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San Francisco’s neighbourhoods

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

San Francisco is a collection of culturally and visually distinct, fiercely independent, neighbourhoods – and they are undoubtedly the city’s greatest attractions.

Despite its relatively small size (just under 47 square miles), SF manages to pack in 36 ‘official’ neighbourhoods (though on many people’s reckoning, there are more than that), meaning you’ll enjoy a unique and rich cultural journey by default as you explore this beautiful city.

Recommendations

10

San Francisco’s Chinatown

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Street view of Chinatown in San Francisco

Experience

The largest Chinatown outside Asia, and the oldest in the USA, this roughly 24-block district is the beating heart of the city’s Asian immigrant communities. Home to some of the best eats the city has to offer at dim sum shops, fortune cookie ‘factories’, Chinese grocers and noodle joints.

Good for age: 18+

Hayes Valley

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Looking out of cafe window in Hayes Valley disterict

Experience

A once gritty neighbourhood, Hayes Valley is now a haven for chic boutiques and galleries. In fact, the centrally-located hood is one of the city’s best shopping hubs. And thanks to residents’ fierce commitment to localism, chain shops aren’t allowed in. What you buy here is almost guaranteed home-grown.

Good for age: 18+

Nob Hill

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Nob Hill - San Fran's best neighbourhoods

Experience

Many of Nob Hill’s mansions, built by the city’s early tycoons, were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, but this hilly hood is still one of SF’s prettiest (and wealthiest). Hop on a cable car to get here and stroll past its parks and cathedrals before dining at one of the city’s best restaurants.

Good for age: 18+

North Beach

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Street veiw of North Beach- San Fran's best neighbourhoods

Experience

This, the historic home of SF’s Italian immigrant community, charms with boho coffee shops, cafes, and bookstores, which are frequented by literary types and harken back to the area’s past as the favourite hangout of Beat Writers like Kerouac. (In case you’re wondering, there’s no beach here).

Good for age: 18+

Pacific Heights

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Pacific Heights

Experience

Pacific Heights is the neighbourhood that SF’s richest residents call home – the likes of the Gettys and Danielle Steel (whose manse spans an entire city block). Expect beautiful Victorian mansions, excellent dining, and some of the city’s best luxury shopping along Fillmore Street.

Good for age: 18+

SOMA

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

view under a bridge in the South of Market Street district

Experience

The area of downtown south of Market Street – called SOMA – is a trendy mix of refurbed warehouses and newly-built high-rises housing clubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, and the like. Its cultural identity is especially strong, thanks to the number of museums (including SFMOMA) and galleries found along its streets.

Good for age: 18+

Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Telegraph Hill - San Francisco best neighbourhoods

Experience

Telegraph Hill ascends 280-plus feet and is crowned by Coit Tower, a mural-covered Art Deco column. An ascent on foot to the hills’ top (via sidewalk and stairs) rewards with eye candy in many forms: gorgeous homes, gardens, and some of the best views from the observation deck at the tower’s top.

Good for age: 18+

The Castro

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

looking down the main street of the Castro District, San Francisco

Experience

The Castro doesn’t have much by way of ‘attractions’, but that’s not the point. The historic and current heart of the city’s gay community, the district is one of SF’s most vibrant. Come here to commune with the colourful locals in the neighbourhood’s funky cafés, bars, shops, and restaurants.

Good for age: 18+

Mission District

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Mission District - best things to do in San Francisco

Experience

The Mission is the stomping ground of SF’s Latino population – a sure bet for great Mexican and Latin American food. The neighbourhood also has a thriving arts community, and you’ll find 200-plus lovely murals along 24th Street (known as the Latino Cultural District – the heart of the Mission).

Good for age: 18+

Union Square

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Union Square

Experience

The commercial centre of San Francisco, this stretch of streets surrounding Union Square (a park-slash-plaza so named because of its history as the site of several pro-Union Civil War rallies) is full of luxury hotels, restaurants, and shops. A lovely neighbourhood that’s still worth a wander.

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Who to go with: organised tours

5

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • San Francisco

Definitely one for the food lovers, the Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour is a glimpse into the blend of culture and cuisine of San Francisco. Stroll amongst the cafes and bakeries of North Beach, San Francisco's own Little Italy. Named one of the 15 best foodie tours in the USA by U.S. News and World Report (March 2018) From the cafés and restaurants, to the smell of fresh-baked pastries in the air. Just when you think you can't feel any more romantic, you discover quaint shops with incredible crafts and ceramics that fill you with a sense of awe. We explore the life of North Beach, as we join family artisans kneading love into every pastry or dish. And just when you think that you can't be in any more of food heaven, we visit real coffee shops. And if that was not enough, we uncover authentic Italian cathedrals where hundreds of couples have felt their heartstrings tug.

Price $79

Min age 0

Rating 4.79 / 5 [825 ratings]

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  • San Francisco

Discover San Francisco's Chinatown on this fascinating walking tour. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and rich heritage and culture of this storied neighborhood as your insider guide takes you to popular and off-the-beaten path locations. View historic landmarks, visit an herbal pharmacy and hear about Waverly Place, a secluded alley full of private clubs. Stroll through the Stockton Street food markets and sample fortune cookies at the factory where they're made. You'll leave with a whole new appreciation for this historic and culturally authentic neighborhood.

Price $59

Min age 0

Rating 4.83 / 5 [728 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • San Francisco

Spend an afternoon exploring two of San Francisco's vibrant areas for food and nightlife on a walking tour through Chinatown and North Beach. On their own, they will stir your senses. Together, they awaken you to new flavors, ancient cultures, and a diverse lifestyle. On their own, Chinatown and North Beach stir your senses. Together, they awaken you to new flavors, new cultures, and to parts of your heart. We'll start by exploring Chinatown by twilight, including tasting Moon Cakes from one of the oldest bakeries in Chinatown. We'll search out authentic Chinese and Italian sites. We'll uncover their hidden secrets only intrepid locals know. And you'll be astonished by the new finds in secret alcoves. From wine to Dim Sum, Peking Duck, fortune cookies, in the very places where the Beat Generation started and Barbary Coast history that made San Francisco what it is, you'll feel like you've really experienced Chinatown and North Beach\Little Italy.

Price $85

Min age 0

Rating 4.80 / 5 [529 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • San Francisco

Learn the secrets of San Francisco's 19th century Silver Kings and Railroad Barons on this easy two and a half hour walking tour of affluent Nob HiIl. Learn tales of divorce, murder, and adultery while touring inside private ballrooms and gardens in the Fairmont Hotel. See where Tony Bennett sang " I Left my heart in San Francisco" the first time. Tour inside the magnificent Grace Cathedral with its famous Ghiberti doors and an historical museum at the iconic Mark Hopkins hotel. Enjoy unique historic memorabilia and photos in the sophisticated private Huntington Big Four restaurant. Stanford Court lobby is a renovated "techie" oasis of art. A local expert guide will walk with you in this architecturally significant neighborhood with breath taking views   

Price $35

Min age 8

Rating 4.53 / 5 [76 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • San Francisco

We actually go INSIDE 16 different venues including select art galleries with mosaics, sculpture and iconic photographs. Explore Renaissance Baroque architecture with décor in several hotel lobbies in the bustling Union Square area. Then discover Chinatown with its exotic unique shops, Buddhist monastery, Old St. Mary's church, local art and alleyways ending in the movie "Joy Luck Club " and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' s" Ross Alley. See where fortune cookies are made and have a taste. This is an easy 2 hour 30 minute walking tour with a local expert guide. Tea tasting included or optional.

Price $35

Min age 8

Rating 4.65 / 5 [20 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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