The Bay Area offers up mass appeal when it comes to living situations, but the neighborhoods in San Francisco are anything but cheap. However, with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as your backdrop, and just about everything within walking distance, San Francisco really does have a lot going for it.
Even if you have to pull in a roommate, or two, the best neighborhoods in San Francisco are worth exploring to ensure you get the exact vibe you're looking for in this eclectic and fun city.
Although there's no coastline in this neighborhood, North Beach is the home of Little Italy, where the city's Italian heritage shines proudly. There are plenty of delicious restaurants and cafes, and no shortage of options when that gelato craving hits.
North Beach is a little costly as one-bedroom apartments demand an average rent of $3,495 a month — but this San Francisco neighborhood has a lot more claims to fame than pizza. With a walk score of 99, it's easy to navigate the area, finding those perfect neighborhood hot spots, which include the famous City Lights Bookstore, a hub of innovative writing and progressive ideals. It sits along Columbus Avenue, a main thoroughfare.
You also have the luxury of strolling through Washington Square Park. As one of the first parks in San Francisco, this favorite spot is an urban oasis bordered by plenty of cafes and even a wine bar or two.
This important part of San Francisco's history and culture attracts a mix of residents. North Beach's location draws in young professionals and its proximity to Chinatown means there are also quite a few Chinese immigrants.
As a distinctly Latine neighborhood in San Francisco, the Mission District has vibrant and powerful street art. While not the most family-friendly neighborhood to call home, this is a popular place to live if you consider yourself a young creative.
One-bedroom apartments have an average monthly rent of $3,596, but locals don't have to spend big to enjoy this neighborhood. Hanging out in Mission Dolores Park is one great way to soak up the sun and enjoy some green space without spending a dime. At 16 acres, there's plenty of room to spread out to picnic, chill or get out and about with your furry friend.
The area has a walk score of 99, so you don't have to limit your on-foot exploration of the area to the park. Head over to the nearest taqueria for a mission burrito. This treat separates itself from other burritos thanks to its massive size and its assortment of fillings. It's not just meat and beans in this local favorite.
Encompassing Downtown San Francisco, Union Square has a strong urban feel that attracts young families, students and immigrants from all over. Considered the heart of the city, this is one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco because of all it packs into such a small area. Having a perfect 100 walk score, also makes everything easily accessible, another bonus.
Locals and tourists alike venture out to enjoy the excellent shopping throughout the area, including most high-end brands. This is also the best area to hop a cable car when the hills between shops get too steep to climb.
Like with most San Francisco neighborhoods though, living here has a high cost, and average monthly rents in Union Square are $3,588.
A small neighborhood, close to the water, the Marina District has a unique history. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake destroyed most of the area, but residents rebuilt it into one of the city's favorite areas. For those who want easy access to Sausalito and Marin County, the Marina District provides direct access to the Golden Gate Bridge.
For those who want to stay within the neighborhood, you've got a 94 walk score, making it easy to amble about. Attend a special event at the Palace of Fine Arts or Fort Mason, or check out the boutiques and small shops along Chestnut Street. You can also have a beach day at Chrissy Field, one of the largest beaches in the city.
A little more affordable than some other San Francisco neighborhoods, the average one-bedroom rent in the Marina District is $2,795 a month.
Most well-known for one thing, Russian Hill is the home to the "crookedest street" in San Francisco. The curvy part of Lombard Street is here, between Leavenworth and Hyde streets. It's technically not the most crooked, yet its reputation makes it one of the city's most popular tourist destinations.
Once you get past that curvy traffic jam, Russian Hill is a wonderful San Francisco neighborhood that attracts mostly retirees and young professionals. The area may have a walk score of 98, but watch out for those steep hills if you venture out on foot.
The views here are amazing, and the location puts you close to many of the other best neighborhoods in San Francisco. It's still on the more expensive side to live here though, and an average one-bedroom apartment will cost you $2,895 per month.
For a neighborhood with the most unique character, check out San Francisco's Chinatown. This area is amazing because of its food and its buildings. From the decor to the shops and restaurants, it's easy to feel like you're experiencing a piece of China.
When you enter Chinatown, it's hard to believe that San Francisco's Financial District is right next door. In fact, Chinatown is strategically located close to so many other fantastic San Francisco neighborhoods, that you should definitely take advantage of the area's perfect walk score to get out and explore.
Another perk, given the neighborhood's prime location, is the cost of rent. It's surprisingly affordable. An average one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown is $2,100 a month.
If Victorian homes are your thing, or you were just a huge fan of Full House back in the day, Alamo Square might be the perfect neighborhood for you. Punctuated by Alamo Square Park, which offers a perfect view of the iconic row of houses known as the Painted Ladies, this area is quite the local favorite. In fact, this particular green space is probably the most visited park in the city behind Golden Gate Park.
The neighborhood's restaurants, clubs and shops are easy to navigate without a car which makes sense given that Alamo Square has a walk score of 98 and a bike score of 83. Tree-lined streets give this area a cozy and warm feel, attracting families, young professionals and students.
