The largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest in the United States, San Francisco’s landmark district was established in 1848, dating back to the original Chinese immigrants who settled in the area. This microcosmic enclave preserves the culture, traditions, languages, and history of the original immigrants and their descendants. Today, Chinatown draws more annual visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge.
Attractions in Chinatown range from cultural events to authentic Chinese restaurants, shops, visually stimulating architecture, and more. Enter through the iconic Dragon Gate near Union Square and find yourself among the streets dense with people, shops, and kiosks.
The alleys of Chinatown are a popular tourist attraction for their Old World charm and uniquely traditional appearances. Waverly Place is a particularly popular street for its significant role in Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club and the painted balconies that overlook the street. Other attractions include the Bank of America which is decorated with 60 gold dragon medallions and the Sing Chong Building, one of the first buildings restored after the 1906 earthquake. The pagoda roofs, dragon emblems, and traditional Chinese architecture draws in crowds year round. Walking tours are recommended in Chinatown as this is the best way to get a comprehensive idea of the area’s culture and history whilst observing the interesting sites and intricate details of the buildings.
Events in the area occur year round including Chinese New Year festivals and parades, street fairs, seasonal festivals, as well as film festivals. Dragon parades are a particular favorite for locals and tourists alike.