Opium, Hidden Temples, Dragons & Fortune Cookies: The Essential Walk of Chinatown SF

San Francisco, CA

  • Chinatown in the 19th century.
  • The Dragon Gate.
  • Chinatown in the 19th century.
  • The tower of Old St. Mary's still stands after the city burned down following the 1906 Earthquake.
  • Portrait of Emperor Norton I.
  • Emperor Norton I on a bicycle.
  • What used to be the French Mansion, the most famous bordello in San Francisco.
  • Rube Goldberg's "Simple Alarm Clock"
  • Black Milk Tea with Bubbles at Ten Ren.
  • The magic inside the Golden Gate Bakery.
  • The epic line outside of the Golden Gate Bakery.
  • The temple is above the post office. Enter in the entrance towards the left.
  • The nondescript entrance to the Kong Chow Temple.
  • Photo from the 1961 Chinatown Beauty Pageant hanging on the wall.
  • Purse Dumplings.
  • 36 Spofford Alley served as the secret offices of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen
  • The view down Spofford Alley.
  • The ceiling in the Tin How Temple.
  • The "Painted Balconies" of Waverly Place.
  • The 60 year old fortune cookie machine still going strong.
  • The "Goddess of Democracy" statue
  • The locals playing a game of cards.

1 hour and 30 minutes
1.5 mi
Guided by Jason
Jason Donahue


Explore the thoroughfares and back alleys of the oldest Chinatown in the United States. Along the way, learn how the neighborhood formed, fought its red light district roots and maintained its cultural heritage in contemporary San Francisco. The guide features not just the main highlights of Chinatown, but also the treasures found in colorful alleys, hidden stairwells and secret temple patios. We will also stop along the way for snacks and dim sum.

About Your Guide

I am all about exploring local history, architecture, food and art to learn about how places came to be. You can find me in search of hidden places, tasty dim sum, high-design speakeasies, skyline vistas and other ingredients to build the perfect day.

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Guide Points

  1. Dragon Gate

    The Dragon Gate is the perfect starting point since it is the formal entrance to San Francisco's Chinatown, the largest and oldest (establi…

  2. Old St. Mary's Cathedral

    Old St. Mary's is the first Catholic church in the city, built near its predominantly Irish population in 1854.

  3. Empire Park

    Empire Park is one of the privately-owned, publicly-open spaces in the city and provides a refreshing breath of fresh air and escape. At t…

  4. The French Mansion

    This is more of a quick stop en route to the next guide point.

  5. Ten Ren Tea

    In a city that is burgeoning with Taiwanese Bubble Tea joints, we come to one of the institutions. Ten Ren is regarded as the authority on…

  6. Golden Gate Bakery

    This is one of the most popular bakeries in Chinatown and specializes in egg tarts (called _Dan Tat_ in Chinese). There is usually a long …

  7. Kong Chow Temple

    Sharing a building with the US Post Office is the Kong Chow Temple. The temple is dedicated to Guan Di, the god of war and literature. Not…

  8. Hang Ah Tea Shop

    This hidden dim sum restaurant opened in 1920 and serves as the oldest dim sum restaurant in the United States (Nom Wah Tea Parlor in NYC o…

  9. Spofford Alley

    The 41 alleyways of Chinatown offer some of the most accessible windows into authentic Chinatown. Spofford St does not look like much, and…

  10. Tin How Temple

    Tin How is the oldest Chinese temple in the United States, founded in 1852 by one of the first immigrants from China who was appreciative o…

  11. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

    Ross Alley is the oldest alleyway in San Francisco.

  12. Portsmouth Square

    Portsmouth Square is the social center of today's Chinatown. You'll find tai chi here almost every morning between 6-10am, Chinese Chess e…

Sidewalk Reviews

  1. 6 Reviews

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    Oct 23, 2019

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    Oct 21, 2019

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    Jan 15, 2019

    1. Anonymous

    Thank you

    Jan 15, 2019

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    Feb 17, 2018

About Sidewalk

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