Old Cathedral of St. Mary
Old Cathedral of St. Mary
4
About
This downtown San Francisco landmark was the first Catholic church in California.
Duration: < 1 hour
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: Chinatown
As the oldest in North America, San Francisco's Chinatown is an exotic experience. A unique neighborhood decorated with colorful shops, historic streetlights, hanging lanterns, and pagoda roofs awaits behind the stone-carved dragon gates. Feast on dim sum at the tea houses, or meet the locals who gather at historic Portsmouth Square to play chess or practice Tai Chi. Fish markets, produce stands, tourist shops, jewelry stores, fortune tellers, temples and restaurants come together to create a world unto itself in this historic neighborhood.
How to get there
  • Montgomery St • 7 min walk
  • Montgomery St • 7 min walk
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles100 reviews
Excellent
40
Very good
45
Average
14
Poor
1
Terrible
0

The_Loup_Garou
Phoenix, AZ166,349 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2019
Historic Cathedral Between Chinatown and the Financial District

I had never heard of Old St Mary’s Cathedral on California St, until our July visit. After exploring Chinatown one morning, I headed down California St, and just at the edge of Chinatown, a structure caught my attention. The architectural elements stood out, from the ornate structures of Chinatown, and just before the modern buildings that dot the Financial District, here was an old church. I was drawn to it, as it was so atypical of all in the surrounding area.

I spent time studying the building from the exterior, and then entered, to behold an impressive chapel with some lovely stained glass. It was a lovely, and serene place, with but a very few visitors.

Just inside the doors, in the hallway to the chapel, there was a very nice, historic display of the Cathedral, complete with historic photographs. Those complimented a plaque on the exterior, telling of the history of the church. I would be sure to take in both the plaque and then the display, before entering the grand chapel. Old St Mary’s was the first Cathedral in San Francisco, so lots of history on this spot.

When I went back to observing, and photographing the exterior, I noticed several groups of tourists, and what looked like some sort of organized tour, since all of the folk were dressed the same. Not one group even slowed down to look at Old St Mary’s - they just hurried past it - such is the shame.

After about an hour, I crossed the California St, as I had noticed St Mary’s Park, and wanted to explore it. Be sure to spend a bit of time at both.
Written May 5, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mini
Fremont, CA199,993 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
Old Cathedral of St. Mary's is the first cathedral in California. It is an active Catholic Church.

I visited the Cathedral when I was in Chinatown area of San Francisco. It began in 1853. The stone work is from China and was brought over by boat.

The cathedral is very pretty with stained glass windows.

There is more I read about the history in the history cases when one enters the cathedral.

There is also a Cathedral Store, which I visited. They had some nice manger sets.
Written January 10, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Three3Bears
Morgan City, LA6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
If you're in the area, you have to see this. It's so beautiful. Takes your breath away. It just caught our eye as we passed, and for no reason decided to go in. So glad we did.
Written September 26, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Thomas H
San Francisco, CA58 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2019 • Friends
On the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue stands Old St. Marys Cathedral. The intersection brings together the main streets of: America’s largest Chinatown, the Pacific Rim’s behemoth Financial District, and Nob Hill’s “old moneyed.” California Street’s famed cable car stops at the front door.

Constructed from brick that was used as ships ballast in sailing vessels that rounded the Straights of Magellan from home ports in New England, she was dedicated on Christmas Eve 1854, the largest building in The City at the time.

The brick walls of Old St. Mary survived every earthquake to hit San Francisco, but her roof burned during the Big One in 1906.

Now the national parish for the Catholic flock of Chinatown, Old St. Mary has witnessed more San Francisco history than any other structure in the City by the Bay.
Written November 23, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Wally-Singapore
Singapore, Singapore844 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2019 • Solo
Walked in during midday mass. Found it to be a place that's very conducive for prayer and reflection.
Written October 24, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

busconi
Wenatchee, WA5,358 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Solo
Located in the middle of China Town, Old St. Mary's Cathedral is a beauty. At one time, this Cathedral was the tallest building in all of San Francisco, in fact, the tallest building in all of California. Opened in 1854 and then later almost destroyed in the fire of 1906. All that was left after the fire were the brick walls. But it was rebuilt and today it is just beautiful. When you enter you will find several glass display cases with pictures of the early days of the church and a verbal history. Stop by...you won't be sorry.
Written April 22, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kerryloves2travel
Watsonville, CA569 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2017 • Friends
This church has a remarkable history . Having withstood 1906 earthquake & a fire.
It stands right in middle of China town & I have walked past many times.
This time I took the time to enter. Beautiful stained glass windows all around.
You can purchase a candle to light in front of the many statues. Something I love to do when I travel.
A very spiritual & calming spot.
Well worth stepping inside. Let's suport & protect this beautiful church.
Written March 17, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ChitoD
San Francisco, CA598 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2015 • Family
Located right smack in the middle of Chinatown, I always carve out time to visit even for a few minutes. Inside, the lights are subdued and it is easy to feel the solemn and relaxing atmosphere, away from the rushing vehicles along California Street and the non-stop tourist traffic along Grant Avenue. Historically, it has been classified as a cathedral, but it does not compare to the large churches, as it is humble in size. But actually, it was the first cathedral of San Francisco and was considered the tallest building at the time it was erected. There is a bookstore beside it, which sells Christian books and being in Chinatown, there are lots of shops and restaurants near it.
Written March 8, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

christiano_10
Tczew, Poland536 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2013 • Friends
The mass in which we took part was beautiful! What makes this place so special is the grand piano standing near the altar - amazing! And outside the building you may relax sitting on the bench.
Written December 23, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Thomas V
Oakland, CA16,054 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
This historic church is in the heart of Chinatown. I seem to see a marriage here each time I walk past. It's lovely, simple, stately and worth your quick visit.
Written March 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Old Cathedral of St. Mary, San Francisco

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