Are you looking to move somewhere with comfortable, infinite summers, funky architecture and landmarks, the biggest tech companies in the United States, and excellent world cuisine? We’re sure you’ve considered San Francisco, one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities on the Coast of Central California! Whether you’re looking to raise a family, take the business world by storm, or do both at the same time, moving to San Francisco is the way to start your new life!
But what are the best neighborhoods to live in San Francisco? The peninsula contains many communities bursting with life, culture, and opportunities. The best neighborhoods in San Francisco are the neighborhoods where you can get what you want out of life – and there is something for everyone!
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Not sure where to start? This San Francisco neighborhood guide will provide you with all of the details you need about some of the hippest neighborhoods in the region! Read on to discover five of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco, CA so you can begin the search for your new home in the hills!
The full name for The Mission is “The Mission District,” and it’s an excellent place to begin when considering San Francisco neighborhoods to live. You will not find a more diverse or vibrant community. The food alone is reason enough to move in, and there is never a shortage of public art, festivals, and celebrations.
History of The Mission
The original name for this neighborhood was “The Mission Lands.” This is because in 1776 it belonged to the sixth Alta California Mission, which you might have heard referred to as Mission San Francisco de Asis. The mission building is the oldest building still standing in San Francisco!
As time went on, the land surrounding the mission building was the site of all sorts of raucous affairs – everything from horse racing to dueling! For a time, the region was even the home of a large zoo. Things would calm down in the area during the Gold Rush, as the area slowly transitioned into subdivisions and families began to inhabit the area.
From there, The Mission grew into a thriving community, and was home to the first professional baseball stadium in the state of California! It seemed like all fun and games until the 1906 earthquake, which brought a lot of attention to the unaffected Mission area.
From there, this neighborhood would only continue to grow. In its life, it has been a haven for immigrants from many diverse backgrounds, and it maintains its reputation as a cultural hub. People of all backgrounds will find their niche in the mission!
Public schools in The Mission fall under the San Francisco Unified School District and contains nine public school buildings. Students educated in the district perform higher than the California state average. It is consistently ranked near the top of all school districts in the state.
Great Neighborhood Features
In The Mission, it makes sense that the most significant landmark would be, well… The Mission! Mission Dolores is the oldest building in the state. It serves as a museum, but the basilica is still in active use by residents!
The Mission is also home to the stunning San Francisco Armory, which was originally built for use by the National Guard. It was home to the 49th infantry for many years, which is where the team “The 49ers” took its name.
The Roxie, which is the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the city, still stands in The Mission. It’s at the center of a great deal of local arts programming!
The Mission is a hub of artistic and cultural life, especially for the Latino community. This has been the case since the cultural Renaissance of the 60s and 70s. Many community-based arts organizations created during that time continue to operate today!
The area spawned an art movement known as “The Mission School” movement. The neighborhood is full of galleries, theatres, studios, and other dedicated arts spaces. The Mission has a reputation for its public art, and the streets feature striking and colorful murals.
The music scene thrives in The Mission, with just about every genre represented, from Mariachi to Rap!
The largest park in the region is Delores Park, named for the Mission at the center of this vibrant neighborhood. It is one of the most popular parks in The Mission District, and is a popular destination for students, as the local high school is right across the road!
The thing that most residents of The Mission love to do, however, is eat! This neighborhood is world-famous for its ethnic restaurants, particularly its Mexican food.
Throughout the year, The Mission is host to an endless array of local festivals and parades. Some notable examples are the neighborhood’s Carnaval celebration, the Day of the Dead memorial procession, the monthly First Friday gathering, and the San Francisco Food Fair.
Pacific Heights is one of the best neighborhoods to move to in San Francisco for those looking for stunning views. You can see just about every famous San Francisco landmark from this neighborhood. There’s a reason it’s called Pacific Heights – if you live in this lush, luxurious area, you will be living the high life as you float above it all, enjoying the view!
It’s important to note, however, that Pacific Heights isn’t the place to move into a starter home. It has earned the distinction of being the most expensive neighborhood in the United States. It contains the famous “Gold Coast” region, where tech billionaires build their gorgeous luxury homes.
If you’re seeking a taste of the good life, there’s no doubt that this is where you should begin your search for real estate! When it comes to Pacific Heights, you get what you pay for!
