1.2 miles, 1-3 hours
Nestled in prime real estate between retail-happy Union Square, the bustle of the Financial District and the beatnik funkiness of North Beach, Chinatown beckons to tourists and locals with its irresistible green-tiled gate at the intersection of Grant and Bush streets.
Once inside the gate, the entrance and first block are really peaceful. Deeper into Chinatown, visitors will find anything but peace on the bustling and energizing streets, where the produce, meat and fish markets seemed to buzz all day long.
Chintown offers a bounty of shops, including restaurants, Chinese grocery stores and delis, bakeries, tea and herbal shops, clothing stores, galleries, souvenir haunts and more.
Take your time and let the streets and alleys guide you. This is a great part of town in which to "get lost," because you're never more than a half block from getting found.
Go hungry, because there are endless small restaurants offering dim sum, sushi, pastries, peking duck, pearl tea--and all at different price points, from 99 cent sushi to extremely high-end gourmet Chinese meals.
Be adventurous and take your sense of humor, because some blocks are incredibly densely trafficked, especially the busy sidewalks of the produce and fish markets, where locals won't look up as they make their way to the freshest and best-looking green beans, bok choi and eggplant we've ever seen.
Explore the tea houses, herbal shops and alternative medicine shops. Chinese herbal medicine is an ancient practice and the proprietors in these shops have amazing knowledge and experience. It's well worth investigating one or two--even if just for your own education.