THE BEST AREAS
Like any great city, San Francisco is a patchwork of distinctly diverse neighbourhoods. There’s the Latinohipster community in The Mission, the thriving gay scene of The Castro and the cool kids of Dogpatch – all within a stone’s throw of one another. If you have plenty of time, walking or biking is the best way to get a feel for the city, though the historic cable cars will let you sit back and soak up the vistas. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the most reliable option for getting around quickly – as well as to and from Oakland International Airport. Here, where not to miss.
This Latino area has managed the impossible – gentrification without losing its cool factor. Known for its vibrant murals (below), The Mission is also home to some of San Fran’s best food. Mission Cheese is a fantastic shop that breaks rules (Americanonly varieties, matched with beer), or there’s Tacolicious for a Mexican fix. Order the margarita picante, a spicy twist on the classic, and cancel the rest of the day’s plans.
A huge neighbourhood taking its name from its location, South of Market Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. Its once-shady past is being redefined, thanks to the arrival of some of the Bay Area’s hottest tech start-ups. Drop into San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for some culture, and then head to Marlowe for superstylish comfort food, or Saison for upscale French-american tasting menus. For a more relaxed vibe, head to Red’s Java House – a quaint ’30s dinercum-shack serving Bloody Marys and great views of the bay.
North of the Panhandle (the narrow park that forms a ‘panhandle’ with Golden Gate Park), this has become one of the city’s coolest emerging areas. It has a great Sunday farmer’s market, but the main drawcard is Alamo Square, which has just undergone a renovation and is home to the iconic ‘Painted Ladies’ row of colourful townhouses (above). The eponymous Nopa restaurant offers delicious wood-fired seasonal dishes and is one of the hottest culinary tickets in town. Book now.
Once an industrial neighbourhood, Dogpatch has since transformed into a hipster magnet – without losing its charm. Despite the shiny new cafes, bars and restaurants, the district’s older places are still some of the best. Book a tour of the Anchor Steam Brewery, which dates back to 1896, or visit Dogpatch Saloon, founded in 1912. Also, check out the exhibition schedule at the fascinating Museum of Craft and Design.