San Francisco neighborhoods

Get to know the city with our guides to some of San Francisco's most popular areas

Things to Do

Mission

The mural-splashed Mission District is a (literally) vibrant mash-up of Latino culture, indie shops, arty hangouts and some of the city's most innovative restaurants

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SoMa

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Downtown San Francisco

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North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf

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The Haight, Western Addition and Hayes Valley

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Sunset, Golden Gate Park and Richmond

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Where to eat and drink in the Mission

Restaurants Book online

Foreign Cinema

Fifteen years in, Foreign Cinema is now something of a venerable elder on the Mission hipster scene. Chef/owners Gayle Pirie and John Clark refuse to rest on their laurels, however, and the restaurant arguably improves with each passing year. The interior features an open-air courtyard where classic foreign films are screened against the back wall (there are tableside speakers for those who want to listen). But the focus is still the exceptional food, a seasonal selection of locally interpreted Mediterranean dishes such as lamb mixed grill with couscous, chickpea and lentil tagine, house-cured anchovies, and more than 20 varieties of oysters. At the hugely popular brunch, the organic fruit “pop tarts” are a must. Or try happy hour at cool adjacent bar, Laszlo.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Philz Coffee

If drip is your thing, your best cup of coffee is at Philz, where more than 20 different secret blends known only to founder Phil Jaber and his son, Jacob, are individually filter-drip brewed and poured to your exact specifications. The original café on Folsom and 24th Street that opened in 2003 has since been augmented with a half-dozen city locations and a half-dozen more sprinkled throughout the North, East and South Bays. The formula remains the same: Walk up to the bar and the barista will help you choose a blend that they think you'll like, watch it being made, then add milk and sugar to taste. Local favorite blends include nutty Jacob's Wonderbar, rich Mocha Tesora, and the ultra-strong Code 33, crafted for the SFPD.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants Book online

Flour + Water

Though Flour + Water's menu has recently been expanded with two to three meat, poultry and fish options, pasta and pizza are still the stars of the show. The kitchen staff slaves over every ingredient, cultivating and coddling textures and flavors until they meet the restaurant's exacting standards. Melt-in-your-mouth pastas are house-made daily, as is the salumi—whole animals are butchered on site and each part is used, from snout to tail. Pizzas from the Italian wood-fired 900-degree oven take exactly two minutes to cook, and arrive exquisitely thin with perfectly blistered crusts, topped with delicacies like fior di latte, squash blossoms, house-made pork sausage, and calabrian chili. The $65 five-course pasta tasting menu is worth the splurge. Book as far in advance as you can—the place is ridiculously popular. Or get there at 5:30pm and try for one of the walk-in spots.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Delfina

Chef/owner Craig Stoll favors simplicity over whimsy, and tradition over fashion. Yet his food is never ordinary: Fresh pasta, fish and braised meats find the perfect balance of flair and flavor. The menu changes daily, reflecting Stoll's desire to stay on his toes. Recent standouts include garganelli pasta with liberty duck ragů and pancetta-wrapped rabbit saddle. Stoll's casual Pizzeria Delfina (415-437-6800) is next door, serving some of the best thin-crust pizzas in town. The Clam Pie with cherrystone clams and hot peppers is a perennial favorite.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The best shopping in the Haight

Shopping and style

Held Over

Don't let the neon sign reading “Meat Locker” dissuade you: This is one of the best vintage stores on the Haight's row. It stands apart for its generous size (no squeezing among packed racks here), and refreshing organization. The store's wares are cataloged like a library, whether you're looking for retro jumpsuits, pillbox hats, naval uniforms, fur coats or letterman jackets. While other vintage stores are apt to heap an armful of dresses onto the same rack, here they're divided into discerning subsections: long '80s prom, hippie chic, '70s disco and Victorian among them. The store is loosely arranged from casual to formal, with tie-dyed and graphic tees up front and blazers, suits and gowns in the back. Two giant stands hold retro hats, and the tall shoe racks are rife with cowboy and riding boots.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping and style

Rare Device

This colorful shop is located at the apex of the cooler-by-the-day NoPa neighborhood, a stone's throw from the Mill (that of the famous $4 toast, not to be confused with the women's clothing shop), locavore grocer Bi-Rite, perennial brunch fixture Nopa and Alamo Square. Since 2011, the store has been headed up by Giselle Gyalzen, who has a particular penchant for handcrafted, thoughtfully designed and eminently giftable goods. That haul includes affordable art prints, ceramics and tableware, gourmet foodstuffs, locally designed jewelry, beauty products, design tomes and kids' toys. (Plus, several twirling racks filled with letterpress cards for topping off impromptu gifts.) The space also doubles as a gallery, with a focus on Bay Area–based illustrators and screen-printers. Take a spin through the store after brunch, then stroll through the Divisadero Farmers' Market, which unfurls every Sunday just across the street

