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17 Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco, CA

By: Sammi Mach
August 17, 2021

Have you considered moving to San Francisco? San Francisco is home to the famous Golden Gate Bridge and the oldest Chinatown in North America. Despite being only 7 miles in both length and width, San Francisco has a neighborhood for everyone.

1. North Beach

Do you like pasta, cannolis, and seafood? If so, you’ll love North Beach, aka the Little Italy of San Francisco. North Beach is home to some fantastic bars, as well as the iconic City Lights bookstore and Coit Tower. This neighborhood is full of Italian history and charm, and it’s adjacent to another great neighborhood, Chinatown. You’ll find older historic buildings here and be within walking distance to the piers as well as the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. North Beach is connected to the city though multiple bus lines so getting around shouldn’t be an issue.

2. Nob Hill

Nob Hill is filled with hilly streets (which also means it has some great views), and is home to both the cable car line and some of the fanciest hotels in the city. It’s a historic neighborhood that has an affluent vibe in some parts while a more casual and completely different vibe in other parts. On the hill, you’ll get a fancier and older vibe, while near Polk Street, you’ll find tons of great eateries, a younger vibe, and some great dive bars. Being adjacent to Chinatown also gives this neighborhood access to some great food options. Not to mention, Nob Hill is the backdrop to a handful of classic Afred Hitchcock films.

3. Haight-Ashbury

Hippie, bohemian, skate culture. Haight-Ashbury was the epicenter of the hippie movement from the summer of love in 1967. This neighborhood still retains its funky vibes and is one of the best places to go thrifting in the city. You’ll find plenty of weed shops, vintage clothing shops, tie-dye products, skate wear, tattoo parlors, thrift stores, and the famous Amoeba Records shop. There are plenty of good eats here, as well as some great dive bars. This neighborhood is at the edge of Golden Gate Park, which gives you easy access to hikes, roller skating, archery, museums, botanical gardens, tennis courts, and some of the best green spaces in the city. Golden Gate Park is even larger than NYC’s Central Park!

4. SOMA/West SOMA

SOMA stands for South of Market. Market Street runs from the Embarcadero by the water all the way to the Castro. SOMA is a large neighborhood that can be divided into two areas: SOMA (closer to the financial district with lots of companies’ offices) and West SOMA (home of San Francisco’s historic leather district). While you may think less-densely populated West SOMA doesn’t have much, there are some great neighborhood gems and iconic nightlife spots. It’s a great area to go out in and has a popular food truck park open 7 days a week with events every weekend. Plus, SOMA gives you great access to all lines of public transit to get you all across the city, even to other parts of the Bay.

5. Russian Hill

Russian Hill is home to the famous Lombard Street. It’s a hilly neighborhood with some amazing views of the city and water. You can connect to the rest of the city by bus and will get a good workout from walking up those hills! Russian Hill is a bit quieter and relaxed than other neighborhoods in the city, but does have some night spots along with trendy restaurants and shops located on Union Street.

6. Cow Hollow/The Marina

Need yoga, Barry’s Bootcamp, green juices, and brunch in your life? This is a great neighborhood to experience all of the above. If you ever participated in Greek life, then this is your perfect SF neighborhood. While it’s a bit less ethnically diverse here, there’s a vibrant and young nightlife scene with plenty of opportunities for mingling. Though Cow Hollow and the Marina are technically two different neighborhoods, they are adjacent to one another with overall similar vibes. Cow Hollow, being the older sister of the Marina, is a little more mellow in comparison. You’ll find some great eats on Chestnut Street and shopping on Union Street.

7. Mission Dolores/Dolores Heights

The Mission Dolores and Dolores Heights neighborhoods put you in a prime location for a variety of delicious foods and plenty of fun places to go out. There’s always something going on in these sun soaked areas (probably one of the least foggy places in the city) so you’ll be sure to stay entertained. The vibrant communities surrounding these areas make them cultural epicenters with a strong latinx population. The vibe in the area is very mellow with live music, galleries, bars, shopping, and restaurants pouring into the streets on the weekends. Mission Dolores and Dolores Heights are adjacent to Dolores Park, everyone’s favorite park to party at with one of the best views of the city skylines. You’ll see this park packed on a sunny weekend day with plenty going on for all your entertainment needs.

8. Western Addition/NoPa

Western Addition, otherwise known as NoPa (North of the Panhandle), is home to many famous micro neighborhoods. The Fillmore district has a rich jazz history with some fantastic jazz clubs, concert venues, and lounges. You wouldn’t want to miss the annual Jazz Festival here. On Divisadero Street, you’ll find tons of great restaurants, bars, and trendy cafes, while in Japantown, feast upon all the different Japanese cuisines and some of the city’s best mochi donuts. You’ll have all your Japanese and Korean grocery needs covered here. There is no shortage of green space: Alamo Square is a beautiful park on the southern side of this neighborhood (where the famous Painted Ladies from the Full House TV intro are located).

