San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. It is one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. Chinatown has been traditionally defined by the neighborhoods of North Beach, and Telegraph Hill areas as bound by Bush Street, Taylor Street, Bay Street, and the water. Within Chinatown there are two major thoroughfares. One is Grant Avenue (都板街), with the Dragon gate (aka "Chinatown Gate" on some maps) on the corner of Bush Street and Grant Avenue; St. Mary's Square with a statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen; a war memorial to Chinese war veterans; and stores, restaurants and mini-malls that cater mainly to tourists. The other, Stockton Street (市德頓街), is frequented less often by tourists, and it presents an authentic Chinese look and feel, reminiscent of Hong Kong, with its produce and fish markets, stores, and restaurants. Chinatown has smaller side streets and alleyways providing character.
Established in the 1840s, Chinatown is an active center of Chinese culture in San Francisco, offering many venues for the arts, film, music, photography and literature. A sprawling and densely populated area, Chinatown hosts gift and herbal shops, Chinese theatres, joss houses (temples), pagoda roofs, dragon parades, and over 300 restaurants. It is effectively a "city-within-a-city".
Aside from this "main" Chinatown, several other Chinese enclaves or "new Chinatowns" have sprung up across the city. Most notable are a section of Clement Street between Arguello Boulevard & Park Presidio in the Richmond District, Irving Street between 19th Avenue and 25th Avenue, and Noriega Street between 19th Avenue and 25th Avenue; between 30th Avenue and 33rd Avenue, both in the Sunset District. Another is sprouting up in the south end of the city on San Bruno Ave. between Silver Ave and Bacon Street in Visitacion Valley neighborhood. Unlike in most Chinatowns in North America, ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam have not established businesses in San Francisco's Chinatown district, due to high property values and rents. Instead, many Chinese-Vietnamese – as opposed to ethnic Vietnamese who tended to congregate in larger numbers in San Jose – have established a separate Vietnamese enclave on Larkin Street in the heavily working-class Tenderloin district of San Francisco, where it is now known as the city's "Little Saigon" and not as a "Chinatown" per se. As with historic Chinatown, Little Saigon plans to construct an arch signifying its entrance, as well as directional street signs leading to the community.