What are the best neighborhoods in San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (5)

  • Ryan Brown

  • Entrepreneur, Coffee Buyer

  • San Francisco, US

I've lived in San Francisco a couple of different times and moved around a bit. I'm very happy with what's happening in the Intermission, or the southeast corner of Hayes Valley, as it's known. Lots of walking traffic, cool container pop-ups from the Proxy project, cafés, a great wine shop and even a travel supply shop.

Marianne Wong
  • Marianne Wong

  • Concierge, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California

I like a neighborhood that tells a story about its former inhabitants and the history and culture they left behind that lives on and continues to thrive. One of the most vibrant neighborhoods in San Francisco, the Mission and Castro Districts merge, mingle and meld together like a good Almadovar movie. To know a neighborhood, you have to walk it, so start at 14th Street and Valencia, get cranked up with a cup of local joe at any of the good coffee houses on this street. Walk up Valencia to Clarion Alley, see the fantastical murals painted on the walls of the houses that backs up into this alley. The mural art form is a strong one in San Francisco, where you'll find it popping up in unexpected places, adding color and character to neighborhood streets. Continue on Valencia to 18th Street and turn right to Dolores Park, named after Mission Dolores. The city's namesake, Mision San Francisco de Asisi, founded by the Spanish in 1776, is the oldest building in San Francisco. Continue on 18th Street to Castro Street, turn left or right to enjoy this colorful community of gay life. This walk and the neighborhood speaks of the immigrants and outcasts from society, and how they made a home here, an oasis to live, love and build a future. Their struggles and successes has enriched the culture of this city.

Kimberley Lovato

Again that word "best" is a tough one to discect.  One woman's "best" is another woman's "meh."

But, San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods. Ask someone where a restaurant or bar is and they won't toss out the address or streetname. They'll say, "In the________ (fill in neighborhood)."  

Be in the neighborhood know with these popular districts. Or discover the others---just grab a map and go!

Castro/Upper Market:  Buzzing with pride, nightlife, and cafés, this neighborhood whole-heartedly embraces its title as "Gay Capital of The World."

Union Square:  If retail therapy is what the doctor ordered then this is where you fill the prescription. The biggest names in fashion are found in and around this bustling downtown square.

SOMA:  Stands for South of Market and that is a clue to where it's located too. Here you'll find a mix of run down buildings and upscale clubs and hotels, museums, restaurants, and of course AT&T park, home of the 2012 World Series Champs--- the San Francisco Giants.

North Beach:  Some cities have Little Italy, we have North Beach, a small neighborhood filled with Italian restaurants, gelato shops, jazz clubs, pizzerias, and the picturesque Saints Peter and Paul Church.

The Mission:  Named for Mission Delores, founded in 1776, this neighborhood is one of the city's hottest and a popular place for nightowls. There's always a new restaurant or bar opening, and some argue the best Mexican food is found here too. Only one way to find out! Check out the 

Haight-Ashbury:  The Summer of Love put this famous corner on the map and these days, The Haight (also the name of the street) is still popular with hippies and hipsters alike. A great place to window shop, eat, drink, and people watch.

Hayes Valley:  Hayes Street has become a pleasant place to play, wtih galleries, eateries, unique boutiques and vintage shops dotting this stretch of street just West of Van Ness and Civic Center.

The Marina/Presidio/Cow Hollow: One of the most scenic of San Francisco's neighborhoods and great for leisure lovers. Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, the historic Presidio, The Palace of Fine Arts, the area also has several shopping streets good for shopping and eating, most notably, Union Street, Chestnut Street, and close to Clement Street in The Richomond, the city's "other" Chinatown.

Maria Hunt

San Francisco is a city made up of neighborhoods, and each one has its own special vibe and flavor. While you had probably thought of visiting The Haight, North Beach and Chinatown, here are some of the best neighborhoods to explore on your trip:

1. The Mission. Despite gentrification, this is still the heart of Latin culture in the city, with impressive murals and great Latin food of all sorts Parts can be a bit gritty, but this is where you’ll find quirky boutiques, some of the finest independent restaurants in the city (Tartine, Frances, Delfina, Mission Chinese Food, Namu Gaji), one of the oldest continually operating saloons (Elixir), and the city’s best salted caramel ice cream (Bi-Rite Creamery). In summertime, be like a local and relax in Dolores Park. 
2. The Castro. All sorts of visitors — gay, lesbian and straight —  come to the Castro for the fabulous shopping, the diversity of restaurants, the colorful cafés and the best happy hours.  
3.The Marina. For the late 20- and 30-something singles, the Marina is the place to see and be seen. It’s like a nirvana full of endless bars, boutiques and restaurants; some of them  — like Tacolicious — are quite good.
4. Hayes Valley. There’s a refined European vibe to this neighborhood. It’s filled with high end décor shops, bakeries, fashion boutiques, chic cafés like Arlequin with it’s enchanting garden and restaurants nearby including Jardiniere and Nojo.
5. Oakland. While we realize that it’s not in San Francisco, the diverse city just 12 miles away is the scene of some of the most exciting restaurant openings, art events and areas to explore like Jack London Square, Uptown, Rockridge and Temescal. People who used to live across the bay are coming to live here in droves — and loving it. 

Katie Sweeney

San Francisco is a neighborhood-centric city. Ask anyone who lives in the Mission what the best neighborhood is and they'll answer the Mission. The same goes for every other neighborhood, but here are my personal favorites.

With its gorgeous houses and stunning views, Pacific Heights is the city's most glamourous neighborhood. The main street for shopping, dining, and people watching is Fillmore Street. Cow Hollow is a great neighborhood for young people. Union Street is filled with bars, coffee shops, and trendy restaurants. North Beach is the most historic neighborhood and is perfect for everyone young and old. It offers famous Italian restaurants, boutiques filled with local treasures, and bars that craft some of the city's best cocktails. The Lower Haight could be described as the most man-friendly neighborhood. There's plenty of sports bars, dives, and cheap, but tasty eats. Hayes Valley offers a little something for everyone, from locally made furniture to vintage clothing to gourmet ice cream. Finally, the Mission district is the city's hippest neighborhood. It's the home to the most happening restaurants, bustling bars, and intense dance clubs. The Mission is also known for its exceptionally authentic Mexican cuisine.

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