San Francisco – home of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Giants and the Golden State Warriors, famous for Alcatraz, the sea lions at Pier 39 and so much more. During January and February I spend there several weeks and was able to find out some not so obvious facts and amazing places in this beautiful city. Within the next 7 posts, I’m going to share my experience and my favorite places with you!
But let’s start with some facts about this beautiful city: First of all, San Francisco is only is the fourth most populous city in California after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose – and it’s not the capital city of California (that’s Sacramento btw.). But San Francisco is the second most densely populated in the United States after New York City. And it’s a relatively young city founded by Spanish colonists in 1776. The California Gold Rush of 1849 bought many people there and San Francisco soon became the largest city on the West Coast at that time.
Back then thousands of people from all over the world came to the Golden Bay Area trying to find their fortune. And at that time also starts the history of Chinatown, one of my favorite places in San Francisco. This area is centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street and is the largest Chinese community outside Asia. On Grant Avenue crossing Bush Street, you can find the “main entrance” – the gateway arch called Dragon Gate. Officially, Chinatown is located in Downtown SF and covers 24 blocks – and it feels like a city in a city. Although Chinatown was completely destroyed in the big earthquake of 1906 and rebuild in the years after, most temples look really ancient. And Chinatown feels, smells and sounds like a typical Chinese city: The streets are crowded and loud, people shout to sell their products, traditional bands play Chinese music, the smell of freshly cooked foods blends with the one of incense sticks from the temples.
But Asia has different faces and so has San Francisco. If you need to rest after an hectic day in Chinatown, you can easily calm down with some delicious Green Tea in Japantown just around the corner. Japantown is located between Bush Street and Geary Boulevard and covers only 6 blocks – and is quite the opposite of Chinatown: It’s calm and quiet, the architecture is clean and simple. The main attraction there is the Japan Center and it’s Peace Pagoda. This five-tiered stupa was designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi and presented to San Francisco by the people of Osaka / Japan.
To me, there are no other places in San Francisco that could differ more than Chinatown and Japantown. But both have their advantages and at least they one thing in common: great authentic food!