In 1970, Chinese-American architect Clayton Lee designed and erected this postcard-famous gate, which sits at the southern end of Chinatown along Grant Avenue. It’s a natural jumping-off point for exploring the neighborhood. With its stone pillars, green-tiled pagodas, and dragon sculptures, this gate is the only authentic Chinatown gate in the country. The three entryways are guarded by a trio of stone lion statues, said to ward off evil. Each passage has a sign hanging over it written in Chinese. The center one reads: “All under heaven is for the good of the people”; the right and left signs read “respect; love” and “trust; peace.”
One of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the United States, Chinatown San Francisco boasts some of the city's best dim sum restaurants, galleries, tea shops and karaoke bars. From the Dragon Gate to China Live, Chinatown is a bustling neighborhoods with shops, boba spots and restaurants galore. Not to mention, it's also one of the most walkable neighborhoods in a city filled with hills. Starting in late 2019, the neighborhood will also be graced with the Central Subway line, a brand new Muni route that will run from the Caltrain station in SoMa to Chinatown’s 4th and King streets. It’s worth spending an afternoon wandering through Chinatown, San Francisco's colorful alleyways, treasure-packed shops, and vibrant markets.
How do I get to Chinatown, SF?
Take the MUNI bus 3, 8, 30, or 45.
What are the most popular attractions in Chinatown, SF?
San Francisco’s Chinatown contains the largest Chinese population outside of Asia. As a result, the culture is robust, from arts organizations like the Chinese Cultural Center to the annual Chinese New Year festival every February. China Live, a two-story marketplace, retail space, food demonstration hall, and high-end bar and restaurant, is a must-see, as are the neighborhood’s quirkier, divier watering holes, like Buddha Lounge and Li Po Cocktail Lounge. Grant Avenue, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, is dotted with shops, bakeries, and grocers.
Time Out tip
The tiny, 450-square-foot Et. Al Gallery (620 Kearny St) resides in the basement of a dry cleaners. No, really. You have to pass through Union Cleaners and head down a flight of stairs to find it. It opened in 2013, representing local artists and hosting monthly exhibitions, and though it’s since expanded to a second location in the Mission, the original Chinatown space retains the same arty, edgy soul.
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