Tourists love Telegraph Hill because of Coit Tower. It does offer some of the best city views available. Locals, however, love this San Francisco neighborhood for other reasons. Aside from the noisy wild parrots, Telegraph Hill provides a serene neighborhood in the middle of all the urban bustle. Residents take pride in their homes, keeping up beautiful gardens.
The area has a walk score of 98, but if you really want to test your feet, climb the Filbert Street Steps. These will take you directly into Telegraph Hill, and they're no joke. Lesser known, if you're into steps, the area also has the Greenwich Steps, which begin on Battery Street and head up to Coit Tower as well. They're not as steep or as numerous as the Filbert Steps, but will leave with the same sense of accomplishment once you finish your climb.
Living in this amazing community is more expensive than most of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco, though. The average one-bedroom rent is high at $3,830 per month.
Though it has a bit of a high-end history, Nob Hill is actually pretty affordable. A one-bedroom apartment costs $2,490 a month on average. Another big stop for tourists, Nob Hill offers a combination of new and old architecture, with a diverse array of housing set beside the classic Grace Cathedral.
The area is highly walkable, with a 99 walk score, which is perfect for those who want to sashay on over to Huntington Park.
The neighborhood continues to change as a younger crowd begins to infiltrate the older elite, and amenities reflect this mix. You'll find high-end restaurants next to dive bars and offbeat shops next to luxury boutiques. You'll also get a bit of a nostalgic vibe thanks to vintage-looking shops and cocktail lounges.
Another classy San Francisco neighborhood, Pacific Heights carries a very high level of prestige with a price tag to match. Full of Victorian homes, the average one-bedroom rent here is $3,800 per month. This does not include the mansions known as Billionaires Row.
Known for its amazing views, take advantage of the area's 97 walk score and catch a glimpse of San Francisco Bay as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. Keep walking and you'll eventually find Fillmore Street, the neighborhood's concentrated spot for upscale shops and boutiques. There are also plenty of restaurants of all kinds.
Another small neighborhood, Cow Hollow is a coveted destination for families. Sitting along the water, this neighborhood is quite affordable. An average studio apartment here is only $1,975 a month. Wandering around here, which is easy with a 94 walk score, allows you to catch glimpses of sailboats and other vessels passing through. You may even hear a fog horn go off from time to time.
The main drag, Union Street, is a great place to window shop, and grab a bite, and the whole neighborhood has a totally urban vibe, mixed with a little peace and quiet.
Sitting at an end of Golden Gate Park, the reputation of Haight-Asbury precedes itself. This was the home base for hippies back in the day. Bands like the Grateful Dead would blare as people in love beads and dreadlocks walked by flashing peace signs.
A little different today, Haight-Ashbury draws in a lot of young professionals who feed off the dense urban vibe. A one-bedroom apartment will cost you $2,345 a month on average, and the area's 98 walk score and 83 bike score means easy access to everything.
Mixed in with all the rental properties, you'll find an abundance of bars, coffee shops, parks and funky stores that continue to carry on the vibe of old.
An important center for LGBTQ+ rights activism, The Castro comfortably displays its pride. With an assortment of bars, shops and restaurants, this vibrant community has a varied population. Its location within San Francisco makes it a favorite spot for tech professionals, and the area's 99 walk score and 76 bike score make it ideal for those who just don't want to deal with a car.
Living here is expensive though, more so than in many San Francisco neighborhoods. A three-bedroom apartment here, for example, has an average monthly rent of $6,980. Can someone say "roommates, please"?
Taking on a small town feel, Presidio Heights has quiet, tree-lined streets and some classic architecture. With a 94 walk score, and an 84 bike score, it's a joy to get around this neighborhood on foot. Even better, it borders Presidio Park with all of its family-friendly amenities.
The average one-bedroom apartment in Presidio Heights costs $2,950 a month, which will feel well worth it for locals who have more than the park to take advantage of. The area is also full of restaurants, markets and stylish shops.
If you want to live close to San Francisco Bay, and don't mind all the tourists, Fisherman's Wharf is the place for you. Full of popular destinations and souvenir shops, living here puts Alcatraz Island just a boat ride away and Ghirardelli Square a block down the road. Pier 39 is right there as well, making it easy to get your daily dose of sunbathing sea lions. It's also a central spot for restaurants, shops, street performers and video arcades (You just have to dodge the tourists.)
Getting around Fisherman's Wharf is easier if you don't try to drive through the neighborhood. It's often congested with foot traffic, so it's a good thing the area boasts a 97 walk score and an 84 bike score. Housing is also relatively affordable given the waterfront proximity. Your average one-bedroom apartment rents out at $2,650 per month.
Your perfect San Francisco neighborhood is out there right now waiting for you. All you have to do is start exploring and begin your apartment hunt in earnest. Where you decide to live will come down to price, location and amenities. Which area has already caught your eye?