WELCOME TO San Francisco
Known to be one of California’s primary economic centers and the centerpiece of the Bay Area, San Francisco is known worldwide for its iconic landmarks and distinctive culture. Its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity are only just some of what makes the City By the Bay so unique. One of the city’s most unique sites is the Golden Gate Bridge, which spans the channel connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The city is also a hub for LGBTQ and alternative culture, drawing tourists from worldwide who wish to experience San Francisco’s open and accepting culture.
Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture. They are as diverse as they are fascinating. Here is a breakdown of what you will find, notable things to know, and hotspots unique to each neighborhood.
Castro District - The notorious mecca of colorful life and center for the LGBTQ community holds not only a whirwind of fun nightlife with a handful of gender-bending bars, but is also home to excellent bakeries, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Some other Castro unique events are Pride Parade, Gaydom, and Film Festivals at the Castro Theatre.
Chinatown - "Dragon's Gate" will take you to one of San Francisco's most bustling and tighly packed areas. It is chock full of all the Chinese restaurants, shops, temples, street vendors, and culture you could ever hope for.
Cole Valley - If you are searching for a more quaint neighborhood with some of the best Bay Area dining spots, Cole Valley is your place. Mom & pop businesses are popular around here as well as some great dramatic city views on top of Tank Hill.
Financial District - Aptly named for its collection of modern and historic headquarter buildings, the “FiDi” has a lot more to offer than just office buildings. The Embarcadero Center shopping mall is a popular spot, as well as the Ferry Building and Crocker Galleria. There is also no shortage of ritzy places to grab drinks where corporate bigwigs often flock.
Fisherman’s Wharf - If you’re looking for a typical touristy San Francisco experience, head here. Fisherman’s Wharf is a waterfront neighborhood which encompasses Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and the ferry launch to Alcatraz Island, as well as a plethora of seafood restaurants and souvenir stores.
Haight-Ashbury - Home to the center of ‘60s psychedelia, the stretch of eclectic shops have no shortage of liberal San Francisco culture. It definitely still retains its hippie reputation with its funky vintage thrift shops, piercing parlors, anarchist book stores, and local artsy coffee shops and bars.
Hayes Valley - Close by to downtown, Hayes Valley houses some of the best Bay Area restaurants, shoe stores, cool boutiques, and quirky furnishing stores. It is also close to the San Francisco opera, symphony, and theatre district perfect for any cosmopolitan traveler.
Japantown - Packed with tons of Japanese culture, architecture, and food, Japantown is a lively destination ideally suited for the busy adventurer. Shop around the colorful Japan Center, eat sushi and ramen, and join in fun local Japanese culture events.
Lower Haight - Unlike its hippie-eclectic sister, the Lower Haight is much more of a hippie turned punk rock scene. On the weekends, spirited barflies fill out the bustling nightlife around the neighborhood. However, weekdays are much more quaint with cool organic food shops, boutiques, and coffeehouses.
Marina - Where the chardonnay is flowing and the young aristocratic professionals flock, this north-side San Francisco neighborhood is noted for its gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and its elite atmosphere. Mingle on the elegant Marina Green or cruise through the posh shops on Union Street.
Mission District - The heart of San Francisco's Latino neighborhood is 24th Street, a vibrant area known for it’s authentic taquerias, Mexican bakeries, produce markets, and breathtaking colorful murals. At 16th and Dolores, Mission Dolores is the oldest structure in San Francisco and two blocks away on 18th, is Dolores Park known for its weekends where locals throw down a picnic blanket, crack open beers, and hang out with good friends.
Nob Hill - One of the most iconic neighborhoods of San Francisco, Nob Hill has a well deserved prestige of swanky style, privileged lifestyle, and holds a large cluster of landmarks. With some of the most famous hotels such as the Fairmont, chic cocktail lounges, upscale boutiques, and sassy dive bars, Nob Hill is a go to place for style and class.
Noe Valley - This neighborhood may fall short in terms of busy nightlife, but makes up for it with cute cafes, coffeehouses, and a quaint family atmosphere. Well known for being the best family friendly neighborhood to live, Noe Valley is chock full of parks, strollers, and golden retrievers.
North Beach - North Beach is a dense Italian neighborhood packed with loads of festive Italian cuisine, bars, and strip joints. Also nestled in the neighborhood is the Beat Museum that feature Memorabilia, letters & post WWII culture artifacts from Jack Kerouac & other Beat Generation notables.
Pacific Heights - One of the more exclusive neighborhoods, “PacHeights” has it’s share of mansions and gorgeous parks with alluring views of the Marina, as well as upmarket shops and boutiques on Fillmore Street. Local bars and restaurants will give you a good mix of upper elite San Francisco and local family community.
Panhandle / NoPa - Named after the lush Panhandle park nestled in the neighborhood, it is a peaceful spot filled with loads of gorgeous Edwardian and Victorian homes. There is also a handful of cute coffeeshops where you’ll find USF students, whimsical businesses, and easy access to Golden Gate Park.
Potrero Hill - Having a much slower pace being isolated from most of the city rush, Potrero Hill bears cute houses with little gardens, clean streets, and a chill ambiance. It does host a selection of charming stores, as well as a diverse variety of restaurants and nightspots.
Presidio - Having a national park within the city boundaries, the Presidio is a lush escape with hiking trails & creeks, a lovable neighborhood sprinkled with restaurants, historical military structures, and gorgeous old former officers’ homes. Enjoy Baker Beach with an astounding view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background or eat your heart out at Off the Grid on the Main Parade Ground, where all the local food trucks come every Sunday.
Richmond - Even with being predominately residential, the Richmond district does hold a few local hotspots that make for a great evening out. Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Tibetan foods make up most of the restaurants around. You’ll find the hustle and bustle on Clement Street and Geary Boulevard just a few blocks south.
Russian Hill - Being rather bohemian just 40 years ago, Russian Hill has shifted to be way more of an upscale neighborhood with an isolationist artistic vibe. You can find stunning views of the city, charming cafes, and expensive condos.
Sea Cliff - Being the most prosperous neighborhood of them all, Sea Cliff is the home to not only many affluent business executives, political moguls, and a handful of celebrities, but also the most gorgeous multi-million dollar homes with breathtaking landscapes. Many tour buses are banned from this area to keep privacy, but travelers can drive themselves around the luxurious neighborhood.
SOMA - The industrial warehouse nature of this area is perfect for urban warriors, dance hungry hipsters, and hole in the wall dwellers. Drawing a hugely diverse crowd, (So)uth of (Ma)rket street has everything from discount shopping to warehouse clubs to risqué drag bars.
Sunset - Being a family friendly neighborhood in San Francisco, the Sunset offers cute family housing, a large surfing community, and fog-laden streets at all times of the year. Travel to the outer Sunset for fun on Ocean Beach or the inner Sunset for delicious asian cuisine.
Tenderloin - Noted as one of the more seedy and gritty spots of the city, it’s charm holds true to the boho and hobo dwellers. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but excitement does attract a large gathering on Polk Street with loads of bars and delicious Pakistani food joints.
Union Square - A shopaholics dream come true! Union Square contains the top fashion brand stores, amazing food from all cultures, as well as fun holiday events and street performers in the heart of The Square.