One thing that cats love about San Franscisco is the variety of sights, sounds, and smells that can be found in a small area. Just 7 miles long and 7 miles wide, this small space has so many curiosities that it is broken down into over 30 neighborhoods to make it easier to explore. So, the question is: What are you looking for in your San Francisco adventure? From the hidden gems to mainstay activities, this city has it all! Keep those tails high as we dive into the different San Francisco neighborhoods.
Downtown /Civic Center (home to Union Square and the Tenderloin)
Welcome to the neighborhood with the city’s government buildings as well as plenty of famous landmarks! One major point of interest is Civic Center Plaza and San Francisco City Hall. You will also find the War Memorial Opera House and the Asian Art Museum nearby. Additionally, the famous Union Square is located on the edge of this neighborhood.
It’s also worth noting that the Tenderloin covers a large part of this area, north of the civic center and west of Union Square. While you find some interesting murals in this area it is still known as a concentration of the city’s homelessness and is constantly the center of discussion around providing services to the population and debates around gentrification.
Upper Market (home to the Castro)
This is one of San Francisco’s best-known neighborhoods. The Castro is the center of San Francisco’s activism around LGBTQ+ rights. A colorful and vibrant celebration of gay rights in the US, this is a must-see neighborhood to learn about the history of LGBTQ+ rights.
This neighborhood is also the center of the country’s most popular Pride celebration, which takes place during Pride Month, each June. Aside from the Castro, Market Street is a key area to explore in San Francisco due to the high density of local shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Of all the San Francisco neighborhoods, Haight Ashbury tends to inspire the most nostalgia. This area is affectionately referred to as “The Haight” by locals and is one of San Francisco’s most beloved neighborhoods.
Home to the hippie movement of the 1960s, the Haight spawned ideas, music, and art that still permeate American culture today. This is a great neighborhood to spend a day exploring shops and really soak in the unique culture. This neighborhood blends into the eastern side of Golden Gate Park, which is a great place to lay on the grass and imagine what it would be like to live in the 60s.
The Mission is one of the cultural centers of the city. One of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco, the area is the center of Latinx culture in the city. The main attraction in the area is Mission Dolores, founded in the late 1700s. This is one of 21 Spanish missions located throughout California.
Aside from the mission, the area is also known for fantastic Mexican food, and Mission Delores Park. Make sure to spend time taking in the culture on the neighborhood’s main strips, which run along Van Ness and Folsom Streets.
The Marina (home to Fisherman’s Wharf)
Located on the northern side of the city, this area is best known for Fisherman’s Wharf. here you’ll find a bustling area filled with restaurants, family-friendly activities, and souvenir shops. Additionally, Aquatic Park is located here, which is a scenic seaside covered with boating facilities. This area is a great place to spend the day strolling shops next to the water and enjoying great seafood with a view.
The Western Addition (home to Filmore, Japantown, and Alamo Square)
The Western Addition is ironically located in the north-central part of town. A dense, urban area, the Western Addition features a ton of places to explore. The best-known area, however, is Filmore, originally San Fransico’s first black neighborhood. Today you can find a revival of Jazz clubs, the compact (and ornate) area known as Japantown, and Alamo Square. This area’s rich culture and deep history make it a great place to visit during your stay in San Francisco.
This is one of San Francisco’s largest neighborhoods. As such, it’s typically divided into the Inner Sunset (eastern side) and the Outer Sunset (western side). The entire area is known for its proximity to Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park. This is a bustling neighborhood with a ton of great restaurants, shops, and breweries to check out after a day in the park.
In many ways, Chinatown is the most unique of the San Francisco neighborhoods. It is located on the city’s east side and is home to a vibrant Asian community, filled with unique shops and a variety of eateries. A colorful, energetic, and distinct experience, visiting Chinatown is a must-do on any travel itinerary. Points of interest include Portsmouth Square and Dragon Gate, which is a famous historical landmark.
Known as one of the most expensive real estate markets in the US, Nob Hill is often referred to as the “Showpiece of San Francisco.” It’s best known for its Victorian architecture and Michelin-starred restaurants. Other major landmarks include the Grace Cathedral and the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.
South of Market (SoMa)
Located on the city’s southern side, South of Market (aka SoMa) is one of the most rapidly changing parts of the city. Previously an industrial area, this neighborhood has grown quickly, now encompassing some of the city’s most vibrant nightlife. SoMa includes the sub-neighborhoods of South Beach, Yerba Buena, and Rincon Hill. Aside from a trendy, post-industrial vibe, you can also find famous landmarks like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Oracle Park (home to the San Francisco Giants baseball team).
Russian Hill is a well-known, affluent neighborhood, located close to the northern waterfront. Named after the hill on which it is located, Russian Hill offers quiet residential areas and stunning views of the city. Its best-known landmark is Lombard Street, also known as the “crookedest street in the world.”
The Financial District (FiDi)
The FiDi is home to San Francisco’s tallest buildings. While this neighborhood is mostly a business district, you’ll still find some interesting restaurants and amazing up-close views of the city’s famous skyline.
