A few blocks uphill from Union Square is the abrupt beginning of dense and insular Chinatown—the oldest such community in the country. When the street signs have Chinese characters, produce stalls take up most of the sidewalk, and whole roast ducks hang in deli windows, you'll know you've arrived. (The neighborhood fills the 17 blocks and 41 alleys bordered roughly by Bush, Kearny, and Powell Streets and Broadway.) A number of neighborhood businesses closed or struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, as in other parts of San Francisco and in cities around America, the community is seeing an unfortunate rise in anti–Asian American incidents. The city is trying hard to support this landmark neighborhood and keep its largely elderly population safe.
Chinatown is very much both a residential and a tourist neighborhood, with some overly tourist-focused souvenir shops. Yet it is still an incredibly unique, welcoming place that residents love to share. Each day sees a joyful mix of curious visitors eating pork buns and gazing at the architecture, while longtime locals walk by after to shop for the night's dinner. Join the flow along Grant Avenue and its side streets: good-luck banners of crimson and gold hang beside dragon-entwined lampposts and pagoda roofs, and honking cars chime in with shoppers bargaining in Cantonese or Mandarin.