Neighborhoods of San Francisco, California
Full of big city hustle with a small town feel, San Francisco
has a place for anyone. Many people travel to the City by the Bay in search of a place to call home. Packed into just 49 square miles of hilly streets are countless neighborhoods, parks, and landmarks filled with urban charm.
“San Francisco is poetry. Even the hills rhyme.” - Pat Montandon
One of the busiest attractions in the United States, Fisherman’s Wharf
is best known for the festive Pier 39
marketplace. This marina is popular with families for its video arcade, street performers, and sea lion colony lounging on nearby docks. Don’t miss Musée Mécanique
, an interactive museum of 20th-century penny arcade games. Of course, fresh seafood is abundant in restaurants like Pompei’s Grotto
, which serve Dungeness crab and clam chowder.
The surrounding neighborhood was formed by the arrival of Italian fishermen in the mid-1800s taking advantage of the population boom from the gold rush. Domenico Ghirardelli was a part of this immigrant influx, and today Ghirardelli Square stands as a public landmark and shopping area where his Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is headquartered.
For more of the city’s Italian quarter, head to North Beach, home to romantic European-style sidewalk cafes and shops. Perched on Telegraph Hill is Coit Tower, an art deco memorial tower dedicated to the city’s volunteer firemen. Head to the top for floor-to-ceiling murals depicting early San Francisco, and for the finest views of the Bay. The beautiful Saints Peter and Paul Church is a beloved local landmark, known as “The Italian Cathedral of the West.”
Chinatown, San Francisco, California
Enter through the Dragon’s Gate to the oldest and largest Chinatown in the world. At Portsmouth Square, you’ll find Chinese elders practicing Tai Chi in the morning, with mahjong tables and Xianqi played throughout the day. Treat yourself with the finest dim-sum at Great Eastern. Witness the making of fresh, hand-folded fortune cookies at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Samples are available while you wait! And don’t forget to get acquainted with the history of Chinatown at the Chinese Cultural Center, which sits on the third floor of a Hilton hotel.
The Mission San Francisco de Asis, the namesake of the neighborhood, is the oldest building in the city. The Mission District is if famous for its Mexican culture, featuring murals from the Chicano Art Mural Movement of the ‘70s, and mariachi bands playing in restaurants. Dozens of taquerias and street vendors offer local creations, like the Mission Burrito. Also within the district is Dolores Park, sitting on a hillside with gorgeous views of downtown San Francisco.
San Francisco has a strong tradition of activism dating back to 1960's when the area surrounding the junction of streets Haight and Ashbury became a center for hippie counterculture. This culminated in the Summer of Love in 1967, when hippie kids from all over the country converged in the neighborhood to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
For a blast to the past, visit the Grateful Dead House, a Victorian home where the seminal hippie band lived in the ‘60s. Today this legacy lives on in spots like Coffee to the People, which sells organic, free-trade coffee with a strong activist bent.
Thousands of gay servicemen were discharged from the military because of their sexuality during WWII, and many settled in San Francisco. It wasn’t until the Summer of Love that The Castro became a mecca for the LGBT community. Residents like activist Harvey Milk turned the area into an upscale, fashionable district.
Today the Castro is booming with businesses like Hot Cookie Bakery, world-famous for its coconut macaroons. There’s also the Castro Theatre, which hosts film festivals with a gay and multicultural focus. Rainbow flags are hung around 18th & Castro, an important intersection where marches and protests were and still are held. Down the street are the GLBT History Museum and Harvey Milk Plaza.
For more of that big city feel, “The Wall Street of the West Coast” has got you covered. Skyscrapers abound in this district that is home to numerous Fortune 500 company headquarters, including Gap, Charles Schwab, and Blue Shield. The Transamerica Pyramid
is the iconic triangle shaped tower you looming over the San Francisco skyline. It was once the tallest building in San Francisco until it was surpassed by the Salesforce Tower
Waterfront View of the Ferry Building and Clock Tower, San Francisco, California
For some urban views, take a cable car ride from the corner of Market & Powell Street. Stop at Union Square for some great dining, shopping, and off-Broadway theater acts. Get off at the Ferry Building, a gorgeous blue terminal with a massive clock tower. Mexican and seafood restaurants abound, with views of the beautiful Bay Bridge.
Bay Bridge, San Francisco, California
The Bay Bridge
is an awe-inspiring steel bridge spanning from San Francisco to Oakland. The western section contains two decks, a lower level carrying eastbound traffic and the upper carrying westbound. The illuminated blue-white western span is absolutely breathtaking at night when viewed from the Embarcadero
waterfront. The Eastern section is a single deck with east- and westbound lines next to each other, making it the world’s widest bridge. The two spans are connected by the double-decked Yerba Buena Tunnel.Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California
Best views of the eastern span are from the marina of Treasure Island, an artificial island with a quirky community of 2,000 residents. Across the bay is Alcatraz Island, home to the abandoned penitentiary that once held the most notorious criminals in history. Today the prison is a public museum attracting 1.5 million visitors a year.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
And of course, you haven’t seen San Francisco until you’ve experienced the Golden Gate Bridge. Admire it from afar or up close. Take a walk across the bridge, drive through its arches, or take a ferry underneath. The mile-long bridge linking San Francisco to Marin County is most breathtaking early in the morning when the fog comes in. In fact, its official color international orange was chosen to complement the bay’s natural surroundings and stand out in the fog.
The largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its 1937 opening, the Golden Gate Bridge stands as a symbol of San Francisco as a treasure of the world. Millions flock here every year and are awestruck at the city's beauty. Full of heart and charm in every neighborhood, the City by the Bay is a hard one to leave behind.