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Wander Through Chinatown

San Francisco lays claim to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. A walk through the busy neighborhood bombards the senses with vibrant colors, fragrant smells, and loud chattering. Start your tour at the imposing Chinatown gates guarded by a pair of stone dragons. From there, get lost amid the crimson street lanterns, Mandarin characters, and constant hustle and bustle. Cheap trinket and souvenir stores abound, but you can also find traditional pastries, inexpensive fruits and vegetables, and tea and herb shops. Wander down Ross Alley and pop into the small Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory for a look at how the ubiquitous folded treats are made. You may even get to sample the final result.

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AFAR Contributor
over 4 years ago

Stroll through San Francisco's Chinatown

Dubbed the largest Chinatown outside Asia and the oldest in North America, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a lively and colorful neighborhood close to the Financial District and North Beach.

Since the first Chinese immigrants arrived in San Francisco in 1848, Chinese culture has been an important element in the city’s history and evolution. That culture is still very much alive in Chinatown today—meander through the streets and alleys for shops, food, buildings, and other sights that will make you feel like you’re on a different continent.

Enter the south side of Chinatown through the green Dragon's Gate at Bush and Grant Streets, downtown.

AFAR Contributor
over 3 years ago


A 10-minute walk from The Scarlet Huntington will bring you to one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations, Chinatown. By some estimates the neighborhood draws even more visitors than the city’s most iconic sight, the Golden Gate Bridge. The main artery of Chinatown is Grant Avenue, where you’ll find the much-photographed Dragon Gate (at the intersection with Bush Street).

San Francisco’s Chinatown has long been the largest outside of Asia and while you will find shops catering to tourists, explore a little farther and you’ll also find traditional herbal shops and temples, locals practicing tai chi in Portsmouth Square, and restaurants serving some of the best Chinese food in the city. In fact, the dim sum houses of San Francisco’s Chinatown are often credited with popularizing the meal of small dumplings and other dishes in America. Ask the concierge at The Scarlet Huntington to suggest a dim sum restaurant that matches exactly how adventurous you’re feeling.

Photo by Shubert Ciencia/Flickr.
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Tea Shop Hop

Chinatown is a delicious place to spend an afternoon dinning on Dim Sum and washing it down with teas for any ailment or taste.

It may feel slightly overwhelming among the crowded streets, unsure of what to do or see first, or where to go. I first stepped inside of a teashop just a couple doors down from Kerouac street. The woman who helped us was accommodating and warm and told us to sit to taste that day's selections of tea. We sat and she chose 3-4 for us to try and we were able to choose a couple more for interest sake. The walls were lined with different types of teas and when we were walking out we saw one in particular high upon the shelf. We inquired about it and she said that it wasn’t for us and costs $90 US per ounce. I assumed it was a tea praised for its medicinal properties.