San Francisco is full of delightful and unexpected treasures.
Set against a glittering ocean view, San Francisco is best known for the Golden Gate Bridge, a thriving tech scene and eclectic neighborhoods.
If you're preparing for a visit, you may already have touristy things to do and see, such as Fisherman's Wharf (don't forget to order the clam chowder soup) and Lombard Street on your list.
But if you're ready to expand your knowledge of the Bay Area, check out the following fun facts about 10 of San Francisco's popular neighborhoods.
Dogpatch is home to the new Chase Center and located along the water, adjacent to Potrero Hill. Dogpatch is known for its art and design culture. You'll know you're in Dogpatch when you see a cluster of hip, industrial-looking buildings and warehouses.
The historic area of Dogpatch is made up of mostly single-family homes and two-unit buildings. But within the last decade, live-work lofts and brand new developments have been popping up.
- Unlike other parts of San Francisco, Dogpatch is flat, so it's perfect for riding a bike to get around the neighborhood
- Dogpatch, which was named in the 1960s, was originally called Butchertown
- Where did the name Dogpatch come from? Although it's unclear, one story claims there were packs of dogs that scavenged the discarded meat from Butchertown
- Dogpatch was uninhabited land for much of its history, used by Native Americans as hunting ground. In the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries grazed cattle on the hill and named this area Potrero Nuevo, meaning new pasture.
- The Dogpatch survived the 1906 earthquake and has some of the oldest houses in San Francisco, dating back to the 1860s
2. Financial District
The Financial District, also known as FiDi, is a bustling area with high rises, including the world-famous Salesforce Tower. In order to get to the Financial District on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), you'll need to exit Embarcadero or Montgomery.
Before Market Street became the central location for many tech companies, FiDi experienced a whirlwind of change, which started with the Gold Rush of the 1800s.
- The Gold Rush wealth made FiDi the financial capital of the West Coast, as many banks and businesses set up shop in the thriving area
- The San Francisco Daily Morning Call was a newspaper located in the FiDi. Its most famous reporter? Mark Twain, who was the only full-time reporter in 1864.
- Wells Fargo Bank was founded in the Financial District. The bank started the famous Pony Express mail delivery service, which only lasted for 18 months in 1860-1861.
- The reason for the unusual shape of the Transamerica Pyramid was apparently to allow light to filter down from the sky to ground level
3. Marina District
San Franciscans may have polarizing views of the Marina District, better known as The Marina. SF Weekly even came out with a story called “The Neighborhood Everyone Loves to Hate," mostly due to the collegiate culture and right-wing political vibe that doesn't conform with the rest of San Francisco.
The swanky neighborhood is a haven for partiers, brunchers and shoppers. The streets are lined with trendy shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
- The Palace of Fine Arts and surrounding neighborhood was the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which celebrated the city's reconstruction after the 1906 earthquake and fire
- Crissy Field was transformed from an active military airstrip into a park
- Fort Point, a military base, was a filming location in Hitchcock's “Vertigo"
- The Wave Organ, a wave-activated sound sculpture, was constructed in 1986 on a jetty in the Marina, made out of material taken from a demolished cemetery
4. Mission Bay
Nestled on the northern part of San Francisco and bordering China Basin, Mission Bay is a fast-growing neighborhood with lots of young, professional families.
The sprawling neighborhood is close to CalTrain, the main form of public transportation shuffling commuters to and from the Peninsula. Unlike other parts of San Francisco, it's mostly made up of newer apartments and condo developments.
- Mission Bay (along with the Marina and Hunters Point) was built on top of a landfill
- Before urbanization, Mission Bay was nestled inside of a 500-acre salt marsh and lagoon
- It's approximately two-thirds finished per the 30-year timeline of its 1998 master redevelopment plan
- Mission Bay is sinking. The new development was built atop land once known as Mission Swamp.
- In the 1890s, Division Street was called Dumpville, as "garbage tends to flow downhill" into Mission Bay. Police raided Dumpville in 1895 when a bottle collector was murdered for straying outside his assigned dump.
5. Nob Hill
Nob Hill is home to the swanky Fairmont Hotel and The Mark Hopkins Hotel and sits atop of San Francisco's hilly area. Nob Hill offers stunning views of the city and is accessible by cable car, which is the oldest form of public transportation in San Francisco.
- Nob Hill ranked No. 27 as one of the best neighborhoods to live in San Francisco
- A sure sign you're in Nob Hill? Giant, elegant mansions.
- Nob Hill was named after the Central Pacific Railroad's Big Four, known as the Nobs. Nobs was short for Nabobs, which was a name given to wealthy men.
