A Tale of Two Chinatowns

One Chinatown. Two realities and not one better that the other. One is the Chinatown we locals know and love. The one where our familiar and beloved privately-owned businesses passed down from generations of Chinese immigrants thrive. The other, a tourist attraction where one will enthusiastically walk up and down expecting to be dazzled and to find something they cannot find elsewhere- be it a small chachki, a silk robe or just the perfect golden lion statue.


Chinatown the Tourist Attraction:

For something not very large in area, you will need to plan a whole afternoon to truly experience Chinatown. Just ask the over 75% of tourists (+- 2,000,000) who visit Chinatown annually.  People come not only for random finds from ethnic shops but also the Chinese-style architecture and good food!

Chinatown the Local Gem:

This 20-block neighborhood is remarkably packed not only with tourists but residents as well. As the densest part of the densest city in California, over 15,000 people call these 20 blocks home. Who can blame the residents? Inexpensive housing is preserved here. Well, inexpensive for San Francisco. It serves as a cultural “Capital City” where many maintain bonds with such institutions as Buddhist temples and regional family associations.

2 Chinatowns Unite:

There are of course times when both realities collide and it’s usually magic. Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year are an example of when both locals and tourists go out of their way in this packed neighborhood to be dazzled. Dragon-dances, parades, floats- you name it.

There’s also neighborhood darlings and tourist stops like The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, Old St Mary’s Cathedral and the not-to-miss alleyways!


Whichever Chinatown you know, there is no question that there’s something for mostly everyone here.

Posted by: Rebecca White on

Tags: , , ,