Recognized as the oldest Chinatown in North America, San Francisco’s Chinatown has a deep rooted history in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is also one of the largest communities of its kind, covering around 25 blocks in the Eastern part of the city. It is located near the North Beach, FiDi and Nob Hill neighborhoods in San Francisco.
The history of Chinatown in San Francisco dates back to the 1850s. In conjunction with the Gold Rush (which technically started in 1848, but didn’t really take off until 1849), an estimated 25,000 Chinese came to the United States and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in hopes of finding gold and striking it rich. Early immigrants settled close to Portsmouth Square, which is a centrally-located park in Chinatown that is still used today. As more Chinese arrived in San Francisco, the Chinatown neighborhood grew rapidly, eventually becoming “the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan”
Today, Chinatown is an integral part of the city’s culture and a popular tourist attraction, attracting millions of visitors every year. It is one of the busiest neighborhoods in the city, filled with locals and tourists walking the streets, trying delicious food and shopping at unique stores in the area.
There are lots of great attractions in the area, so make sure you plan to spend a good amount of the day if you visit. One of the more memorable landmarks is the Chinatown Gate, which acts as the official entrance to the Chinatown neighborhood. A gift from Taiwan in 1969, it is an authentic Chinese entry gate with a quote that says”All under heaven is for the good of the People”. It is located at the intersection of Bush Street and Grant Avenue and leads you right into the hustle and bustle of the area. As you cruise down Grant Ave, you will immediately feel immersed in the culture of Chinatown. The colorful facades, hanging lanterns and beautiful fixtures are unique to this area of the city.
The shops along Grant Ave and Stockton Street are constantly busy, selling everything from fresh meats to tempting produce and a host of unique foods and spices that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. There are also a number of tea tasting rooms where you can try a variety of teas like Oolong, White Tea and Green Tea, while you learn about how the plants are grown and harvested. Other great attractions include Old St. Mary’s Church, The Old Telephone Exchange, The Chinese Historical Society, The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and Portsmouth Square.
Chinatown is a great place to visit any time of the year, but if you want a real treat, then Chinese New Year is the best time to go. Taking place in January or February every year (depending on the Lunar Calendar), it is a huge celebration throughout the area. Make sure to plan on attending the Chinese New Year Parade, which is the best part of the event.
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