San Francisco may be the name of one entity, but the city is a sum of all its parts and each individual neighbourhood has a character of its own. The only way to truly understand its diversity is to explore several of them to compare and contrast.
This is a fantastic way to spend time on a holiday in the Golden Gate City, but where to start? Below you will find a guide to some of the most interesting neighbourhoods San Francisco has to offer.
It is unlikely that you need to be told to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, as this area of the city is a mecca for tourists. They are drawn by its pretty waterfront location, myriad entertainment options, shops and cafes.
Despite attracting visitors, the area is still a working wharf and strolling past the fishermen bringing in their catches in the early morning is a pleasant way to start the day. Later on you can buy that exact same fish from the many vendors who set up along the boardwalk.
If you are looking for specific attractions to keep the whole family interested, then Fisherman’s Wharf has plenty to offer. There is the Wax Museum, the Aquarium and the Maritime Museum all within easy reach, as well as the USS Pampanito docked at Pier 45 and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum.
Not perhaps a place to venture with the whole family, but North Beach is an interesting combination of Little Italy and Red Light District. Among the cafes, bars and restaurants are strip clubs and neon lights.
This neighbourhood of San Francisco also harks back to the days of the Beatnik generation, who enjoyed its delights in the 1950s. Look out for Jack Karouac Alley and the City Lights Bookstore, as they remain bastions of the bohemian literary vibe.
It is safe to say that Japantown does exactly what it says on the tin – offering a stunning location full of pretty architecture and cultural events. There is plenty to do, whether it be shop, eat and wander at any time of the year or enjoy one of the neighbourhood’s annual festivals.
These coincide with their counterparts in Japan and include the likes of the Cherry Blossom Festival. With so much going on it is always a good idea to check the schedule for this part of the city prior to travel to San Francisco.
The City on the Bay is known throughout the world for having a thriving gay community and much of the scene can be found in the Castro District. As well as gay bars, you will also encounter some fine bakeries, cafes, boutiques and restaurants in this part of town.
It would be a shame to come to San Francisco and not visit the stunning Castro Theatre, as it retains much of its art deco interior. There surely is nowhere better to watch a classic or independent film being screened.
Once again San Fran’s reputation precedes it when it comes to the hippies of the 1960s and any would-be flower child must make the pilgrimage to Haight-Ashbury. Despite much lamenting of its gentrification, there are still elements of the hippie culture dotted around the neighbourhood.
Look out for Amoeba Records, the Red Vic movie theatre, Villains and all many of funky shops selling clothes, music and books.