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12 Best Neighborhoods in San Diego, CA 2020

By: Susan Finch
July 10, 2020

Sun, surf, and perfect year-round weather await in the best San Diego neighborhoods. Imagine spending your weekends at pristine beaches and dining outdoors with waterfront views. San Diego's distinctive neighborhoods offer something for everyone, from upscale to eclectic and arty.

The area is also sprawling, with tons of different places to call home. So, before you pack up and move, it's paramount to understand the best neighborhoods in San Diego. Here's where to get started.

1. North Park

Any worthwhile San Diego guide includes North Park as a fabulous place to call home. Situated north of Balboa Park, this hipster haven boasts a sea of restaurants and breweries where you can walk just about everywhere you want to go. Street parking is awful in North Park, but you can easily get by without a vehicle.

North Park is also an artist's paradise. There are galleries, historic charm, and culture around every corner.

On weekends, head to the monthly Ray At Night art walk. You can also go for a hike in Juniper Canyon or Bird Park.

Take your pick of apartments from new construction, modern urban complexes, mixed-use developments, and older mini-complexes. You'll find the action along El Cajon Boulevard. So, plan your apartment hunt according to whether you want to live in the middle of it all.

2. Little Italy

Foodies hungry for the best Italian food in San Diego settle into Little Italy. The endless food options and weekly Farmers’ Markets draw both locals and tourists alike.

Modern restaurants that look beyond Italian cuisine have also set up shop in Little Italy. Those include Juniper & Ivy, Born and Raised, and Ironside Fish & Oyster.

This downtown San Diego neighborhood is one of the most expensive in the city. However, it’s worth the trade-off for locals who want to live in the middle of the food and fun.

Nightlife is a little sleepy in Little Italy. But you're just a short drive away from the action in the Gaslamp District and beyond.

Street parking is also tough in Little Italy. So, look for an apartment with a garage.

3. East Village

This downtown neighborhood in San Diego offers a culture and arts hub for creative types. East Village is home to Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play. It’s also home to the Central Library.

Mixed-use buildings are the norm. Renters have their choice of new high-rise and luxury apartment buildings, as well as converted warehouses. You'll find the most coveted apartments overlooking Petco Park and the Gaslamp Quarter.

New restaurants and pubs are continually opening. In East Village, you'll find dozens of craft beers on tap on pretty much every corner. Despite the creative culture and attractive neighborhood amenities, East Village is one of the more affordable areas to live in Downtown San Diego.

4. Gaslamp District

The Historic Gaslamp District is among the most popular San Diego neighborhoods. It’s also a top tourist destination.

Step out of your apartment complex for bars, nightclubs, and restaurants against an electric nightlife backdrop. This San Diego neighborhood isn’t known for its quiet tranquility. So, decide whether you want to live where nightclubs and bars come to life. You may prefer to just visit for some weekend fun.

Like many areas in the downtown San Diego area, the Gaslamp district is walkable. That’s a good thing, since street parking is also a major pain point for renters.

5. Pacific Beach

Feel the ocean breeze of Pacific Beach in one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego. The area is tucked between La Jolla and Mission Bay for a lively party experience against a stunning backdrop.

College kids flock to Pacific Beach and the area is known for its youthful party scene. You’ll find bar-hopping, coffee shops, and beach-inspired food on their itinerary.

Although it's a hotspot for young partiers, more families are moving into the area beyond the wild Garnet Avenue. Look for quieter options in North Pacific beach with scenic mountain views as you get closer to La Jolla Hills. For a break from the beach, hang out at Kate Sessions Park for a weekend reprieve and wonderful views.

6. Ocean Beach

For a laid-back, hipster-meets-surfer vibe, settle into the San Diego neighborhood of Ocean Beach. You're just a stone's throw from attractions like SeaWorld and Hotel Del Coronado. However, you’re also firmly rooted in a loyal, funky community with an alternative vibe that values fun and relaxation.