History of Pacific Heights
This neighborhood began in the 1870s when it still contained mainly victorian style homes. This became the dominant style in the neighborhood, and that remains the case today. The area experienced devastation after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Because of the amount of damage, much of the current neighborhood wasn’t constructed until after the dust settled in 1906. The residents seemed to embrace this opportunity for a fresh start and built new homes in a varied number of interesting period styles.
The schools in this neighborhood are some of the best performing schools in the city, including San Francisco Public Montessori. You also have top-performing private schools nearby where many local students thrive.
Great Neighborhood Features
One of the best features in this neighborhood is the architecture, with its many varied styles. Driving down the street can be like taking a tour of Europe, with a Mission Revival-style home standing next to an impressive French Chateau! The neighborhood is predominantly residential, with San Francisco itself serving as the community’s big backyard.
Pacific Heights is home to several world consulates, including the Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, South Korean, Chinese, and German consulates.
The type of art that is at the center of this swanky neighborhood is simply the local architecture! Famous sites to visit include Spreckels Mansion and the Haas-Lilienthal house.
The most famous street in Pacific Heights is Fillmore Street, where residents can take care of their high-end shopping in designer boutiques. It’s full of all of the trendy cafes and brunch spots that you read about in magazines. It’s not unlikely to spot a celebrity on Fillmore street!
The neighborhood is home to two parks situated on the hillside. They are Lafayette Park and Alta Plaza, and they are both great places to take in the view of the city.
For other shopping, events, and culture, Pacific Heights residents tend to venture into San Francisco and enjoy everything the city has to offer!
If you are looking for accepting places and unsure where to live in San Francisco, you might start with The Castro neighborhood. The Castro is the center of cultural life for the area’s LGBTQIA+ community.
The Castro neighborhood is an area packed with history, and history is still made in this area today. Whether you’re seeking LGBT events or simply a safe place to raise a non-traditional family, you will find a home and a community in The Castro District!
History of The Castro
Like many neighborhoods in the state of California, The Castro came to be because the railroad came to town. The Castro officially became a neighborhood when the railroad put down tracks in Eureka Valley, connecting it to the downtown area, and making it a more ideal place to live and do business – it’s named after 19th-century leader José Castro.
The population in the area grew during the gold rush, specifically becoming home to a large Finnish population. It was a predominantly Finnish city until the 1906 earthquake led to changes. By the 1930s, the neighborhood had diversified significantly, becoming a working-class neighborhood.
The region gained its reputation as a haven for members of the queer community after the US Army began to discharge gay servicemen during World War II. The first gay bar, The Missouri Mule, would open in 1963, just in time to kick off the popularity of the Free Love movement in the area.
Gay Activist Harvey Milk would be the one to put The Castro on the map in the 70s. From there, the region’s reputation only grew, making it a safe place for individuals and families with diverse sexual identities. Today, the area is officially known as the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District!
Great Neighborhood Features
One of the most famous Landmarks is the Castro Theatre, a 1920s-style movie house that continues to operate in The Castro district.
There are many landmark locations in The Castro related to LGBT history. For example, you will be living near Harvey Milk Plaza, Pink Triangle Park, and the famous Twin Peaks bar. You can also visit the Rainbow Honor Walk in the heart of the business district, and the Castro Street History walk near Market Street.
In recent years, the streets of The Castro have begun to come to life with colorful murals representing landmark moments in LGBT history. The neighborhood is home to The Castro Art Walk, which provides a tour of the local arts and gallery spaces where local artists sell and display their work.
The Castro has long been the host neighborhood for many significant queer events. People come from all over San Francisco and the surrounding cities to participate! These include the San Francisco International LGBT film festival, The Castro Street Fair, and the Dyke March.
All of the businesses in this region are safe spaces for members of the queer community. Residents enjoy everything from shopping to cafes without having to worry about feeling welcome. If you are seeking a warm and welcoming community, you can make a home in The Castro.
If you want to be at the center of it all, you might find your new home in the neighborhood of Noe Valley! This neighborhood provides you with the feeling of a city, with the benefit of homeownership – most residents own, rather than rent, their homes. It’s a great neighborhood for families and professionals alike.
Noe Valley is walkable and packed with shops and quaint cafes that lend the bustling area a very community-like feel. It’s the sort of place that puts the ‘neighbor’ back in ‘neighborhood’ because you’re likely to feel like you’re part of something in Noe Valley. It is laidback and fairly quiet, but with no shortage of things to see and do.
History of Noe Valley
Noe Valley borrowed its name from the last Mexican mayor of San Francisco, José de Jesús Noé. He sold the land to John Meirs Horner in 1854, which is why the region is still occasionally known as Horner’s Addition.
