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You Don’t Know San Francisco Until You’ve Been To Her Best Neighbourhoods

You Don’t Know San Francisco Until You’ve Been To Her Best Neighbourhoods

Golden Gate Bridge, SF

We all know how important tech is to the fibre of San Francisco. Heck, where would we be without Silicon Valley, and the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Page? But, tech central isn’t the best expression of the city, nor does it do the eclectic people and personalities within the city any justice. The best side of the city is shown through the distinct San Francisco neighbourhoods.

As the locals say, “the joy of San Francisco is that you can be whoever the heck you want to be, because it’s San Francisco”. It’s a city for everybody, no matter who you are, or who you want to be. San Francisco a melting pot of cultures, ideals, and lifestyles, which – let’s be honest here – results in some pretty interesting pockets around the city. It’s true that no two neighbourhoods in the Bay Area have the same flavour.

Next time you find yourself bayside, make your way to one (or all) of these vibrant San Francisco neighbourhoods, and familiarise yourself with the real personalities of the city.

Mission District

Mission Dolores Park
Mission Dolores Park

If you’re a fan of art, all things South America, and damn good food, the Mission District is calling.

“The Mission”, as it’s affectionately known, is San Francisco’s colourful Chicano and Latino corner. It gets its name from the Mission Delores church, built in the area way back in 1776.

Over the years, this pocket of the city has evolved into a lively neighbourhood, shaped by the South American communities, student population, and plenty of resident artists. These days, the neighbourhood is an eclectic mix of old and new. It’s bursting with cool cocktail lounges and tattoo shops, but there are still plenty of old-school delis and taquerias about to give the area its grit.

It’s important to note that visiting the Mission and not tucking into some tacos is considered a crime of epic proportions. You can talk to 100 people and they will all tell you a different taqueria is the best. But, the truth is, it doesn’t matter which one you go to because they’re all amazing. If you’re looking for some help in making a decision, we can vouch for Taqueria Vallarta.

While you’re in the area filling up on tacos, it pays to stop by at both Mural and Clarion Alleys. Although basically every neighbourhood wall is covered in colour, these 2 art-filled alleys are of huge significance to the community. They represent the important art programs in the area, and send important political messages to the wider community.


Haight Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury is one of the most welcoming and inclusive of all San Francisco neighbourhoods. There are absolutely no outsiders here. Find yourself in the area, and locals will wave, share the sparkle (quite literally – you’ll be glittered the first chance they get), and spread the love liberally.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Haight, is that it feels a bit like a time warp. Though the area has been a little gentrified, there’s no denying that there are still some strong other-era vibes. There’s tie dye everywhere (you can probably thank Love on Haight for that), huge record stores, and some of the best vintage shopping in all of San Francisco.

So, why does it all feel a bit, well, hippie? That’s because the area basically birthed the hippie subculture back in the ’60s. In fact, Haight-Ashbury was the home of the famed “Summer of Love” – a huge movement that emphasised nonconformist ways, community and sharing – back in 1967.

The ’60s were a great time for The Haight, with mega music stars The Grateful Dead and Janice Joplin all calling the area home. Even Jimi Hendrix frequented the area, to see his girlfriend at the time. The Haight has a pretty fascinating musical history, which you can delve deeper into on a kombi tour with San Francisco Love Tours.

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo

The Castro

Rainbow crosswalks, giant rainbow flags, and that historic Castro Theatre sign; there’s absolutely no mistaking when you’ve hit The Castro, San Francisco’s super inclusive, LGBTIQ area.

The Castro is iconic, as it was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in America. It wasn’t until the 60s – around the same time that the Summer of Love was happening over the hill in The Haight – when it really became a mecca for the LGBTIQ community. A mass discharge of gay servicemen in the ’60s saw them all converge on the previously working class suburb, and start to shape it as a gay hub. In the 70s, a camera store owner and gay activist, Harvey Milk, really cemented that identifier among San Francisco neighbourhoods.

Today, The Castro is still one of the most well-known symbols of LGBTIQ activism in the world.

If you do find yourself in the area, you can brush up on LGBTIQ history in the USA at the GLBT History Museum. There are only 2 museums of its kind in the world, so it’s a pretty big deal. You can also visit the very first gay bar in San Francisco, Twin Peaks Tavern, check out the Rainbow Honour Walk, and potentially even catch the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival or the Dyke March if you’re there at the right time.

Honourable Mention: The Alamo and the Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies, The Alamo
The Painted Ladies, The Alamo

This post was originally published on February 26th, 2020 and has since been updated.

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