Welcome to Union Square and Chinatown
Top Reasons to Go
- Ross Alley, Chinatown: Breathe in the scented air as you watch the nimble hands at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, then kick back with a cocktail at Li Po around the corner, rumored to be haunted by the ghost of an opium junkie still looking to score.
- Return to noir San Francisco: Have a late martini lunch under the gaze of the Maltese Falcon at John's Grill, then swing through the lobby of the Flood Building and nod to the other Maltese Falcon there.
- Shop the square: Prime your credit cards and dive right in, from Bloomie's to the boutiques of Maiden Lane.
- Tin How Temple: Climb the narrow stairway to this space with hundreds of red lanterns, then step onto the tiny balcony and take in the alley scene below.
- Elevator at the St. Francis: Ride a glass elevator to the sky (or the 32nd floor) for a gorgeous view of the cityscape, especially in the evening when the lights come up.
Planning Your Time
Set aside at least an hour to scope out the stores and sights in and around Union Square—or most of the day if you're a shopper—but don't bother arriving before 10 am, when the first shops open. Sunday is a bit quieter.
Give yourself at least two hours to tour compact Chinatown. If possible, come on a weekday (it's less crowded) and before lunchtime (busiest with locals). You won't need more than 15 or 20 minutes at any of the sights themselves, but exploring the shops and alleys is, indeed, the whole point.
In these two neighborhoods, cars equal hassle. Traffic is slow and parking is pricey. Take advantage of the confluence of public transit at Powell and Market Streets: buses, Muni light-rail vehicles and BART (Powell Street Station for both), cable cars, and F-line streetcars run here.
It’s an easy walk to Chinatown from Union Square, and both Powell lines of the cable-car system pass through.
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