San Francisco Neighborhoods

Visitor Ideas

Say the name San Francisco and it's easy to visualize the Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars, the bay and Alcatraz. You see these things in real life and you will also see lines of tourists everywhere. Take note, if you want to ride the cable car you will be standing in line for an hour and then will be jammed into these beaten down old rigs and the smell of the German lady's perfume in front of you will leave a more lasting impression than the ride itself. Or better yet you can freeze your butt off riding the ferry to Alcatraz. Oh yeah, and it's a prison, a prison that has not even had an exterior paint job in 50 years. Do yourself a favor and check out these neighborhoods because they are not tourist traps and they are authentic San Francisco.

The Mission - This neighborhood is the most authentic and hippest part of the city and has been for the last 20 years. It's edgy, a little dirty and it's full of character. Take a stroll down Valencia Street with funky cafés, bars, and diverse restaurants. Also, from here and a few blocks further west is Dolores Park, which features great views of downtown and plenty of grass to picnic up and relax.

The Castro - That nice rest you have in Dolores Park will give you the energy to walk a couple of blocks to the center of the next neighborhood. The Castro has more pulse than any other place in San Francisco. This community has history but it remains young at heart. The "Gay Mecca" as it is called is never dull with people from all over the world coming here and having and fun and feeling free. The Castro is a must see not because of how it represents San Francisco, but how it embodies personal liberty.

Haight Ashbury - The locals call it Upper Haight but the corner where the counter-culture of the 60's really blossomed in the country still has a bohemian feel. Follow the Haight up to Golden Gate Park and you will not want to stop walking to take in all the sights and sounds.

North Beach - Great dining and better cafés for a required cappuccino or espresso in SF's little Italy. No beach but the most beautiful small park and church in town and the birth of the Beat poets. This neighborhood is tourist central but is right next to Chinatown.

Chinatown - Rough, dirty, crowded and smelly. The most congested places in the city but an absolute must see. This is the beating heart of San Francisco located between North Beach and the downtown Financial District. The food, the tea shops and gift shops are a kaleidoscope for the senses.

The Marina - Clean cut and quiet compared to Chinatown. The neighborhood is parked right along the water with spectacular views of the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. This is the walk you have to bring your camera along to get those picture postcard shots.

By: Jesse Whitman, Copyright SFTRAVEL LLC all rights reserved