Portsmouth Square

North Beach & Chinatown

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 moved into Portsmouth Sq's burlesque Jenny Lind Theater in 1852, and today the square is graced by the Goddess of Democracy, a bronze replica of the statue that Tiananmen Sq protesters made in 1989. Tai chi practitioners greet the dawn, toddlers rush the playground at noon and chess players plot moves well into the night.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby North Beach & Chinatown attractions

1. Chinese Culture Center

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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…

2. Chinese Telephone Exchange

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

3. Commercial Street

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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…

4. Wentworth Place

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

5. Waverly Place

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

6. Tin How Temple

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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…

7. Chinatown Alleyways

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If you look close today at the clinker-brick buildings lining these narrow backstreets, past the temple balconies jutting out over bakeries, acupuncture…

8. Spofford Alley

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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…