Chinatown San Francisco

Have you ever been to San Francisco?

If so, you’ve probably been to Chinatown…

Or at least know of it.

We were in San Francisco a couple years ago and weren’t actually able to stop in Chinatown due to time limitations, so this time around I wanted to take time to experience it on foot.

The ability to go anywhere in San Francisco on foot right now is pretty much welcome! It’s below zero back home, and we have been just relishing in the 60 degree sunny weather this week here!

Chintown was just a couple blocks from where we were staying this time, so a quick afternoon walk sounded perfect!


Be sure to use a parking brake!

I forgot how wicked those hills are.

They’re a bear to walk, (both up and down kills) and even driving up and down them freaks me out!

I snapped a couple of pictures in the car as we were approaching the hotel. You just can’t imagine how steep they are until you experience them.

We saw a cement truck and both felt deep appreciation for the driver’s ability to maneuver on slopes that seem barely legal for vehicles to even be on.

This is the view out the windshield at a stoplight:

It’s a ‘skyview’ driving on the slopes in San Francisco

When the light turns green, it’s a little disconcerting to just push the gas pedal to start moving again. One thing is you don’t want the car to slip backwards, (I’d never drive a stick shift here!) but also because you can’t even see the road in front of you, the car is tilted skyward!

So getting to Chinatown from our hotel was only a couple blocks, and we could have taken a cable car, but walking, even the steep hills felt good. (Here is my experience riding the cable cars with my husband the last time we were here… it was an experience!)

Fortunately, the slopes eased as we approached the entrance for Chinatown.

Dragon Gate the south entrance to Chinatown SF

The famous Dragon Gate entrance to Chinatown is a super popular photo to capture.

The gate was designed by a Chinese-American architect. The Republic of China donated the materials for the gate, and was dedicated nearly 50 years ago.

Last time we were in San Francisco, 4 years ago, we only had time to drive by the Dragon Gate. This time around, I wanted to be sure we took the time to walk through this famous landmark…

The street, Grant Ave. that the Dragon Gate is on, is a one way, North heading street through Chinatown.

My understanding is that Grant Ave. is mostly set up for tourists shopping, while the rest of the 24 square blocks are primarily where the local Asians shop and live.

Street lanterns of Chinatown.

Chinese lanterns are strung across the street. At night they are lit and look very festive.

It’s been said that once you are in Chinatown SF, you could easily feel like you are in China. San Franciso’s Chinatown is the largest enclave of Chinese outside Asia!

I haven’t been to China, but Chinatown in SF did feel very immersed in Chinese culture.

Shops in Chinatown

The sounds on the streets was the hauntingly beautiful music from the street musicians mingled with passing locals speaking their native language. That part of the experience did feel like we were in a foreign country.

Clearly, some of the shops in Chinatown are mostly intended for tourist purchases, (perhaps mostly right on Grant Ave.) while some shops seemed  quite  authentic of Chinese culture goods and groceries.

Moving sushi bar in Chinatown

I’m not one to eat sushi, but this Sushi Bar in Chinatown had a rotating sushi bar… (Is that how they all are??) The little ‘boats’ of raw fish delicacies slowly moved past for the diners to grab as they chose.

It was clear that some of the folks in Chinatown speak very little English…

Chinese writing on the bank in Chinatown.

All of the store signs, (and most street signs too) have both English and Chinese writing on them.  Here you can see Bank of America has both English and Chinese.

On our little ‘walk’ through Chinatown, we pretty much just stuck to Grant Ave.

However, a couple days later we took an Uber ride from our hotel to Pier 39. (On a side note… Did you know Uber started in San Francisco?) As we made our way in the car through the blocks and blocks of Chinatown, on other streets besides Grant Ave., it felt much less ‘touristy’.

There is a lot of history in the genesis, development and growth of Chinatown in San Francisco. Stories of people trying to make a new start in America.

There is also dark history in Chinatown’s history being laced with stories of human trafficking dating back to the mid 1800’s.

I wish that horrid part of history were no longer an issue, but from what I’ve read, Chinatown SF remains one of the biggest areas in human trafficking.

There are many facets to the history of this area, as there are in all large cities, some bad and some good.

A couple of street musicians in Chinatown.

The street musicians I heard in Chinatown were quite talented and the beautiful music wafted down the street.

We didn’t have the opportunity to eat a meal in Chinatown, but I’m sure that the locals have their favorite restaurants for yummy Chinese food!

I’m not a ‘city girl’. I love the country and small towns, but I do have a great appreciation to be able to visit the city and the culture it offers. Chinatown is for sure a very unique and trip worthy place in San Francisco, let alone the US.

Last time we were in San Francisco, I wrote about the 2 most impressive things that struck me that time. This time around, I was again reminded of all the amazing bay windows, but have been able to be ‘struck’ by new things too!

HERE you can read that post with the 2 most impressive things to me last time we were in San Francisco.

I love how our country is made up of so many different people and cultures from all over the world.

Next up… Muir Woods! I’m super excited to share with you the amazing experience we had there!

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This post can also be found at these other sites: Between Naps on the Porch, Skip to My Lou

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  1. Shirley says

    Sooo fun to see your photos of SF, thank you!! I was a hippy back in the 60s and lived there for a short time. We often rode the cable cars, especially to Chinatown markets to buy fresh fish.

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