San Francisco Nightlife: Bars, Clubs, and Pubs

San Francisco's Nightlife Offers Fun for All

Nightlife in San Francisco varies by neighborhood, but is not immune to the occasional cheesy tourist bar. Visitors looking for a place that a native San Franciscan would go should aim to end up at one of the city's many cocktail lounges, bohemian hangs, or local joints.

There are many angles you can approach San Francisco's nightlife from. You can choose to tackle it by neighborhood, with Union Square and North Beach being the most popular, or stick to what you like, whether that's a dive bar, an Irish pub, or a classy hotel lounge.

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North Beach

Fisherman Wharf neighborhood at San Francisco.
Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images
1454 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
+1 415-981-5565

In North Beach, you can find a party every night of the week with revelers out and about bouncing between the area's many bars, clubs, strip clubs, and restaurants. Every street in this neighborhood offers something different. You'll find night clubs on Broadway, Italian restaurants on Columbus Avenue, bohemian hangouts and life music on Grant Avenue, and plenty of local watering holes on the stretch of Green Street between Grant and Columbus. In North Beach, you'll find something for every occasion. If you've got a date, bring them to the romantic Cafe Jacqueline or check out Tony's Pizza Napoletana for a late night slice.

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Union Square

Union Square, San Francisco, California, USA
Neil Emmerson / robertharding/Getty Images
222 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102-2115, USA
+1 866-663-1063

If you're looking for live music and dancing in San Francisco, Union Square is your scene. You can head to the cabaret at Feinstein's at the Nikko, and enjoy southern cooking with your blues music and Biscuits & Blues. For dancing, head to Ruby Sky and for great views of the city on the 21st floor, the Starlight Room pairs its stellar city views with cocktails and live music.

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Dive Bars

Inside Rye Bar on Geary Street.
Rachael Nusbaum/Getty Images
806 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110-1911, USA
+1 415-824-1800

If you need a break from the glitz of North Beach and Union Square, you can find a more laid back version of San Francisco's nightlife at the neighborhood dive bars. Almost every block has one and the city's eclectic and creative residents are loyal to them. Each neighborhood has its own legendary dive bar, but the Mission District and the Haight can probably claim the most, which is great for hopping around. In the Mission District, you can try Bender's, Lone Palm, or Shotwells and in the Haight, head to Kilowatt or the Page.

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Irish Pubs

A sign hanging in front of a San Francisco Irish pub advertises Guinness beer.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
807 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA 94122-2305, USA
+1 415-661-0060

You might not associate Irish culture with San Francisco, but the Gold Rush brought in a massive wave of Irish immigrants to the city and their famous pubs are still running today. Offering casual eats and sometimes live Celtic or bluegrass music, it's easy to see why these classic pubs are neighborhood institutions. Some of the most famous and long-running throughout city include the Little Shamrock, Durty Nelly's, The Napper Tandy, and The Dubliner.

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Bars in Historic Hotels

View from the Top of the Mark Restaurant at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel located on Nob Hill
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
1231 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
+1 415-626-8000

If you're willing to pay top dollar for San Francisco's best cocktails, head to one of its elegant historic hotels that grace the Nob Hill and Union Square neighborhoods. With charm and period-specific detail, these hotels often offer the best views of the city and a relaxed atmosphere for savoring your drink. Remember, you don't have to be a guest a the hotel to enjoy the bar. At the Hotel Whitcomb, which was built in 1906 as a temporary City Hall after the famous San Francisco earthquake, you can have a drink at the Tavern or head to the Westin St. Francis, which predates the earthquake and has a long been considered one of the city's most elegant hotels, for the Clock Bar. For the best nighttime views, the Top-of-the-Mark Sky Lounge at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins is another great choice that offers nightly live music.

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San Francisco Nightlife: Bars, Clubs, and Pubs