San Francisco is known for its distinctive neighborhoods, which collectively create an amazing atmosphere and mixed culture within the city. Look through the different tabs below to gain a better idea of the offerings of San Francisco and its neighborhoods as well as other notable information.
San Francisco is known for its distinctive neighborhoods, such as the Castro and Haight-Ashbury, each bringing its own flavor to the city. The Presidio and Marina, on the north side of town, along with Golden Gate Park, attract outdoors enthusiast looking to escape the city for some biking, camping, hiking, and sailing. Below, you'll find descriptions of San Francisco's best-known neighborhoods.
One of the most visited neighborhoods in San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf bustles with activity. From fisherman hawking fresh salmon, sea bass, shrimp and crab to tourist shops proffering souvenirs, this is the place to go when you're new to the city or just looking for the best seafood in town. Tours of the San Francisco Bay Area leave regularly from Fisherman's Wharf, taking visitors to the famous Alcatraz Island, Treasure Island as well as giving magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and cityscape.
Tucked away in the north west tip of San Francisco, the Presidio is a sudden transition from the crowded streets of the city to a forest hinting at the scenic landscapes just over the Golden Gate bridge. The Presidio has a golf course, historic forts Point and Winfield Scott, and a winding network of trails throughout.
Walk along the shore at the Golden Gate Promenade and watch the ships coming in to greet the busy San Francisco harbor. Get away from the noise at Fort Point and then hike the stairs to the Golden Gate Bridge where you can walk across the bay for views of the city and its most famous landmarks.
Some might call this the "heart" of San Francisco. While outdoor concerts and holiday decorations take place in the plaza, Union Square extends beyond to include department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Barneys New York, along with high-end boutiques. Stop by the TIX Bay Area booth for discounted tickets to San Francisco's vast array of theatrical offerings. Union Square is accessed by both the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines.
Nob Hill/Russian Hill
In between Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square, visitors find Nob Hill, traversed by all three cable car lines. Nob Hill has arguably the best view of San Francisco Bay, but is known more for its posh architecture. Only the Flood Mansion survived the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire, but with Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park, Nob Hill still draws visitors. Russian Hill is home to the famous stretch of Lombard Street known rightfully as the crookedest street in America, as well as more of San Francisco's distinctive architectural style.
Along San Francisco's inland coast stretches the Embarcadero, where visitors can stop by the Ferry Building for the Farmer's Market, shops, and restaurants or catch a ferry to Oakland, Alameda, and Vallejo. The waterfront promenade is a popular spot for running, jogging, rollerblading, and even picnicking.
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the famous Castro district. Even though it is probably the most famous gay cultural center in the world, the Castro can oscillate between a quiet suburban neighborhood with an overabundance of rainbow flags to a packed venue for outdoor celebrations.
Like its twin neighborhood, the Hayes district, the shopping here is as iconic as 5th Avenue in New York. The historic Castro Theatre is a classic palace style venue built in the 1920s and now plays a constant stream of movie greats and film festivals. Visit during Halloween and the streets flood with thousands of people in costume with many parties spilling into the crowd.
What draws more visitors to San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge? The oldest established Chinatown in the nation and one of the largest Chinese cultural centers outside of China. Visitors can eat dim sum, tour the fortune cookie factory, and shop for linens and trinkets. Be sure to stop by the Chinese Cultural Center to learn more about the significant contributions of Chinese immigrants, along with art exhibitions and other cultural programs.
Although Japantown may seem far from the other tourist attractions in San Francisco, it's worth a visit. The Nihonmachi Mall is set up to resemble a Japanese Village, and you can wander from shop to shop in search of Manga, kimonos, calligraphy and tea paraphernalia, and more. A stop by the five-tiered Peace Pagoda tops off any visit.
The Civic Center is the cultural capital of the city. Here you'll find the San Francisco Symphony, the Opera, the Ballet, and even the California Culinary Academy. Slip inside the Main Library on Grove and McAllistar to peruse over one million books or spend an afternoon at the Asian Art Museum, which spans over 6,000 years of Asian history with almost 15,000 objects in its collection.
South of Market (SoMa)
The neighborhood just below Market Street, one of the main diagonal streets criss-crossing San Francisco, has evolved into two square miles of restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping outlets. It's also home to AT&T Park, where sports fans can see the Giants, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where art lovers can get their fill of Picasso and other modern artists. Museums in the area also include the Cartoon Art Museum and the Museum of the African American Diaspora. The Yerba Buena Art Center and Gardens draws crowds for performances and festivals.
Other Things to Know
San Francisco is served by the San Francisco International Airport; however, the close proximity of the Oakland International Airport gives travelers more options when searching for fares. While you may be tempted to drive the city's famous hills for yourself, parking makes renting a car more of a hassle than a boon.
San Francisco has a large network of public transportation, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway (BART), the "Muni" collection of cable cars, buses, light rail and electric trolleys, and a healthy population of taxis. If you get stuck, pick up a payphone and dial 511 for transit information.