America’s Great Neighborhoods: San Francisco

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

San Francisco Painted Ladies

From artistic and trendy to family-friendly, San Francisco’s neighborhoods are diverse and distinct. So distinct, in fact, residents are often defined by where they live. Mention your neighborhood to a fellow San Franciscan and they’ll have an immediate sense of who you are: from the cool, ultra-hip Mission residents to the uber-wealthy (and often famous) Sea Cliff residents. Before choosing an apartment in San Francisco, here’s what you need to know about the Bay City’s famous neighborhoods:

Haight-Ashbury: The Haight became famous during the “Summer of Love,” the summer of 1967, when the neighborhood caught the attention of young men and women across the country. Roughly 100,000 people flocked to Haight-Ashbury, which was known for its bohemian culture. As the heart of the hippie generation, the neighborhood was home to famous performers Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin. The Haight still retains its bohemian feel and is home to many small, locally-owned businesses, boutiques, and bookstores.

Nob Hill: This affluent neighborhood is perched atop one of San Francisco’s original Seven Hills. It is home to several famous hotels, including Stanford Court, Fairmont Hotel, and Huntington Hotel. Several parks dot the neighborhood, including the large Huntington Park. Huntington Park, which spans about a block, was the site of a railroad tycoon’s mansion until it was destroyed by and earthquake and fire in 1906.

Russian Hill: Russian Hill is also upscale, but it has a hint of artistic whimsy – probably a holdover from its bohemian past. Russian Hill is a favorite neighborhood of San Franciscans and tourists alike. The tourists come to see the amazing views and the famous Lombard Street, a steep, twisting stretch of road that is often used in television and movies. Residents love Russian Hill because of its terrific little cafes, meandering staircases, and the shops and restaurants of Ghirardelli Square.

North Beach: Where the Haight had its hippies of the late 1960s, North Beach was the center of the Beat Generation of the 1950s. The “beatniks” of that generation are now famous writers and celebrities: Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. North Beach is also known as San Francisco’s “Little Italy” and is home to several Italian restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. Washington Park attracts locals and tourists alike – not only is the park beautiful, but it is surrounded by restaurants and the famous Saints Peter and Paul Church.

Pacific Heights: Known for its stunning views, Pacific Heights is a gorgeous neighborhood – it is also rather pricey. The panoramic view is worth the price tag – from Pacific Heights, you can see Alcatraz, the Presidio, San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It has its own little micro-climate and is often clearer than the rest of the city. Alta Plaza and Lafayette are two gorgeous parks with stunning views. Fillmore Street passes though Pacific Heights and is lined with shops and restaurants.

SoMa (South of Market): Art galleries, nightclubs, and sushi bars – welcome to SoMa! This is a sprawling neighborhood that began as an industrial area. While it still contains some warehouses, most are now fun, funky loft apartments – perfect for the slightly bohemian residents who live here. In addition to the galleries, bars, and restaurants, be sure to visit Yerba Buena Gardens and the Flower Mart.

Fisherman’s Warf: Yes, it is touristy. But Fisherman’s Warf is also an amazingly fun place to be – the sea lions of Pier 39, arcades, restaurants, shops, the Aquarium of the Bay, Dungeness crab, Hyde Street Pier, Ghirardelli Square, and street performers. You can’t think of San Francisco without thinking of Fisherman’s Warf, tourists and all.

The Mission District: A diverse community with many Latin American businesses, the Mission District is home to the oldest building in San Francisco – Mission Dolores. The mission was founded in 1776 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mission District is famous for its amazing art and fabulous food. Street murals by local artists and paintings that reflect the Latin American culture are a major attraction. The area contains many theaters, art galleries, and museums. The Mission is very popular with young adults who enjoy the area’s culture, restaurants, and numerous festivals, parades, and fairs.