9. Castro

Castro is a fun and vibrant neighborhood filled with lots of LGBTQ+ history (see Harvey Milk Plaza) and Victorian style houses. In fact, it was the heart of LGBTQ+ rights activism. The Castro has a strong gay community and lots of fun vibes with plenty of bars, nightlife, and restaurants. You’ll find drag queens and nudists walking around the neighborhood’s rainbow crosswalks on the regular. This is a great neighborhood for people who want to be near the action, but also want to live on a quieter street. It's very walkable and well connected to the city. Hopping on public transit off of Market Street will get you to other parts of the city quickly while a 15 to 20 minute walk connects you to the Mission.

10. Presidio Heights

Upscale. Family-friendly. Green Space. Presidio Heights is an affluent neighborhood away from the city buzz and has some of the city’s most expensive homes owned by tech moguls and celebrities. It’s a beautiful, serene area with lots of historic mansions and access to beautiful green spaces with ocean views. It's adjacent to the Presidio, a former military post that's now a 1,500-acre park. You'll find hiking trails, the Walt Disney museum, a golf course, tennis courts, and beautiful redwoods throughout the park. There’s no nightlife here, but you’ll find lots of peace and quiet in this more residential area.

11. Noe Valley

If you have a dog or a kid and still want to live in the city, this is the spot for you. Noe Valley is a quaint neighborhood with a small town feel surrounded by a big city. It is made up of many Victorian and Edwardian homes. Wine and cheese shops, bakeries, and artisential goods shops line the streets. There’s no nightlife here, but you’ll find a lively farmer’s market every Saturday in the Town Square. This is a great spot for people who prefer a quieter neighborhood that has a community feel and is still within the city.

12. Potrero Hill

Potrero Hill is a sunny, family friendly neighborhood with lots of parks, condos, and victorians. You can get a pretty good view of the SF skyline here due to the hilly streets. There are only a few public transit lines going through this neighborhood, but it is adjacent to the Mission and Dogpatch. It’s a quiet, residential neighborhood with a couple punky music venues and some great restaurants. The neighborhood is a bit more affordable compared to others in the city since it is tucked away a bit and a little spread out. You’ll find a relatively diverse mix of people living including California College of Arts students, which is also located in this neighborhood.

13. Civic Center

Civic Center is home to a large number of government and cultural institutions, including the Civic Center Plaza, United Nations Plaza, Asian Art Museum, SF Symphony, SF Opera House, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium among many others. It’s just a few blocks from Market Street and borders SOMA, the Tenderloin, and Hayes Valley. SF’s main public library is located here and hosts many community events. While certain areas in Civic Center can get a little seedy at night, it has gained many new residential high rises and buildings in addition to a brand new Whole Foods set to open in the near future. Civic Center has a public transit friendly location with lots of great food options in nearby neighborhoods: Hayes Valley and the Tenderloin.

14. Hayes Valley

One of SF’s most revitalized neighborhoods. Hayes Valley feels like an intimate neighborhood, but has plenty to offer. It’s a trendy shopping and restaurant-heavy district with many working professionals living in the area. There are plenty of great bars and cafes, as well as the perfect people watching park, Patricia’s Green, in the middle of it all. This vibrant neighborhood embraces street art and has great energy. There’s a multi-purpose outdoor space that hosts live music events, movie nights, and pop-ups. You’ll also find converted shipping containers that contain coffee, juices, and ice cream shops.

15. Inner Sunset

The Sunset can be split into two neighborhoods: Inner Sunset and Outer Sunset. Inner Sunset is a bit closer to the city. It’s a more residential neighborhood with lots to do on Irving Street, which is a street lined with some fantastic restaurants and shops. Golden Gate Park borders the top of Inner Sunset, giving residents access to the city's most lush green space and some amazing museums. There is a bit more fog out here, but many families live out here as the rent is much more affordable and the properties are more spacious when compared to other neighborhoods.

16. Inner Richmond

Inner Richmond can be split into two neighborhoods just like the Sunset: Inner Richmond and Outer Richmond. The Richmond district is parallel to the Sunset with Golden Gate Park bordering the bottom of the neighborhood instead of the top. This area is basically a second Chinatown. You’ll find some amazing Chinese and Korean restaurants here in a relaxed setting, as well as easy access to one of the best parks. There is more fog here, but the rent here is so much cheaper than the rest of the city that you probably won’t even notice. It’s a walkable neighborhood with plenty of outdoor activities and spacious properties.

17. Bernal Heights

Bernal Heights is a progressive and family-friendly neighborhood towards the southern tip of the city. This area has a high concentration of single family homes giving it the name “Maternal Heights”. It’s a great place to own a dog due to Bernal Heights Park, where you’ll also find killer views. Bernal Heights is home to many artists, a thriving lesbian community, and young families. While it borders the busier neighborhood of the Mission, it is a quiet, green neighborhood, home to some incredible restaurants and cafes.

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SAMMI MACH
Sammi is a product designer and contributing author at Apartment List. Sammi previously worked as a designer at JPMorgan Chase and Deloitte Innovation Lab. Read More
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