunnel entrance, an angry woman got in our face and swore at us - because we had moved to the left instead of the right when our paths crossed. Thankfully this did not taint our experience of Chinatown and we would like to return if we ever revisit San Francisco.
Written 11 February 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

C K
Madison, WI740 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Couples
Chinatown was bustling with energy & people. Locals were everywhere visiting the markets busily purchasing fresh fish, meat, and vegetables. Crowded, we had to wind our way about the sidewalks. For those of us visiting, it was an experience. I wished I had more time to see more. We found a place to eat sitting down (many places are take out only) and a bakery to eat treats later. Many unusual food items including tons of dried foods.
Written 8 February 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

bcheong
Shanghai, China26,725 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2023 • Couples
Stayed at the Ritz and Chinatown was just a few blocks away, and next to Union Square which we were walking to

Pretty quiet on a subday afternoon, maybe it’s Xmas eve. Many storefronts closed
Written 24 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Pauly-101
Glasgow, UK517 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2023 • Couples
Well worth at least a walk through just to see the contrast with the rest of the city and some of the shops. Crazy busy though.
Written 15 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

guennie3
Cambridge, UK254 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Couples
Had high hopes of this neighbourhood in SF but was quite underwhelmed to be honest. It seemed to have a lot of touristy souvenir shops and many run down restaurants. The fortune cookie workshop was worth finding for a very quick visit and we did find a fab restaurant (R&G Lounge). dragon Gate and lanterns were colourful but other than that, there are better places to spend time in San Francisco.
Written 30 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Chinatown - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024) - Tripadvisor

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