Even though I have lived in San Francisco for more than 10 years, I still learn something new every time I take one of these Chinatown tours. It's a little city within a city that is full of history and always changing.
If you want to get to know the real Chinatown, the I recommend taking one of these guided tours. They range from free tours offered through the SF Public Library to more sophisticated paid options that include lunch or dinner.
On these tours, you get the chance to sample dim sum (traditional small plates), take a peek into the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, and see this district's gorgeous temples. You will love what you learn on all of these SF Chinatown tours.
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On this Chinatown adventure, you'll see the cultural side of this small city within San Francisco and discover the secrets of this old world neighborhood.
You'll learn more about Chinatown's herbal pharmacies, watch how fortune cookies are made at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, and see very colorful food for sale along Stockton Street. During the walk, you'll also stop by an authentic Buddhist temple, taste some exotic teas (if available during your tour time), and get an insider's list of where to shop in Chinatown.
If you wish, you can take the tour one step further by staying for lunch at a local restaurant in Chinatown. During the lunch, you will sample up to 10 different dim sum dishes and learn even more about the local cuisine.
Tour Length: 2 - 3 hours, longer for those selecting the meal option
Start Time: Daily at 10am
Book: Chinatown Walking Tour with or without Lunch
Are you interested in getting a look at the other side of Chinatown San Francisco? This 90-minute evening trek uncovers a different, darker side of this popular San Francisco neighborhood.
During this journey, you'll walk through interesting alleyways and hear stories about the spirits that show up from time to time. You'll also learn about ancient Chinese folklore and mythology that still shapes this community today.
Although you probably won't see many ghosts along the way, you will get an insider's look at the mysterious and lesser known places within the heart of this busy district.
Tour Length: 1.5 hours
Start Time: 7:30pm at Four Seas Restaurant
Book: Chinatown Ghost Walking Tour
Savings Tip: Before booking your Chinatown tour, make sure you check out the half-priced tours offered through Goldstar. They don't offer these tours at a discount very often, but at times I'm able to find a few days at a special price. Even if you don't find tickets to these tours, you might just find some great discounts on other fun SF activities!
This combined trip of both Chinatown and North Beach takes you through two of the most visited neighborhoods in the city.
First, you'll get the chance to savor some Chinese tea and try the famous dim sum in Chinatown. You'll also get a chance to walk by some of the most famous Chinese sculptures and architecture.
After your exploration of Chinatown, you'll walk a few blocks over to San Francisco's North Beach community. Here you'll learn more about this Italian neighborhood's hidden secrets and find the best places to enjoy its amazing coffee.
The entire trip last two hours. It's a great way to learn about the unique cultures of these two famed SF neighborhoods.
Tour Length: 2 hours
Start Time: 6pm
Book: Chinatown & North Beach Night Tour
The San Francisco Public Library offers an informative, free, two-hour Chinatown walking tour, every Monday and Saturday.
It starts at Portsmouth Square on the corner of Washington and Kearney Streets. During the trip, you'll walk along Chinatown's crowded streets, learning about the district's historic temples and its colorful past.
Periodically, the library also offers other tours of Chinatown, although none of these are currently listed on their schedule. Check the schedule before your trip to see if one will be offered during your visit.
Tour Length: 2 hours
Start Time: See current schedule
If you prefer to explore Chinatown on your own, check out my self-guided tour. I created this for anyone who is not able to book one of the tours above or would just prefer to head out on their own. It includes a walking route that takes you past three Chinese temples, as well as the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, and helps you find a great place for dim sum for lunch.
On this tour, you can also opt to visit the Chinese Historical Society, discover bargains along Grant Avenue, and step inside the oldest herbal pharmacy in SF.
Top Guided San Francisco Walking Tours: Do you want to explore additional neighborhoods in San Francisco? Here you'll find some of the best options throughout the city, including everything from the 75th Anniversary Golden Gate Bridge Walking Tour to the colorful Haight-Ashbury Flower Power tour.
Food Walking Tours: San Francisco is famous for its amazing restaurants. Why not sample some of its tasty treats on these food walking tours? Choose from the sweet treats in the Ferry Building to the savory delights throughout the Mission District.
More Self-Guided Walking Tours: Do you prefer to venture out on your own? This list of self-guided tours includes something for everyone. You can choose from detailed audio tours to self-guided walking tour maps. Both allow you to explore on your own while seeing the sights at your own pace.
North Beach Walking Tours: If you want to spend a little more time in North Beach, then check out these walking tours of the neighborhood. Take the North Beach Pub Crawl for a look inside some of the district's unique watering holes, sample local Italian favorites on the Little Italy and North Beach Tour, and learn about the controversial murals during the Coit Tower Murals Tour.