7 of the Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco to Buy a House

Aalto Insights Team
Aug 24, 2023

San Francisco has a perfect blend of culture, nature, and picturesque scenery. In a single day, you can bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Alcatraz, corkscrew down Lombard Street, walk the Fisherman’s Wharf, watch a beautiful sunset in Dolores Park, and explore the thriving nightlife scene.

Our City by the Bay has a little something for everyone, as long as you have an open mind and are fine with a few hills (because there are 48 of them). The Bay Area is also home to some of California’s most iconic neighborhoods, including Haight-Ashbury, Castro, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, SOMA, North Beach (Little Italy), and many more.

Like most cities, each of San Francisco’s neighborhoods differs slightly from the rest. Some are perfect for young professionals, others are ideal for lovers of brunch and cafes, and some provide community for Italian, Chinese, or LGBTQ+ residents.

If you’re looking to buy a home in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s no shortage of unique places to live. It just all depends on what you’re looking for in a neighborhood.

In no particular order, here are 7 of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco:

1. Embarcadero and the Financial District

Ideal for: Young professionals, foodies, and coffee lovers

The Embarcadero and the Financial District are two of the more urban areas the Bay Area offers. The waterfront areas of the Embarcadero offer some of the best views of both bridges, coffee shops, and waterside restaurants on the piers. You’ll also enjoy the enriching Exploratorium, countless art exhibitions, and our famous Ferry Building. If you love to shop, the Embarcadero is also close to Union Square, one of the city’s retail centers.

While the Embarcadero doesn’t have an exciting nightlife scene, aside from restaurants, there’s so much to do during the day that it more than makes up for it. It’s a very walkable neighborhood with many public transportation options.

The Embarcadero and the Financial District also come with a high cost of entry. The median price for real estate in the Financial District is around $1.4 million. Most available homes include high-rises and large apartment and condo complexes, with mostly studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedrooms available.

2. The Mission District

Best neighborhoods in San Francisco: portrait of people at the Mission Dolores Park

Ideal for: Young singles, hipsters, and entertainment lovers

The Mission District’s name is a tribute to the oldest intact building in San Francisco, the Mission San Francisco de Asis, also known as Mission Dolores. The Mission has a rich Hispanic heritage and is home to some of the best taquerias you’ll ever find. It’s also recently undergone a transformation with an influx of tech enthusiasts and hipsters, inspiring some of the most unique boutique shops and exceptional eateries.

Known for its murals, beautiful green spaces, and fantastic nightlife, the Mission District is one of the most famous parts of the city. It’s also one of the most populated, with 22,205 people per square mile living there. If you enjoy a sprawling nightlife and entertainment scene with good public transit options and lots of shopping and chic restaurants, this may be the best neighborhood in San Francisco for you.

However, it’s not the cheapest. The median real estate price for a home in the Mission is $1.35 million, primarily including small- and medium-sized apartment complexes and condominium high-rises. While the schools there are fine, the dense population and nightlife scene may pose a safety concern if you have small children.

3. Noe Valley

Ideal for: Young families, couples settling down, small-town-loving city dwellers

Directly to the west of the Mission, Noe Valley is the yin to the Mission’s yang. It’s known for its good schools, low crime, and quiet evenings. Even though Noe Valley sits at the center of San Francisco, the neighborhood gives off a small-town feel, with family-friendly attractions like parks, basketball courts, and playgrounds.

While parking can be an issue for visitors, Noe Valley comes with a plethora of transportation options, from bike paths to cable cars. Since it’s in the center of San Francisco, most of the things you’ll need are within walking distance.

Being in the center of it all also comes with a hefty price tag. The median price for a home in Noe Valley is $1.88 million, making it more expensive to live in than 99% of the other neighborhoods in the U.S. This is because Noe Valley’s homes tend to be larger than those in other areas. For instance, this neighborhood is home to many Edwardian and Victorian homes.

If you’re looking for the Noe Valley charm but at a more affordable price, buying or renting in Glen Park is also a great option.

4. Golden Gate Heights

Best neighborhoods in San Francisco: couple looking at the Golden Gate Bridge

Ideal for: Students, young professionals, and park lovers

We can’t have a list of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco without including Golden Gate Heights and its neighbors, the Inner Sunset and Forest Knolls. The trio of neighborhoods are among the safest and most walkable areas in San Francisco. They’re home to the University of California, San Francisco and the bucolic Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.

If that’s not enough of a selling point for young park lovers, it’s also very close to Golden Gate Park, one of the largest man-made parks in the U.S. Grab your bike, roller skates, or walking shoes, and enjoy the Bay Area’s homage to Central Park.

The median home price for Golden Gate Heights is $1.48 million and includes a balance of Victorian homes and smaller two-, three- and four-bedroom homes.

5. Nob Hill

Ideal for: Young professionals, nightlife adventurists, and park lovers

Like the Mission, Nob Hill and Russian Hill are known for being one of the city’s nightlife and entertainment districts. If you’re looking for an adventure and great opportunities to meet new people, Nob Hill is one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco to do so.

Although Nob Hill makes for an incredible tourist destination, it lacks in the safety and schools department, so this neighborhood may not be ideal for families with young kids.

Nob Hill also offers plenty of beautiful scenery, with impeccable Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge views. It’s also a short but hilly walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and North Beach.

The median real estate price for the neighborhood is around $2.19 million, and $1.78 million for North Nob Hill.

6. North Beach

Best neighborhoods in San Francisco: woman using a stationary telescope

Ideal for: Wealthy professionals, waterfront lovers, day and night entertainment

If you’re looking for a place with incredible Italian restaurants and shopping options, postcard-like views, and countless attractions, North Beach is the best neighborhood in San Francisco for you. Pier 39 is among the most popular tourist destinations in the entire city, offering a little something for everyone. North Beach is also home to Little Italy, with some of the best cafes and restaurants you’ll ever come across.

If schools and safety are a concern, North Beach excels here, too. While it doesn’t rank quite as high as Noe Valley in these categories, this neighborhood is among the better places to live for families. Since it’s such a popular destination, North Beach also has some of the best public transportation in the Bay Area.

The median real estate price for North Beach is $1.71 million and consists mostly of high-rise condos and small apartment buildings.

7. Castro

Ideal for: Young professionals, couples, beautiful parks, nightlife lovers

The Castro is one of the most popular LGBTQ+ communities in the U.S. While gentrification has minimized this iconic neighborhood’s historic footprint, it’s still rich in both culture and nightlife.

It’s also one of the most colorful neighborhoods in the Bay Area, with many rainbows, pastels, and bright, diverse architecture. Also, the nearby parks are ideal for having a picnic on a weekend afternoon.

The Castro is a very walkable district and includes plenty of public transportation options. It’s also moderately safe compared to some of the Bay Area’s other neighborhoods. It’s home to decent schools as well.

If you want to buy in Castro, start saving now! The median home price in this iconic neighborhood is $2.33 million.

Find the Best Neighborhoods in San Francisco With Aalto

Whether you’re looking to start a family or be in the middle of the party (or both), there’s a neighborhood in San Francisco that’s perfect for you.

At Aalto, we’ll help you find it! Our real estate platform offers prospective homeowners roughly 30% more listings than any other site, insider information on any home, and up to 1.5% cash back when you buy with us.

Also, our talented team of experts is available on-demand to answer any questions you may have during your real estate journey. Are you ready to move to one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco? Get started on Aalto today, where you’ll see homes in SF you won’t find anywhere else.

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