Chinatown and Nob Hill

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dkm1981 on December 17, 2011

Another area of San Francisco that you should visit is Nob Hill and the nearby Chinatown. They sit at the top of the hill overlooking Union Square and the Tenderloin district and they are both great places to walking around and soak up the atmosphere. They both also have a couple of points of interest that may appeal to some.

Nob Hill is so named after the wealthy nabobs who built their huge mansions on the steep streets of the area. You can still see signs of the area’s heyday and the buildings are wonderful to look at. There is also an area at the base of the hills on the western side known as Polk Gulch which was once a gay mecca. Although it went through a rough period in the 1970s and gained a fairly unsavoury reputation, it is now a very peasant area with a relaxed atmosphere.

One of the main attractions in this area is the cable car museum. As the city is famous for the cable car you should take a ride on one. The routes generally run from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square and they provide a great way to climb the steep streets without much (or any) effort. If you are interested in learning more about them, the museum is located on Mason Street and is free to enter. You can learn about the mechanisms of the cars as well as the emergency procedures for stopping them.

In stark contrast to Nob Hill, Chinatown is a bustling area with lots of atmosphere. It is very busy and is a great place to go and watch the world go by or to grab a fairly cheap bite to eat.

The area came to fruition after the gold rush of the mid 1800s brought thousands of Cantonese to California. It originally gained itself a rather seedy reputation for vice and gambling but these days it is a much more wholesome place where tourists and locals can be found wandering the streets searching for a souvenir or a bargain.

The area runs along Grant Avenue and you absolutely can’t miss it as the streets are packed with shop and signs in Chinese writing hang everywhere. Many of the shops spill their wares out onto the pavement and the proprietors stand on the streets trying to entice people inside. It can be a bit much if you are just wanting a gentle stroll, but the people are very friendly and they do take no for an answer . . . eventually!

The main point of interest around here is the Chinatown Gate, which is located on Grant Avenue and Bush Street. It is a typically ornate affair that stands as a grand entryway into the streets of Chinatown. It was a gift from Taiwan and has a quote from Confucius on the top of it.

So if you are in the city, you should definitely have a wander around these areas to soak up the atmosphere and see what they have to offer.
Grant Avenue
San Francisco, California

© LP 2000-2009