5 Must-See San Francisco Neighborhoods and How to Visit
Squeezed into a tight grid, San Francisco’s many beloved neighborhoods—each with its own charms and quirks—are its defining feature. Here’s what you need to know about top neighborhood attractions for food, history, shopping, culture, and nightlife.
From the Financial District to Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach draws locals and visitors to its nightlife, Italian restaurants, shopping on Grant Street, and people watching in Washington Square. Main attractions include Coit Tower and Beat-era spots like City Lights bookstore, Vesuvio Cafe, and the Beat Museum. Book a food walking tour of North Beach to explore its many culinary delights.
Many visitors begin their San Francisco explorations at Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can catch a cable car to Union Square, look out at Alcatraz Island, enjoy a bowl of clam chowder, and watch the sea lions laze around the docks at Pier 39. Tourist venues such as Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not can be found, as well as lesser-known gems such as Musée Mécanique. Many city tours start and end here, making it easy to see the neighborhood before or after sightseeing.
One of the biggest and oldest Chinatowns in North America, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a must-visit. Starting at the intersection of Bush Street and Grant Avenue, walk through the Dragon Gate and head north on Grant to take in the bustle of souvenir shops, produce markets, and restaurants. Chinatown bumps right into North Beach, so you can easily explore both. Nearly all city tours include a stop or drive through Chinatown.
Just southwest of SOMA, the Mission District is San Francisco’s foodie central, home to everything from no-frills taquerias to some of the most sought-after restaurants in this restaurant-obsessed city. The nightlife scene also makes it a favorite with San Franciscans. To experience the best of the Mission, book a food or drinks walking tour, or check out Mission Dolores for a bit of history. The church is thought to be San Francisco’s oldest structure, dating back to 1776. On a sunny day, Mission Dolores Park is the place to be for people watching.
Perhaps the most iconic SF neighborhood due to its association with 1960s counterculture, hippies, and the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury is known for Victorian homes, bars, and proximity to Golden Gate Park. The main drag is Haight Street, which intersects Ashbury Street and is home to vintage clothing stores, head shops, and independent record store Amoeba Music. One of the most popular tours is the Magic Bus, which features window projections that take you back to a ‘60s version of the Haight.
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