10 Most Popular Urban Neighborhoods in San Diego, California

San Diego has several different neighborhoods located within its city limits. These neighborhoods vary in atmosphere and offerings but share one common theme: San Diego's laidback yet vibrant attitude and gorgeous weather. Here's a guide to some of San Diego's most popular urban neighborhoods. 

01 of 10

North Park

North Park, San Diego

Sam Antonio Photography / Moment Open / Getty Images

North Park has spent the past decade transforming itself into the "it" neighborhood of San Diego. It's downtown area stretches down University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard and is where you'll find a number of popular restaurants and bars. 

The bars and restaurants are why North Park is often a destination for Saturday night in addition to the usual Gaslamp Quarter and Pacific Beach.

For those who wish to live in North Park, there are pockets of craftsman homes on the north edge of Balboa Park (hence the name) plus apartment options. 

Best Bets: Urban Solace, Carnitas' Snack Shop, Red Fox Steakhouse, and Piano Bar, Chicken Pie Shop, Tiger! Tiger!, and West Coast Tavern

02 of 10


San Diego, Hillcrest sign at University Avenue
Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Hillcrest is a diverse and lively neighborhood north of downtown San Diego. It is known for being gay-friendly and has a wide mix of dive bars, upscale lounges, and gourmet restaurants.

For residential options, you'll find a mix of apartments and bungalows. 

Best Bets: Landmark Cinemas, Prepkitchen, and La Vecindad

03 of 10

Mission Hills

The sign for Mission Hills a bike-friendly residential neighborhood close to the beach and downtown San Diego

Visitor7 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

As you head west on Washington Street, Hillcrest turns into Mission Hills, and the aura becomes more staid and low-key. With its grand homes with manicured lawns and winding hilltop streets, Mission Hills has an affluent feel yet still laidback atmosphere. 

Best Bets: Mission Hills Nursery and Phil's BBQ

04 of 10


Kensington sign in San Diego

Visitor7 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

This upscale enclave on the southeast rim of Mission Valley is picturesque, with attractive (and pricey) Spanish-styled homes. It's a peaceful pocket amid the hubbub of the inner city. Kensington also has a tiny business district along the single main artery of Adams Avenue.

Best Bets: Ken Cinema, the Ken Club bar, and Ponce's Restaurant

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

University Heights

University Heights, San Diego

Chrisinphilly5448 / Flickr / CC 2.0

University Heights is located between Hillcrest and North Park and is often overshadowed by the two, but has its own hipster charm. Similar in ways to both, it is a mix of Craftsman bungalows and apartments. Its small retail area is at the north end of Park Boulevard, where it turns into Adams Avenue.

Best Bets: Small Bar, El Sarape, Twiggs Coffeehouse, Parkhouse Eatery, and Old Trolley Barn Park

06 of 10

Normal Heights

Normal Heights, San Diego

Aaron Fulkerson / Flickr / CC 2.0

Or "Abnormal" Heights, as it's sometimes referred to. Bookended on the west by University Heights and Kensington on the east, Normal Heights completes the Adams Avenue neighborhood trifecta.

You'll find both apartment dwellings and single-family homes in Normal Heights. There is also a small retail area home to some shops and bars.

Best Bets: The Ould Sod pub, Antique Row, and Lestat's Coffee 

07 of 10

Little Italy

Little Italy Neighborhood of San Diego

David Madison / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

Little Italy has always been a neat enclave within downtown San Diego. Recently, it has transformed into one of the trendy neighborhoods of San Diego thanks to the addition of new condo highrises, some of which have spectacular views of the bay.

Plus, the business district has been refurbished in recent years and is home to several stylish office buildings and home furnishing shops.

Best Bets: India Street, Mimmo's Italian Village, Indigo Grill, Filippi's, and Bencotto 

08 of 10

Golden Hill

San Diego skyline from Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park

Sam Antonio Photography / Getty Images

With its once stately old mansions, quaint bungalows, and apartment buildings, Golden Hill is enjoying a rejuvenation. On the southeast end of Balboa Park, Golden Hill (and adjacent South Park) has some fine views of downtown and pockets of fun dining and shopping entertainment.

Best Bets: Turf Supper Club, The Big Kitchen, M-Theory Records, and South Park Grill

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Pacific Beach (PB)

Pacific Beach Neighborhood, San Diego

Brigitte Blättler / Getty Images

Pacific Beach, often referred to as PB by locals, is where most young professionals move after college, and its vibe is definitely a party one. Bars line both sides of the street along Garnet Avenue and Mission Street.

PB used to be land of bar food, but in recent years has attracted some trendy new restaurants. You can find quieter pockets of the neighborhood in North PB, which still give you close access to all the restaurants and bars plus the beach. 

Best Bets: Bub's Dive Bar, Crushed, Duck Dive, Patio on Lamont, Johnny V, Turquoise Bar, and Firehouse

10 of 10

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach, San Diego

Fraser Hall / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images

Ocean Beach, commonly called OB, is a funky beach community located south of Pacific Beach. Ocean Beach has resisted gentrification and has a number of independent restaurants, bars, and shops. Overall, OB has a laid-back, surfer vibe. Its pier is also great for fishing or a leisurely walk. 

Best Bets: Hodad's, Winstons, BO-Beau Kitch + Bar, South Beach Bar and Grille, OB Noodle House, and Raglan Public House

Updated by Gina Tarnacki