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping and style

The Booksmith

This cheery bookstore near Golden Gate Park offers a welcome respite from the head shops and tie-dye tourist traps along Haight Street. Owner Christin Evans also runs Arts & Letters, Berkeley's author event program, and Booksmith is known for hosting a full schedule of readings, signings, and book parties. (In particular, it's lauded for the Shipwreck series the first Thursday of every month, wherein six writers rewrite cult classic books for comedic effect.) Thoughtful staff recommendations are scattered liberally throughout the shelves, each including a short reader's pitch. This is a bookstore that goes above and beyond in a number of categories, whether it's the expansive kids section, hard-to-find international magazine editions, or the beautiful range of coffee table tomes. But locals swear by the customer service. If for some reason they don't have what you're looking for—a rarity—they'll order it on the spot and call you in a day or two when it arrives.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping and style

Dollhouse Bettie

This is an unparalleled boudoir for Bettie Page fetishists and wannabes, filled with pin-up inspired lingerie from the '30s to '60s. The voluptuous mannequins are draped in silk, satin and lace; you'll find no itchy polyester or garish rhinestones here. Though the bulk of the merchandise consists of peek-a-boo bras, panties and vintage slips, you'll find all manner of alluring extras, including tassels, garters, corsets, lace thigh-highs, girdles and feathered toys. The sizing flatters women of all sizes, from A- to G-cups. Forget Spanx: Bettie packs the largest array of vintage shapewear in the city, from waist-cinchers (for faking that hourglass figure) to girdles. In addition to dead-stock vintage attire, the shop also carries pin-up inspired styles from contemporary brands like Mary Green, What Katie Did, and Felina & Jezebel. If you fall for the Dita Von Teese aesthetic, check out Dollhouse Bettie's sister store down the block, Bettie Page, where you'll find retro frocks to complement your new underthings.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Arts and culture in Downtown San Francisco

Things to Do

John Berggruen Gallery

Founded in the mid '70s, Berggruen, with its smooth white walls and sleek blond floors, has played host to some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, Brice Marden, Georgia O'Keefe, Wayne Thiebaud, Willem de Kooning, Frank Stella and Henri Matisse.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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War Memorial Opera House

The SF Opera, inaugurated in 1923, is based in the War Memorial Opera House, a grand Beaux Arts building designed by City Hall architect Arthur Brown Jr. and built in 1932 as a memorial to the soldiers who fought in World War I. The 3,176-seat auditorium and cultural landmark is modeled on European opera houses, with a vaulted ceiling, a huge art deco metal chandelier and a marble foyer. An $84-million revamp in 1997 not only restored the elegant building (workers found clouds painted on the ceiling when they scraped away the grime), but installed up-to-date electronics and stage gear. The fall season runs early September to December; the summer season from May to July. In addition to opera, the venue provides a stage for the San Francisco Ballet, various concerts, lectures and special presentations.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to Do

Asian Art Museum

The country's largest showcase for Asian art, the museum once housed the Main Library. Extensively and beautifully redesigned by Gae Aulenti, the architect responsible for the Musée d'Orsay conversion in Paris, the museum retains remnants of its previous role, including bookish quotes etched into the fabric of the building. The Asian has one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian and Southeast Asian art, spanning 6,000 years of history with more than 15,000 objects. Artifacts range from Japanese buddhas and Indonesian shadow puppets to sacred texts and porcelains from the Ming Dynasty. The café, open only to visitors, serves Asian-inspired dishes, and the gift shop is well stocked with high-quality stationery, decorative items and a good selection of coffee table books.

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Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

Formed to boost public morale shortly after the 1906 earthquake and fire, the San Francisco Symphony performed its first concert in 1911. Today, under the dynamic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra is internationally recognized for its innovative work, winning several Grammy awards in the process. Davies Hall is a fitting venue for this lauded orchestra—a striking, multi-tiered, curved-glass edifice with flawless acoustics and clear sightlines. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and that includes the 40 in the center terrace section behind the orchestra that start at a mere $15 for most performances.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Fraenkel Gallery

There is a stately air to the Fraenkel, a photography gallery established in 1979. The warm space, inspires quiet contemplation and the gallery's impressive roster of photographers, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Nan Goldin and Robert Frank, elicits respect and reverence.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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American Conservatory Theater

San Francisco’s acclaimed resident repertory theater, ACT has been staging modern classics and groundbreaking new works since 1967, including major works by David Mamet and Tom Stoppard. ACT’s Conservatory counts numerous Hollywood bigwigs among its alumni, including Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Nicolas Cage and Danny Glover.

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