- It's one of San Francisco's original seven hills, which include Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson and Lone Mountain or Mount Sutro
- In the late 1800s, the steep grade (about 25 percent) made it difficult for horses to get up the hill so the wealthy inhabitants installed their own cable car line. It's still in operation today.
6. North Beach
North Beach is a lively area with a vintage feel that makes you nostalgic for a time when the city attracted miners who came out West in search of gold.
Italian restaurants, bars and classic strip clubs with neon-signs light up North Beach's main hub on Broadway. The Saloon, a North Beach gem, is a blues bar dating back to 1861.
- Formerly known as Barbary Coast during the gold rush, the area was the city's red-light district, filled with saloons and brothels in the 19th century
- North Beach was an actual beach, filled in with land fill around the late 19th century
- Local author Herb Caen coined the term “Beatnik" in North Beach, as the neighborhood became the center of Beat culture in the 1950s
- In the late 1800s, thousands of Italians migrated to the neighborhood. Legend has it that the Italian-American community saved their houses from the 1906 fire by draping them with wine-soaked blankets.
- Grant Avenue is the oldest street in San Francisco and used to be known as the“Street of the Founding" when originally plotted by the Spanish in 1845
Perhaps one of the most residential, yet nature-friendly neighborhoods in San Francisco is Parkmerced. The neighborhood is centered around a Lake Merced, a shimmering, freshwater lake located in a 614-acre park.
- Parkmerced was conceived by MetLife Insurance Company, which bought 200 acres of land in San Francisco to build a city within a city for middle-income families
- Parkmerced is the second-largest, single-owner neighborhood of apartment blocks west of the Mississippi River, after Park La Brea in Los Angeles, with 3,221 residences
- San Francisco State University owns five blocks of Parkmerced
- The area around Lake Merced was originally inhabited by the Ohlone people. Today, it's surrounded by three golf courses for residents.
Once called “The dirtiest block in San Francisco" by the New York Times, Tenderloin has a seedy, dangerous and crime-ridden reputation. The neighborhood is centrally located and close to its more fashionable neighbors, Union Square and Nob Hill.
Tenderloin hasn't gentrified as much as the rest of San Francisco, mostly due to zoning restrictions. The area is known for SROs (single-room occupancies), which define the area and are located in dilapidated hotels.
- A rent-controlled SRO in Tenderloin can cost as little as $200 to 300 per month
- In 2017, Tenderloin had more violent crime than almost any other neighborhood in San Francisco
- The origin of the name Tenderloin is contested. It's said that the policemen working in such a violent neighborhood received bonus pay, enough to afford steak.
- Tenderloin residents organized in the early 1980s and one of the things they focused on was preventing luxury condos from coming in
- Today, nonprofits have held onto much of that property, and many of them run affordable housing programs
9. Treasure Island
No, we're not talking about the casino in Las Vegas. This is an actual part of San Francisco, even though it's an island. This man-made island is currently under a $6 billion redevelopment plan, which started in 2016.
Treasure Island sits right next to Yerba Buena, another island that originally served as a military post.
- Treasure Island is an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay that was built in 1936 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition World's Fair
- Treasure Island was originally intended to become a second airport for San Francisco but became a naval station in 1941
- The Naval Administration building used in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" as a stand-in for the fictitious “Berlin Airport," from which Harrison Ford and Sean Connery attempt to escape Nazi Germany via zeppelin
- Toxic waste has been dumped on the island throughout its history. Radioactive glow-in-the-dark pins were handed out to guests at the World's Fair. The navy dumped radioactive waste from ships used in Cold War bomb tests in the Pacific Ocean.
- There are roughly 2,100 inhabitants on Treasure Island, one grocery store that doesn't sell alcohol and no drugstores. There are also no gas stations on the island.
10. Union Square
San Francisco's trendy shopping mecca is Union Square. It's a touristy area but it is a must-see in San Francisco.
Union Square is close to the Financial District and Tenderloin and is surrounded by upscale department stores like Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany's.
- Union Square is the third-most-visited shopping area in the U.S.
- Union Square was originally a tall sand dune, and the square was later set aside to be made into a public park in 1850
- The only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in the city sits at 140 Maiden Lane in the Union Square area. The building is thought to be a precursor to Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
- Macy's Union Square is the second-largest department store in the United States, second only to Macy's Herald Square in Manhattan
- Every holiday season since 1989, Macy's gives its gift to the city by lighting a magnificent 83-foot tree in Union Square Park, adorned with thousands of energy-efficient twinkling lights and ornaments