San Francisco City Guide:
Neighborhoods & Things to Do

San Francisco is rich in history – from the Gold Rush, Alcatraz and the drafting and ratification of the United Nations Charter to the final Beatles concert and the famed cable cars, San Francisco has a unique appeal to multitudes of people. The city survived the Great Earthquake of 1906 (a 7.0 magnitude quake) and the Great Depression. Interesting fact: Not a single bank failed in the city during the Depression. In fact, the city had enough money to build the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge during one of the darkest periods in our country’s history. If you’ve fallen in love with the city and want to make it your home, our San Francisco city guide will help you find the best neighborhood for your cultural and economic sensibilities.

San Francisco city highlights

San Francisco is a hot destination for nearly 26 million people per year. As a resident of the city, you’ll have constant access to the natural beauty of the area and the fun features that draw tourists year-round.

  • Golden Gate Park: Located on the northern edge of Southwest San FranciscoGolden Gate Park is not just for tourists. Locals love to come to the park for a morning jog or to spend some time meditating in nature. Within the park is a flower conservatory, the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Art Museum – just to name a few attractions.
  • Haight-Ashbury: Haight Ashbury is adjacent to Golden Gate Park and first became famous during the 1950s and 1960s as a bohemian enclave. The beautifully restored Victorian homes are a sight to behold! Every June, you can attend the Haight Street Fair, hosted by a non-profit organization committed to preserving the unique history and culture of the area.
  • Walt Disney Family Museum: Do you love all things Disney? Then you need to visit this museum, a non-profit organization that features exhibits narrated by Walt Disney, alongside an early model of Disneyland, cartoon drawings and more. Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, is the founder of the museum and is committed to keeping the creativity and imagination of her father and future generations alive.
  • Oracle Park: Oracle Park is home of Giant’s baseball. But it’s not limited to America’s pastime. You can also attend concerts, races and other public events. Or if you want to treat your family and friends to something extra special, you can host private events at Oracle Park, whether in the park or on the water. Events can be catered by the park’s incredible chefs who can create classic ballpark fare or a customized menu for your event.
  • Palace of Fine Arts Theater: The Palace of Fine Arts Theater was originally constructed in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. From 1964-1974 it was completely rebuilt, and the monumental structure is the only original building that survived. Events include concerts, comedy acts, hypnotism, dance and orchestral performances just to name a few. The Palace is also open to private galas, weddings and corporate events.

San Francisco city guide to the best neighborhoods for renters

Are you looking for a home in San Francisco? Our San Francisco city guide allows you to explore the best neighborhoods in the city. Here are just a few you might want to consider.

Northwest San Francisco

Northwest San Francisco is a densely populated neighborhood in San Francisco. Over 70% of residents rent a home, apartment, townhouse or condo in the area, making it an ideal place to settle if you’re looking to rent. Fewer than half the households in the neighborhood have children and residents love that it is a quieter than average neighborhood. You can get to and from some areas (shops, coffee shops) without a vehicle, but you might want one since the average commute is between 35 and 40 minutes.

Northeast San Francisco

This popular San Francisco neighborhood is on the pricier side, but it’s a lovely place to live if you can afford it! (Check out our San Francisco city guide to see if rentals are available within your budget.) Sixteen public schools in Northeast San Francisco have received above average or excellent ratings from GreatSchools. You can also find multiple private and charter schools in the neighborhood as well. This part of the city has hundreds of stores, shops and restaurants, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and more.

South of Market

South of Market, also called SoMa, is a warehouse district with access to Oracle Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. The neighborhood has a high walkability score, is pet friendly and well-lit streets. Restaurants, grocery stores and cafes are within walking distance. Residents here love the community vibe of the neighborhood, with many mentioning how friendly their neighbors are and how respectful they are toward animals. If you need to commute to work, to an event or to another city, the neighborhood provides easy access to the highway.

