San Francisco Neighborhoods
If you like Fisherman’s Wharf, you’re going to love discovering the rest of the city.
Learn more about San Francisco by spending time in each of our unique neighborhoods, each with their very distinct personality and flair. Zoe’s lined out 18 of her favorites for you. From Chinatown to Nob Hill to Seacliff, there’s something for every taste and budget in San Francisco.
The PresidioThe Presidio, a former military base, is part of the National Park Service and is located in the heart of San Francisco. The Presidio is both a lush destination with hiking trails and creeks and a charming neighborhood peppered with restaurants, interesting old military structures, and beautiful, historic former officers’ homes. Within the Presidio you can also find Crissy Field Center, an urban environmental education center with programs for schools, after school programs, summer camps and more. For both locals and travelers, this area frequently hosts exhibits, walking tours, and nature activities that give a good glimpse into the area’s beauty and history.
San Francisco’s Castro District is generally agreed upon as the mecca of gay life in the city. The affluent North side of Market is home to a predominantly gay and lesbian community, excellent bakeries, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and of course, gender-bending bars.
The famed Castro Theatre, the Castro’s historic art deco movie palace, screens old and independent films from around the world.
Haight-AshburyFor a walk back into counterculture history, visit the stretch of shops referred to by San Francisco locals as Upper Haight – previously the center of ’60s psychedelia. Despite gentrification and proliferation, it still retains its hippie credentials, and is dotted with Victorian houses, anarchist bookstores, piercing salons, and funky clothing shops.
ChinatownSan Francisco’s Chinatown is known as one of the best in the US. Enter via the Dragon’s Gate at the corners of Grant Ave and Bush Street for an unforgettable journey into Chinese-American culture. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a tightly packed area filled with restaurants, shops, temples, and street vendors. If you’re here during the Chinese New Year, make sure you visit Chinatown for their impressive fireworks display!
Cole Valley is a colorful and quaint San Francisco neighborhood with a distinct community feel. In Cole Valley mom & pop businesses make up the majority of this neighborhood’s shopping opportunities; the main street is a bit more “big city” with dozens of cafes and restaurants, some of which are considered some of the best Bay Area dining spots.
Dramatic city views are a serious perk of Cole Valley, especially if you drive up to the top of Tank Hill to enjoy the panoramic vistas.
Financial DistrictSan Francisco’s Financial District is aptly named for the abundance of modern and historic buildings that house headquarters of corporations like Charles Schwab, Gap Inc., Salesforce, Google, VISA, the 12th District of the Federal Reserve, and more. This area isn’t all work and no play, though; shopping malls like Embarcadero Center, the Ferry Building, and Crocker Galleria welcome shopaholic locals and leisure travelers. By virtue of all the businesses in the area, there are also plenty of snazzy little bars where corporate bigwigs have been known to enjoy a martini lunch.
Hayes ValleyWith its close proximity to the San Francisco Opera, Symphony, and Theatre district, Hayes Valley is ground zero for the downtown socialite. Hayes Street teems with shoe stores, hip boutiques and quirky home furnishing stores. Some of San Francisco’s best restaurants surround this once socially decimated San Francisco neighborhood, including Absinthe, Zuni Café, and the Hayes Street Grill.
Nob HillNob Hill enjoys a well-deserved reputation for swanky style and a broad array of landmarks. It has long been one of the most iconic neighborhoods in San Francisco. Nob Hill’s personality is truly unique in its marriage of both old and new – vintage barber shops and classic cocktail lounges mingle with upscale boutiques, sassy dive bars, and huge nightclubs.
Noe ValleyCity dwellers seeking a more relaxed pace flock to this progressive San Francisco neighborhood, which is also known as Stroller Town. While lacking in nightlife, Noe Valley is laden with quaint cafes, craft boutiques, and coffeehouses. And a hidden secret? More sun than most of San Francisco!
Visit the heart of San Francisco’s predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. The Mission is home a colorful collection of restaurants, taquerias, Mexican bakeries, produce markets, specialty shops, and fantastic murals. A can’t-miss is Mission Dolores at 16th and Dolores streets. This Mission the oldest structure in San Francisco (many of San Francisco’s Spanish pioneers are buried on the site).
MarinaThis northerly San Francisco neighborhood affords gorgeous views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, and fantastic people watching. Here you’ll find businesspeople making dates and deals simultaneously, shopaholics cruising Union Street hunting for high-end cosmetics, and young urban professionals mingling on the Marina Green.
Japantown is a San Francisco neighborhood packed with pretty architecture and plenty of culture. A lively and colorful destination , there’s always something to do here, whether shopping in lively Japan Center (which houses dozens of restaurants and the largest Japanese bookstore in the US), visiting the eclectic shops on the streets adjacent to the Center, or hitting up events like the Cherry Blossom Festival. By virtue of the Japan Center garage, affordable parking is shockingly convenient in this slice of San Francisco.
With sweeping views of the marina and Bay below, Pacific Heights is one of San Francisco’s more exclusive neighborhoods, home to plenty of mansions and gorgeous parks. Pacific Heights neighborhood visitors will find upmarket shops and boutiques on Fillmore Street. Restaurants like Jackson Fillmore, Sorrel, and Pizzeria Delfina keep locals happy with their delicious food.
Russian Hill, which rises over the west flank of North Beach, has an interestingly isolationist, artistic vibe. This tony San Francisco neighborhood was considered rather bohemian through the late 1970s, even serving as the backdrop for Armistead Maupin’s ribald “Tales of the City” novels. While it has moved decidedly upscale, Russian Hill’s magnificent views, winding staircases, and charming café’s make it one of our favorite San Francisco neighborhoods.
Twin Peaks is a breathtaking neighborhood located in the heart of the San Francisco and rises above the rest (literally!). Occupying two of San Francisco’s highest summits, Twin Peaks offers a quiet respite from the city below. The neighborhood’s high-altitude location may remove it from hurried urban activity, but the steep descent from its hilltops is worth it for the sweeping San Francisco vistas.
If you’re searching for the most affluent neighborhood in San Francisco, look no further than Sea Cliff. Sea Cliff is a stunning destination filled with multi-million-dollar homes, gorgeous landscaping, and some of the most coveted views of the city, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
SoMaSan Francisco’s sprawling South of Market District (SOMA, as it’s typically known) is home to web gurus, urban warriors, and offbeat artists and has an industrial, warehouse vibe. Dance-hungry hipsters flock to bars like 1015 Folsom and the infamous The EndUp, while gay bars like the Eagle Tavern, the Stud, and the Hole In the Wall Saloon draw a community more diverse than the Castro. In the daylight hours, you’ll find the only big box stores in the entire city, including Best Buy and Costco.
San Francisco’s Little Italy is also its version of the Red Light District, a bustling neon home to bars, cafes, and restaurants. Meander through the narrow streets off Broadway and do some shopping. This San Francisco neighborhood still holds onto its 1950s Beatnik legacy with the very famous City Lights Bookstore at the corner of Columbus Ave and Jack Kerouac Alley. The world-famous North Beach Jazz Festival occurs here every year in August.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is home to a whopping 1,017 acres of gardens, trails, lakes, and picnic areas. One of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks, the park is bordered by many SF neighborhoods including Inner Sunset, Cole Valley, Haight-Ashbury, Richmond, and more – meaning there are so many entry points for your Golden Gate Park exploration. Between the people watching, seasonal activities, museums, conservatories, and more, you’ll want to set aside plenty of time to journey through the park!
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