Commercial Street

North Beach & Chinatown

Back when the red lights of Commercial St could be seen from the waterfront, this strip provided many provocative answers to the age-old question: what do you do with a drunken sailor? Conveniently located across Portsmouth Sq from San Francisco’s City Hall, this hot spot caught fire in 1906. The city banned its 25¢ Chinese brothels in favor of white-run ‘parlor houses,’ where the cost of basic serv­ices was raised to $3 – and watching cost $10 at the faux-French Parisian Mansion.

Today on Commercial St, 10 bucks gets you a couple of hot dishes of dumplings at City View.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby North Beach & Chinatown attractions

1. Portsmouth Square

0.06 MILES

Chinatown's unofficial living room is named after John B Montgomery's sloop, which staked the US claim on San Francisco in 1846. SF's first city hall…

2. Waverly Place

0.08 MILES

Grant Ave is Chinatown's economic heart, but its soul is Waverly Place, lined with flag-festooned, colorful temple balconies and family-run businesses…

3. Tin How Temple

0.08 MILES

There was no place to go but up in Chinatown in the 19th century, when laws restricted where Chinese San Franciscans could live and work. Atop barber…

4. Chinese Telephone Exchange

0.09 MILES

California's earliest high-tech adopters weren't 1970s Silicon Valley programmers – they were Chinatown switchboard operators c 1894. To connect callers,…

5. Old St Mary's Cathedral & Square

0.09 MILES

California's first cathedral was started in 1853 by an Irish entrepreneur determined to give wayward San Francisco some religion – despite the cathedral's…

6. Chinese Culture Center


You can see all the way to China from the Hilton's 3rd floor inside this cultural center, which hosts exhibits ranging from showcases of contemporary…

7. Spofford Alley

0.11 MILES

Sun Yat-sen once plotted the overthrow of China’s last dynasty here at number 36, and during Prohibition, this was the site of turf battles over local…

8. Wentworth Place

0.13 MILES

Dragons bring this shadowy brick byway roaring to life. The narrow entryway is illuminated with 'Dragon Boats Chasing Moonlight,' a new mosaic mural…