Bike around and browse the surf shops. You can also stop in for a taco or sandwich at casual eateries lining the street along Newport Avenue.

Or, take your pup to the neighborhood Dog Beach. There, you’ll find fellow dog owners with furry friends eager to play in the surf.

All beach towns will be expensive anywhere you look around San Diego. However, Ocean Beach is one of the more affordable beachfront areas.

You won't find towering high rises in Ocean Beach. Instead, you’ll see smaller condos, townhomes, and unique beach cottages clustered around the northwestern corner of the neighborhood.

7. Point Loma

Enjoy year-round views of the jaw-dropping Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma. As one of the most popular San Diego neighborhoods, Point Loma is ideal for those looking for a quiet and relaxed residential area with unbelievable seafood.

On weekends, join the families boating near the bay. Or, you may choose to explore Point Loma’s food and shopping hub Liberty Station.

Some Point Loma apartments are footsteps away from Mission Bay and ocean views. Here you can find accommodations inland with a mix of older condos, small apartment complexes, and in-home units.

8. University Heights

Head north of North Park to the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights. It has that same hipster vibe as North Park and walkable residential areas. The neighborhood boasts a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops.

University Heights is also cozier than surrounding neighborhoods, with a smaller business district. It's also family-friendly with a nearby Trolley Park playground for kids to play. Take your pick of apartments in cozy complexes, newer buildings, and private condos.

9. Hillcrest

Live in the heart of San Diego’s LGBT community in the neighborhood of Hillcrest. With a lively and upbeat atmosphere, the area is loaded with restaurants and bars. It’s also just a quick walk to Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo. You're also living alongside the neighboring North Park and just two miles from Little Italy. It’s an ideal location!

The eclectic neighborhood has a long history of diversity with activist roots. Walk to pubs and shops. You can also stop by the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market for weekly produce.

You won't find posh, luxury high-rises like in Downtown San Diego. However, Hillcrest has plenty of smaller, charming apartment complexes with a low-key vibe.

10. La Jolla / University City

You could devote an entire San Diego guide to the La Jolla and University City areas. This vast area is broken up into different parts. They range from upscale to more modest university student areas.

Explore the posh La Jolla Village feauturing tons of high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants. Outdoor enthusiasts and crowds of tourists love heading to La Jolla Cove to kayak and check out the sea lions.

If you can't get enough of the outdoors, head over to the stretch of beach at La Jolla shores before grabbing a bite at eateries and pubs.

La Jolla's neighbor, University City, is home to many UC San Diego students and next to the glorious Torrey Pines park. It’s also home to the massive Westfield UTC outdoor mall.

You’ll find everything you need for your apartment and beyond from boutiques and big-box retailers. There are also scores of luxury apartments and condos to choose from with a range of amenities.

11. Mission Valley

More than just a San Diego neighborhood, the region of Mission Valley offers a quiet and family-friendly area that borders the San Diego River. The area is also home to Fashion Valley Mall and luxury apartment communities with top-tier amenities like resort-style pools and huge gyms.

Mission Valley is a more quiet and suburban area, and not really walkable. However, the location is perfect and your 10-15 minutes away from most San Diego beaches. Mission Valley is an ideal spot for anyone looking for some peace and quiet, while still being close to the action.

And because of its expansive size, you'll find a huge selction of apartments with a variety of price points

12. Carlsbad

Although it's not necessarily a San Diego neighborhood, Carlsbad is a popular place for San Diegans to call home. The beachfront city is growing in popularity. It’s becoming an expensive and sought-after area.

Locals enjoy an upscale and beachy vibe with family-friendly attractions like Legoland and The Flower Fields. The city is divided into four quadrants. They reflect a mix of historic, resort-style living, beaches, and shopping.

Final Thoughts

Whatever San Diego neighborhood you call home, you'll never grow tired of the endless sunshine and outdoor activities. Ready to make San Diego home? Just use the quiz above to start your San Diego apartment search.

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