The city is known for its million-dollar ‘hoods and billion-dollar companies, but San Francisco is actually a lot more down to earth than you might think.
The best neighborhoods in San Francisco have their own culture, shops, cafes and landscape.
Every nook and cranny of the city by the bay is unique — whether it’s swanky bars perched atop of Nob Hill or the busy shopping area in Union Square. Every neighborhood has its own charm, weather and type of transportation.
Even if the only things you know about San Francisco are fog, the Golden Gate Bridge and the “Full House” street showcasing the Painted Ladies home, here’s a chance to get to know the best neighborhoods.
Bernal Heights sits atop a hilly area that overlooks San Francisco and is close to the city’s famous Sutro Tower. The charming, family-friendly location is sleepy but also offers lots of shopping on Cortland Avenue, populated by local grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
Stroll through the area and check out Precita Park, which spans three blocks and is a great place to picnic or catch an outdoor movie.
Hayes Valley can be described in one word: hip. Hayes Valley is mostly made up of condos and luxury apartment buildings for young professionals.
The centrally located neighborhood is cool and revitalized with upscale boutiques, lots of trendy shopping, dessert shops, bars and restaurants.
Hayes features a community garden, an urban park with art installations and is in close proximity to the Civic Center and public transportation.
The area is perfect for folks who want to experience urban living and is a haven for funky art galleries and high-end shops.
Hayes is also a popular spot for locals who want to chill on a sunny Saturday and have lunch in the park or experience afternoon beers at the Biergarten.
The scenic Marina District, in the city’s northern part of town, is known for its upbeat bars, restaurants and shopping. The Marina is trendy and perfect for a day of bar-hopping through Union and Chestnut streets — the two main hubs that run through the area.
You’ll find plenty of neighborhood eateries, hip cocktail lounges and historic bars. It’s a great place to grab a meal or drink before making your way over to the Palace of Fine Arts or Crissy Field.
It features a former military base called Fort Mason and has Marina Green, a gorgeous park with a bike path and expansive views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
While there’s definitely a hustle-and-bustle feel to the Marina District, it’s still a residential area with a mix of Victorian buildings, trendy coffee shops, cafes and popular restaurants just a short walk away.
Mission Bay is a 303-acre neighborhood on the east side of San Francisco. It’s close to Russian Hill, Laurel Heights and Presidio Heights.
Mission Bay is a newer neighborhood and is unlike any other area in the city. The streets are filled with modern, brand new high-rise apartment buildings, set against the water and is close to MUNI trams and the city’s CalTrain station. The area offers options for outside activities, including the Bay Trail, scaling the walls at Mission Rock and floating in a kayak waiting for a home run at McCovey Cove.
It has a vast coastline to explore and is adjacent to AT&T Park, where you can catch a baseball game or check out any of the bars and restaurants.
Nob Hill is an ideal place to live because it’s centrally located in the city and high on a hill, making scenic views a regular thing. Nob Hill retains its old vibe of wealth, as its home to some of the fanciest hotels and Gothic-style Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park, which has an amazing playground.
There are also plenty of museums within walking distance. The steep backdrop is dotted with cute restaurants, cafes and lounges. If you want to get a workout, you can walk, or for $7, take the historic cable car.
Residents of Nob Hill probably enjoy a quieter scene, although a night out on Polk Street isn’t too far. Nob Hill’s landscape consists mostly of mid-rise buildings and condos.
Because of its popularity, single-family homes are rare and backyards are uncommon.
Shop at Nob Hill’s local grocer — Le Beau Market, or Trader’s Joe’s on California and Hyde is also an option for locals.
Nob Hill hot tip: The Fairmont Hotel has an exquisite and often empty roof garden that is open to the public.
Noe Valley is another quaint, in-demand place to live that’s great for young families. The neighborhood features tidy rows of Victorian and Edwardian homes. Thanks to the hills that surround the area, Noe Valley has sunnier weather.
The neighborhood is clean-cut and chock full of upscale restaurants, boutiques and local clothing stores.
It’s a lovely place for an afternoon walk through a bistro, coffee shop or browsing in a bookstore. Grab a cup of joe at Martha & Brothers Coffee Co. or check out long-time neighborhood favorite Eric’s Restaurant, which serves up “Americanized” versions of Hunan and Mandarin dishes.
There’s also a Noe Valley Farmers Market where local organic farmers sell fruit, vegetables, nuts and honey on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon, rain or shine.
Pacific Heights, also known as Pac Heights, is San Francisco’s version of Rodeo Drive or Beverly Hills. The posh neighborhood, often referred to as Billionaire Row, is bordered by Cow Hollow, Russian Hill and Lower Pacific Heights. You’ll know when you’re in Pac Heights when you see neat rows of giant Victorian homes lining quiet streets set against a backdrop of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Pac Heights is situated near Broadway and like many lovely neighborhoods in San Francisco, has a grassy hilltop park to provide an outdoor oasis — take your pick with Lafayette or Alta Plaza. Or, take the Lyon Street Stairs to see sweeping views of the bay. On a clear day, you can see Alcatraz Island.
Pac Heights is great for hiking and residents can escape for a quick hike (and see spectacular views) of Presidio National Park.
The Presidio is probably the oddest, most secluded, yet the most incredible place to live in San Francisco. The Presidio is a 1,500-acre park on a former military post and is a major outdoor recreation hub. Some Presidio residents actually live in converted luxury apartments that were formerly the U.S. Marine Hospital, while others reside in stately Colonial Revival buildings that once housed officers.
It’s like living inside of a forest with 24 miles of trails, a golf course and scenic overlooks. It’s close to grassy Crissy Field, which offers Golden Gate Bridge views, Civil War-era Fort Point and sandy Baker Beach.
The perks of living in the Presidio are unique and uncommon to other parts of the city. Residents have access to community gardens and playgrounds with beautiful views of nature. The best part? There’s plenty of parking.
Presidio is also home to historic buildings that house the Walt Disney Family Museum, eateries, homes and famous entertainment companies such as Lucasfilm.
Known for its famously crooked Lombard Street, Russian Hill is an upscale residential location with panoramic views of Marin and the East Bay. Mostly residential, Russian Hill doesn’t really have much of a nightlife.
However, its close proximity to popular tourist attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square makes it a good location to get out on the weekends and explore. Russian Hill has pockets of restaurants and shops, which is just enough to provide residents with what they need, especially on Polk Street — lined with boutiques, trendy shops and bars.
You can sit on a garden bench and gaze at Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge and SF’s downtown skyline.
The Tendernob is a blend of two areas — Tenderloin and Nob Hill. It sits to the north of Nob Hill and south of Tenderloin. Tendernob is central to the city, and if you wanted to get to the ocean, a quick hop on the 38 Geary could get you there.
It’s been said that 25 percent of the neighborhood’s housing stock is either in nonprofit hands or has rents subsidized by the government.
Stroll through Larkin and get a pastry at Jane on Larkin. Meet up with friends at Jones’ spacious outdoor patio. If you don’t mind waiting for some serious brunch, stop by Brenda’s French Soul Food.
Also, check out the Farmer’s Market, known as Heart of the City, which usually operates on Wednesdays and Sundays, rain or shine.
Heading to San Francisco?
San Francisco’s neighborhoods are unique with their own character, history, personality and flavor. For a city that’s only 49 square miles, you can find just about anything you need. Ready to move to San Francisco and call it home? Browse Rent.com to find your dream apartment in the bay.