Located centrally, this is a neighborhood built around Twin Peaks Park. Here you’ll find two 900+ foot summits that offer picturesque views of the city down below. Of course, this area is also filled with stunningly gorgeous homes and plenty of hiking trails, in case exploring the city has left your feet wanting more!
The most wealthy of all the San Francisco neighborhoods, Pacific Heights is located just inland from the bustling Marina neighborhood. This is one of the most visited parts of the city. Major landmarks include Haas-Lilienthal House, Spreckels Mansion, Atherton House, Webster Street, Alta Plaza Park, and Lafayette Park. For those who are formally touring the city, this is one packed with important places to visit.
Originally settled by Italians, this neighborhood is full of character and great food. The most notable site here is Washington Square Park, one of the city’s first parks. Make sure to visit Saint Peter and Paul’s Church, located right next to the park.
Noe Valley is an upscale residential neighborhood, primarily known for its proximity to Twin Peaks Park. While there aren’t many tourist destinations in this neighborhood, you’ll still find plenty of restaurants and cafes to take a break from sightseeing. This neighborhood is a great example of how the upper middle class of San Francisco lives.
Often broken down into Inner Richmond (eastern side) and Outer Richmond (western side), this neighborhood is located in the northwestern part of the city with close proximity to SF’s greatest parks. With Inner Richmond being the more vibrant area, you’ll find a ton of Chinese culture including vibrant cafes and shops. In fact, this area is quickly gaining traction as San Fransisco’s “new Chinatown”. Additionally, you’ll find Little Russia near the center of Richmond, further highlighting the cultural diversity of this amazing city.
Located on the northern side of the city, Seacliff is often overlooked when visitors talk about the city’s most popular neighborhoods. However, for travelers interested in spending some time in nature, this is a cant-miss destination. Nestled in between two of the city’s greatest parks – The Presidio and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Seacliff is a great place to relax after a day of exploring the rugged California coastline.
Here you’ll find an affluent neighborhood located just outside of the Presidio, a major seaside park featuring a ton of military history and amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a quiet neighborhood with beautiful views that make it an excellent place to relax after a day of exploring.
This is another lesser-known neighborhood in San Francisco, located just south of the Sunset. While the area is mostly residential it is becoming increasingly energetic with a healthy mix of bars and restaurants as well as close proximity to the water and Lake Merced Park.
Like most of the city’s southern side, the Diamond Heights neighborhood is mostly a residential area. Its proximity to hiking in Glen Canyon Park and stunning views, make it a great place to escape the crowds of the inner city. The area has a great deal of Victorian architecture, as well as some modern buildings.
Here is a great little Gem on the less dense, western side of the city. Predominately known for its proximity to Lake Merced Park, this neighborhood has a vibrant restaurant and bar scene with a laid-back feel. This is a great place to visit to get a feel for how the locals live.
Bernal Heights is primarily a residential area with a ton of local restaurants cafes and parks. This is a cute place to experience the true San Franciscan lifestyle. I’ll be keeping an eye on this area as a potential new hotspot of bars and restaurants.
This is predominantly a residential area, located just south of the more trendy SoMa area. Operating as a working-class neighborhood until the mid-90s, Potrero Hill is now an upper-class mix of revived Victorians and new condo development. Often described as one of the sunniest neighborhoods in San Francisco, this area offers several local parks, great cafes, and breweries as well as the Museum of Craft and Design.
Glen Park another primarily residential neighborhood with a smattering of cafes, shops, and lovely views of the city’s hilly topography.
This is one of the city’s southernmost neighborhoods. Farthest from the densely populated business district and eastern waterfront activities, Oceanview is a quiet community that has only recently experienced gentrification. While you will not find many landmarks here, it’s a good place to explore to get a feel for the rapidly changing city and how gentrification can affect local populations. Neighborhoods like Oceanview are part of San Francisco’s true story.
Excelsior is a residential neighborhood, close to the outskirts of the city. Best known for John Mclaren Park, you’ll also find a handful of shops to browse and restaurants to try.
Known locally as “Viz Valley”, this neighborhood is a mix of residential and commercial use. One of the lower-cost areas in the city, Viz Valley has mostly flown under the radar in gentrification and is a neat place to explore to get a feel for how the locals really live.
Here you’ll find a small residential neighborhood on the southern tip of San Francisco. This is an example of one of the San Francisco neighborhoods where the city starts to blend into suburbia. However, if you are interested in Filipino food and culture or just want to get away from the crowds, this could be a fun place to visit and would certainly provide a different take on traveling in San Francisco.
Bayview Hunters’ Point
This neighborhood is one of the last remaining industrial areas in San Francisco. Here you’ll find a mix of residential and industrial use, sprinkled with the occasional quirky cafe or brewery that pops up in between. As one of the city’s lowest-cost areas, this neighborhood is changing rapidly and is worth a visit before it becomes something entirely new.
Conclusion on the many neighborhoods of San Francisco
San Francisco has many great neighborhoods that offer something for everyone. From parks and beaches to historic architecture and great nightlife, there is something for everyone in San Francisco. The best part about the city is that it has so many neighborhoods, you will never get bored!