If you’ve never been to San Francisco’s Chinatown, you’re in for a treat. Not only is San Francisco’s Chinatown the oldest in North America, it is also the area with the largest concentration of Chinese individuals, businesses, and restaurants outside of China itself!
After being almost completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1906, Chinatown was entirely rebuilt in traditional Chinese style and architecture. It now offers tourists and native San Franciscans alike beautiful temples, ornate theaters, antique shops, tea houses, mouth-watering restaurants, and a wide array of small businesses owned and operated by the local community.
The famous gateway to Chinatown is located at Grant Avenue and Bush Street and ushers you into a world of captivating sights, delicious food, and some of the best souvenir shopping in the city. The heart of the neighborhood is Portsmouth Square, where locals congregate to play board games, catch up, or just relax in the sun on a nice day.
Grant Avenue is lined with beautiful Art Deco fixtures that give an added touch of mystique to the neighborhood. Be sure to check out the intricate street lamps sculpted in the 1920s to resemble golden dragons.
If you are interested in visiting some of the local temples, you’ll want to stop by Waverly Place – a beautiful street adorned in the Chinese celebratory colors of red, yellow, and green. Waverly Place is home to three Buddhist temples: Norras at 109 Waverly, Tien Hou at 125 Waverly, and Jeng Sen at 146 Waverly. These serene locations are perfect for reflection, prayer, or just taking a breather during a busy day of sight-seeing.
If shopping is more up your alley, we suggest Stockton Street located just a block west of Grant Avenue. Here, you’ll find bustling sidewalks lined with fishmongers, grocers, spic and tea shops, noodle bars, and restaurants.
Another popular attraction is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory at 56 Ross Alley where you can watch the lightning quick fingers of the skilled staff. There are other fortune cookie factories in Chinatown, but this is the only one that still makes the cookies by hand – the same way they’ve been doing it since 1962. You can also pick up a big bag of fresh cookies for about $3.
If you are lucky enough to be traveling in San Francisco during one of the Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year, you’ll get to experience elaborate celebrations that completely transform the neighborhood. But, regardless of what time of year you visit, make sure Chinatown is high on your sight-seeing list: it’s truly unlike anywhere else in the country.
How to Get There
Getting to Chinatown from The Payne Mansion Hotel is as easy as calling a car through our convenient on-demand iCar service, or hopping on public transportation – located just a short walk away.
If you decide to travel by car, it’s an easy 6 minute trip. Head west on Sutter Street, take a left on Gough Street, another left on Post Street, and a left again on Taylor Street. Finally take a right onto Clay Street and you’ll have arrived in one of the most vibrant neighborhoods of the city.
If you’d rather take advantage of public transit, the trip will take you only 16 minutes. When leaving the hotel, head east on Sutter Street, take a left on Franklin Street, and another left on Clay Street to arrive at the Clay & Franklin Street #1 bus line stop. Hop on the #1 headed Downtown, and in just a few minutes, you’ll arrive at the corner of Clay Street and Stockton Street in Chinatown.