Okay, you can't really go wrong in any neighborhood within the 7 by 7 miles that is San Francisco. Each one is infused with culture, brimming with shops and restaurants, and will provide a walking workout (hello, hills!). But some are better for visitors than others simply due to ease of access, views, and activities. Here are our four favorites.
For the absolute classic San Francisco experience, Nob Hill is your neighborhood. Not only are you just a cable car ride away from the city’s top sites, but you’re also perched on top of one of the bigger hills, which yields phenomenal views in all directions. The Cable Car Museum is just down the hill from the top and both Chinatown and Union Square are easy walks (just be ready to feel the burn on the way back up). But we understand that living like a local is still somewhat of a priority. Fear not—even the tourist destinations in this city are full of local secrets. Just stroll over to Grace Cathedral for their Tuesday evening yoga sessions, which are free—including the mat rental—and open to all denominations. For those looking for a more upbeat excursion, check out the lineup at the Masonic, the 59-year-old building is a mid-century architectural icon and hosts popular acts like rocker Hozier and comedian Patton Oswald.
Where to Stay
Go for the classic, luxury experience at either of these beautiful stalwarts. You can’t go wrong either way.
Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St.
Telephone: (415) 772-5000
InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco
999 California St.
Telephone: (415) 392-3434
For the perfect intersection of true locals and easy access, North Beach is your neighborhood. Again, it’s a neighborhood to which you’ll have to climb your way back (but try and find a neighborhood where this isn’t the case). Known as Little Italy, the area is still full of Italian families who’ve seen generations grow up on these streets. Lucky for you, that also means a ton of great Italian food around every corner (we’re partial to Ideale—makes a great date spot!). Play tourist and climb to the top of Telegraph Hill to check out Coit Tower and then do like the locals and lounge in Washington Square Park. At night, Grant Street lights up with plenty of bars, live music, and a few art galleries open late. Whatever you do, don’t miss City Lights Bookstore for endless reading material.
Where to Stay
This neighborhood is at its best when you fully immerse yourself in it, so hop on AirBnB and find a bedroom or apartment that oozes with Victorian charm and you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.
Anyone who wants to be in the heart of the action should stay in the Mission. This neighborhood is brimming over with amazing food options, from beautifully plated, Michelin-starred restaurants to no-fuss tacos and burritos. Our favorites are La Taqueria for the burrito (named the best in the nation) and Tartine Manufactory for more special occasions. Dolores Park is best when the sun is shining and it’s absolutely packed with people, which make for great people watching. The nightlife is just as varied from funky and beloved dives like The 500 Club and Zeitgeist to quirky bars slinging the best drinks in the city (Trick Dog) and cozy local spots where the cocktails hit the spot (Homestead). It’s an incredibly walkable neighborhood (so flat!) and the Bart stations at 16th and 24th Streets will take you straight downtown for more adventures.
Where to Stay
You can try your hand on AirBnB, but this little bed and breakfast has all the amenities of a hotel packed inside charming, modern rooms and is a mere block away from the Bart Station. Heads up: they have a seven-night minimum stay.
1906 Mission St.
Telephone: (415) 801-5000
This neighborhood is perfect for visitors in so many ways. First of all, it’s relatively flat (compared to most of the city). You’re also right along the bay’s edge where views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are an everyday occurrence. And finally, there are plenty of budget hotels and motels so you can bargain shop for the best rates. But aside from all of that, it’s also a neighborhood full of great shopping (both name brands and local boutiques), great dining (coffee, lunch, dinner—you name it!) and a youthful nightlife. Go for a stroll along Crissy Field during the day to soak in those famous bay views or rent a bike and cross the Golden Gate into Marin. In the evening, Chestnut and Union Streets both offer endless options for dinner and drinks.
Where to Stay
As mentioned above, Lombard Street is full of budget motels where dropping your bags off and getting out to explore is expected. Check out a few of them at our best hotels in SF.