Top Ways to Spend a Day in San Francisco’s Chinatown

San Francisco is home to the oldest and second-largest Chinatown in the nation. When travelers have only one day to spend in Chinatown, it can be challenging to decide what to include on the to-do list. Below are several recommendations from other travelers along with those who make San Francisco their home.

Red Blossom Tea Company

With canisters spread throughout the store, staff encourage people to lift the lids and smell what’s inside. Shoppers can find a wide range of their favorite teas here, including smoky black teas and oolong. They can also enjoy several samples while they shop, making it easier to choose a favorite or two.

Ma Tsu Temple

Located front and center on Beckett Street is the Ma Tsu Temple with circular red decorations. The builders of the temple created it in a modern Daoist and Buddhist style. Visitors are welcome to go inside. Before they do, however, it’s a good idea to familiarize themselves with temple etiquette. While the temple doesn’t post any rules, following this is just common courtesy:

  • Stay out of the way of anyone at the altars or making their way towards the altars.
  • Don’t take any pictures indoors. It’s important to respect people who are praying in their own sacred space.
  • Don’t touch anything. The artifacts and altars inside the typical Chinese temple can be hundreds of years old. Respectful guests don’t touch them or allow anything to brush against them such as a purse or shopping bag.
  • If talking is necessary, don’t raise the volume louder than a whisper.

Grant Avenue

Dozens of authentic Chinese restaurants, antique and souvenir shops, herbalists, apparel stores, and more line Grant Avenue in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The shops are not something people see every day, like the Chinatown Kite Shop offering numerous sizes and styles of kites. The well-known Golden Gate Bakery also resides on Grant Avenue.

Chinese Historical Society

It takes approximately one hour to walk through the Chinese Historical Society located at the intersection of Clay Street and Stockton Street. Although the museum is small, it offers a large amount of information on the experience of Chinese people living in the United States. It especially focuses on immigrants and those living under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The museum exhibits encourage people to put themselves in the place of Chinese immigrants who made their way across the Pacific Ocean with big dreams of starting a new life in America.

Unwind with a Glass of Wine

Z & Y Restaurant, an authentic Chinatown favorite, recently opened a sister location called Z & Y Bistro. This contemporary wine bar features international and local red and white wines, the staff specifically chose to bring out the flavor of the Chinese fusion cuisine also served here. Imported beers from China and Japan are also available. Z & Y Bistro is located directly across the street from the original restaurant and serves many of the same foods without the wait.

When it comes to shopping, dining, and discovering history, San Francisco’s Chinatown truly does offer something for everyone.