San Francisco is a beautiful city for travelling with plenty to do and see along one of the city’s famed postcard-perfect backdrops. Don’t stick to the main tourist spots, go out and explore many vibrant San Francisco neighborhoods to feel the true spirit of this city.
San Francisco Neighborhoods You Must See
When you enter Chinatown, you forget you are still in San Fran. Many say, it’s the best Chinatown in the United States, with the best Ramen, of course. You will know right away where you are as you pass the Chinatown gate. With dragons at its base, the ornate Gate at Grant Avenue and Bush Street marks the entry to Chinatown. This unique neighborhood is decorated with colorful shops, historic street lights, hanging lanterns, and pagoda roofs. The heart of the neighborhood is Portsmouth Square, where you’ll find locals playing board games or just sitting quietly.
Where to Go: Chong Qing Xiao Mian – try their Sichuan noodles: beef noodles with pickled mustard is literally the best ramen we ever had. We had to come back for more.
Though most of the buildings in the FiDi are filled with brokers and bankers, along the beautiful waterfront, you will find some San Francisco’s best attractions. After business hours, bars and restaurants quickly fill up with the happy hour crowds.
Where to Go: Visit Rickhouse for the after-work delicious cocktails.
Originally called Meiggs’ Wharf, this waterfront neighborhood got its name from generations of fishermen who used to dock their boats here. Now it’s one long shopping and entertainment mall that stretches from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 39. Pier 39 has the sightseeing ferry fleets, including departures to Alcatraz Island. The most famous residents of Fisherman’s Wharf are the hundreds of California sea lions, barking on the docks at Pier 39.
Where to Go: Boudin Bakery or a market for the clam chowder in bread bowls. Also, go to the end of Pier 39 to see the sea lions.
Marina welcomes people with gorgeous multi-million dollar homes, amazing beaches, and a beautiful backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is one of my favorite San Francisco neighborhoods. Here you will find a lot of local street bars and restaurants and this is where I tried my first nitrogen ice cream.
Where to Go: Palace of Fine Arts is unique and amazing. Have a little picnic in front of the pond and then take a walk in the park to find some of the gorgeous views of Golden Gate Bridge.
North Beach/Telegraph Hill
Just east of North Beach, the hills and staircases of Telegraph Hill are a unique experience. At its peak, the Coit Tower provides sweeping panoramic views of the bay and city. You can see the murals inside the tower’s base for no cost. They were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project and depict life in California during the Depression.
Where to Go: After climbing all the way to the Coit Tower, we found that Italian pastries along Columbus Avenue are a perfect way to make up for lost energy.
This quiet residential area with amazing views of the bay is home to Lombard street one of the crookedest and best-known streets in the world. If you’re walking around San Francisco, especially Telegraph or Russian Hill, you’re most likely hear a fly-by of the city’s famous green wild parrots. There is even a book and a movie about them, called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” Don’t miss them!
Where to Go: You should check out San Francisco Art Institute with a rooftop. It’s a unique and fun experience especially if you are already in the neighborhood to see the Lombard street.
This vibrant, cultural neighborhood gets its name from the oldest building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores. The Mission District has long been the center of the city’s Latino community. Epicenter for all things trendy, Mission District offers bars, restaurants, coffee shops and hip barber shops. However, the neighborhood can still be a little sketchy night, especially around BART stations at 16th and 24th streets.
Where to Go: Check out traditional taquerias and Mexican groceries. Here you will find some of the best burritos in the world. If you ask a local, what’s is the best food to try in San Francisco, most likely they will answer, “Mission burrito.” Taqueria El Farolito is one of the most well -known in Mission.
San Francisco Tips For First-Timers
1. Dress Warm
If you haven’t heard this one already – wear layers you can easily add and remove. I carried a leather jacket everywhere with me in the middle of May and that kept me warm. Remember, it can be cold, foggy and windy even in the summer!
2. Wander, But Be Smart
Be aware of where you are even when you are on a vacation. Some San Francisco neighborhoods are better than others. For example, Tenderloin, located right in the heart of the city, on Hyde Street between Turk and O’Farrell Streets, can be dangerous to walk around. Check crime rates in the area before booking your hotel and you should be fine!
3. Wear Sunscreen
Even though it can be windy and cold, you should wear sunscreen. The sun is really burning and by the end of the day you can end up as red as a beet!
Read more San Francisco Tips to be ready for your vacation in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.