Noe Valley experienced the major of its development late in the 19th century, particularly after the earthquake. As a result, it features a great deal of the famous Victorian-style architecture that was so popular during that period of regrowth. Many of the homes were in the rowhouse style, and that remains true today, though many of the homes have undergone modernization.
Today, Noe Valley has made the transition from a working-class neighborhood to an upper-middle-class neighborhood, dominated by families and young professionals.
Noe Valley is wonderful for families, so there’s no question that it boasts some phenomenal schools. There are four schools in the community and all rank above average for the state of California. The small number of buildings adds to the intimate community feel, as kids who grow up in Noe Valley truly grow up together.
Great Neighborhood Features
If you have dreamed of living in a walkable city, you’ll love the accessibility of Noe Valley. It has a reputation as a low-traffic neighborhood. While there is public transportation accessible, and many residents own cars, it’s a friendly area for those who like to commute on foot.
Residents love hoofing it to the weekend farmer’s market in the town square. The downtown is full of interesting places to shop, all with a flair for the artisanal and unique. If you like to cook, you’ll love living within walking distance of the Omnivore Bookshop, which stocks only cookbooks and hosts plenty of events!
Noe Valley is predominantly residential, but its central location puts it right at the center of all of the art and culture the San Francisco area has to offer. Local artists run many of the quaint businesses in the neighborhood, selling their creations. If you’re looking for theatre and galleries, you won’t need to travel far to visit the many options in surrounding communities.
If you are seeking idyllic calmness and striking views, visit the neighborhood’s Douglass Park, which is both family and dog-friendly. If you need even more space to run around, The Upper Noe Recreation center has plenty of ball fields and playgrounds.
Almost all community events take place at Noe Valley Town square – the town center of this centrally-located gem. Most events are family-friendly and ideal for children.
Bayview – Hunter’s Point
If you’re looking to move into the next up-and-coming neighborhood before the rest of the world catches on, then take a look at Bayview-Hunter’s Point. This is a young neighborhood that has come a long way, and you might want to become a part of the community activism that is driving change. There is a real focus on environmentalism here, and it has become home to many artists.
History of Bayview-Hunter’s Point
This “little neighborhood that could” has had a long and often challenging history, which makes its current position as the next up-and-coming neighborhood in San Francisco even more impressive! The area was initially known for Hunter’s Point, a dock that was a site for shipbuilders. Early atomic weapons testing made it a challenging place to live until the 1990s when efforts began to transform the area into an ecological haven.
The most incredible part is that it’s the community itself that is driving this change. When you visit Bayview, you’ll find community-run youth and ecologically focused organizations, from public gardens to community centers.
Great Neighborhood Features
Bayview is truly a neighborhood in progress, and new features are appearing every day that make it an appealing and exciting place to begin a life. This begins with the many community gardens in the neighborhood, designed to combat the area’s early history. The Quesada Gardens Initiative features over thirty-five community and backyard gardens, right at the heart of the neighborhood!
This up-and-coming community has long been a hub for the arts, and that continues to this day! The neighborhood is vibrant with murals painted by local artists. Many of these murals are new, painted as a result of grants awarded to support the revitalization of the neighborhood.
Bayview is even home to the country’s largest artist’s colony, known as “The Point.”
It is also home to the Zaccho Dance Theatre, a professional dance company that focuses on how movement and dance relate to place. This company has made the entire Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood into their stage. You will be lucky to catch their innovative performance art!
Imprint City is a project designed specifically to present art in the neighborhood’s underutilized spaces. They feature both visual and performing arts events, and have invited world-famous guests to participate. Some notable guests include Busta Rhymes and Nef the Pharoah.
Bayview is home to three major parks, where residents can participate in aquatic activities such as windsurfing and kayaking. All of the parks offer stunning views of San Francisco.
Bayview is home to the famous “All my Uso’s” barbeque, held annually by the local Polynesian and Samoan communities.
If you’ve been working on your garden, you can restock supplies at the beautiful Flora Grub Garden center. If you still have more to learn, stop by the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park and you’ll be on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle.
The Best Neighborhoods to Live in San Francisco
Whether you’re looking for a luxurious enclave like the ritzy Pacific Heights, a safe and vibrant family community like Noe Valley, or an up-and-coming hub of social and environmental justice like Bayview, there is a home for you in San Francisco. The best neighborhoods to live in San Francisco will be the neighborhoods that support your personal goals and offer what you need to thrive.
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