Mission District

The Mission District is in Southeast San Francisco. It is one of the hottest destinations for renters and shoppers alike. Here you’ll find trend-setting boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes. The area is full of green spaces and murals are painted on many of the buildings. It’s perfect if you love getting outside, enjoying some fresh air and sunshine and doing a bit of people-watching. The skyline view is incredible, too. The neighborhood has one of the highest walkability scores (98), though it is ranked #17 in San Francisco for its walkability. The neighborhood’s transit and bike scores are also high, 87 and 97 respectively.

Rincon Hill

Rincon Hill is one of the original “Seven Hills” of San Francisco. It is a compact neighborhood of just over 10,000 residents. Schools in the area are highly rated. The Rincon Hill neighborhood is ranked #9 in the best places to live in San Francisco. The walkability score is high and it’s a great neighborhood for pets as well. The neighborhood has an urban feel and there’s always something new opening – a new restaurant, entertainment venue or parks. Residents also appreciate the civic projects and community events in the area.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay that’s home to fewer than 2500 people. The island was built between 1936 and 1937. In 1939, it hosted the Golden Gate International Exposition. Various parts of Treasure Island have served as film locales for major motion pictures including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Charlie Chat at Treasure Island, Flubber, Patch Adams and the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Schools in the area are above average to excellent. It takes approximately 20 minutes to commute to downtown San Francisco. Developers have started and are planning to build thousands more homes on the island, as well as more parks, restaurants and shops.

Mission Bay

The Mission Bay neighborhood is across from Oracle Park and is a newer neighborhood in San Francisco with a decidedly contemporary atmosphere. If you’re looking for a modern luxury apartment, you should consider moving to Mission Bay. The neighborhood is ideal for young, ambitious professionals and has all the urban amenities you could desire. Plus, there are plenty of green spaces around the neighborhood to appease your desire to get out into nature!

Nob Hill

Historic mansions, luxury hotels and beautiful rentals make up the neighborhood of Nob Hill, one of San Francisco’s signature neighborhoods. Old, restored Victorian buildings contrast with the urban sophistication of the neighborhood. It receives high ratings from residents for its bustling restaurant and bar scene. You’ll also find a number of eclectic, high-end shops where you can find some essentials or simply window shop. From Nob Hill, it takes about 10 minutes to commute to the Financial District and 25 minutes to get to downtown San Francisco if you’re traveling by car.

Bernal Heights

Bernal Heights is one of the hottest neighborhoods in San Francisco. From 2010 to 2016, home prices appreciated by over 110%. For years, it felt like the best-kept secret in San Francisco, but renters and homeowners alike feel like they’ve found a hidden gem and are spreading the word. Residents love that the neighborhood has a small town feel while still being in a central San Francisco location. You’ll find cafes, restaurants, small markets, nail and hair salons and just about anything you need within walking distance.

Hayes Valley

One of the hippest neighborhoods in San Francisco, Hayes Valley has grown quite a bit in the past few years. Residents love the high-end boutiques, cafes and restaurants located in the plaza. Once here, many residents stay for decades. Beside them, you’ll find young professionals who love the option of new housing or refurbished Victorians. The central green space is a nice place to hang out after a day of shopping at the indie bookstores and pop-up art galleries. Getting around the neighborhood on foot or bike is convenient, while getting to downtown San Francisco is a breeze.

Marina District

Looking for an apartment along the bay with picturesque views? Then you need to move to the Marina District. The neighborhood has boutique-lined streets (great for shoppers and foodies!) and an abundance of green space for you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Many of the houses in the area are upscale mansions but there are some rentals available as well. Residents say the area is an eclectic, beautiful mix of California, Italy and New England.

Noe Valley

Noe Valley is home to just under 20,000 residents. It is one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco to raise a family with all the public schools earning A to A+ ratings. All reviewers on give the area the highest score possible (five stars = excellent), stating that the neighborhood is friendly and open to newcomers. People who have lived in various parts of San Francisco say that their favorite neighborhood is by far Noe Valley. It’s quiet, safe, has plenty of restaurants and shops and is great for evening strolls and walking the dog.

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