Despite its big reputation in pop culture, San Francisco is a relatively small enclave:
Of the 20 most populous cities in America, the City by the Bay is the smallest by a significant margin, at just 121 square kilometers. Still, nearly 900,000 people call this densely packed city home, which means finding the right place to live in San Francisco can be an adventure even for the most seasoned mover.
Due to its role as the heart of the tech boom, San Francisco is among the priciest cities to live in the United States. (The city has the highest number of billionaires per capita in the country). The median price of a home in the city is a staggering $1.3 million.
If you choose to rent, however, you won’t be alone: Nearly 70 percent of the city’s residents don’t own their homes. Apartment rentals vary widely depending on location, and some of the most sought after areas have the highest real estate prices in the country. Still, thousands of new residents flock to San Francisco every year, drawn in by its mild weather, fantastic restaurants, proximity to nature, and booming job market. Here’s what you need to know before relocating to San Francisco.
San Francisco has to offer
If you’re relocating with a family, you may want to consider neighborhoods surrounding one of San Francisco’s major parks, the Presidio.
There’s Pacific Heights, home to panoramic views, and a popular backdrop for movies and TV shows; Laurel Heights, which has a unique mix of architecture that blends older Victorian homes with newer modern ones; and Presidio Heights, a neighborhood full of mansions and larger homes. These three neighborhoods are also near the University of San Francisco (USF) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Other more family-friendly neighborhoods include the highly desirable Nob Hill, an upscale area popular with the city’s professional class. The neighborhood is home to plenty of coffee shops, bars, and restaurants all within walking distance.
The Noe Valley and Marina neighborhoods are known for being especially welcoming to young families. There are rows of Victorian homes, shops, cafes, and enough green space for family walks. The two neighborhoods are also among the sunnier places in San Francisco, which is otherwise known for its fair share of foggy days.
Single people and young professionals may prefer to live in trendy neighborhoods full of attractions that are a short walk or drive away. They include South of Market (SoMA), a tech hotspot home to a bevy of startup headquarters and high rises. The bustling neighborhood is also the new home of the city’s professional basketball team and has served as home field for the city’s professional baseball team for years.
The Mission and The Castro are two of the most popular neighborhoods for young tech workers, and have a bohemian vibe with dive bars and exceptional taquerias, shoulder-to-shoulder with upscale bakeries and high-end cocktail bars. Mission Dolores Park sits between the two neighborhoods and is one of the most popular places in the city to enjoy the sunshine and relax with friends.
On the city’s north side is North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy. Great restaurants and some of the city’s more popular nightspots abound. Meanwhile, Dogpatch, a former dockside area, has recently become one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city for artisans and other creatives who have converted warehouses into lofts and galleries.Collapse
Food & CultureExpand
Few cities can compare with San Francisco’s
The city has hundreds of restaurants, cafes, and diners that reflect the city’s history as a landing spot for immigrants from around the globe. San Francisco also boasts its share of Michelin-star eateries such as the wood-fired dishes at Saison, tasty Asian fusion at Benu, high-end Italian at Acquerello, and the great seafood and lamb selections at Birdsong. Want to get out of the city? There’s the world-famous Chez Panisse in nearby Berkeley and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, where you can also taste some of the world’s best wines.
San Francisco is also home to world-class galleries and museums like the de Young Museum, in the middle of Golden Gate Park, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where you can see masterpieces from Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Warhol. Smaller cultural institutions like the Asian Art Museum and Grace Cathedral are also worth a detour.Collapse
More than 55,000 students attend San Francisco’s public schools,
and the school district is one of the best in the state, though quality varies based on neighborhood. Private schools are a favored option for San Francisco families, and some options include the Drew School, San Francisco University High School, and The Urban School of San Francisco.
For those pursuing higher learning, there’s the previously mentioned USF and UCSF as well as Stanford University in Palo Alto, to the city’s south. University of California, Berkeley, still considered by many to be the best public university in America, is about 30 minutes away just over the Bay Bridge. Students seeking a smaller campus can consider Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, also about 30 minutes away.Collapse
San Francisco is home to several leading medical institutions and, thanks to the presence of the tech sector, it also boasts cutting-edge treatment facilities. UCSF Medical Center is one of the nation’s best hospitals, and ranks highly in areas like pulmonology, endocrinology, and oncology. California Pacific Medical Center, south of the Mission, is highly rated in gastroenterology.Collapse
While San Francisco lacks a traditional subway system,
the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) provides a decent commuter rail connection and can be useful for getting from downtown to neighborhoods like the Mission. There’s also the comprehensive bus network, Muni, which connects every part of the city.
Californians love their cars, though, and San Francisco is no different. Parking can be tough around SoMa and downtown, but it isn’t a deal breaker in many neighborhoods.
Cycling can be tough in a city with so many steep hills, but it’s become a desirable mode of transportation for those looking for a greener way to commute.
San Francisco is serviced by three major airports: San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), and San Jose International (SJC). Each operates a full slate of international flights, but SFO is the region’s largest with nearly 60 million passengers passing through its gates each year.Collapse
Weather & ClimateExpand
San Francisco is famously mild year-round,
though even locals can be caught off guard by a chilly day in the middle of July or a hot one in December. Due to its unique topography, San Francisco and the surrounding areas can experience distinctly different weather patterns on a daily basis. The East Bay may only be a short distance from downtown San Francisco, but it’s often a few degrees warmer and sunnier.
San Francisco is a gateway to some of California’s most stunning natural wonders, and residents take advantage of that mild climate to get outside as much as possible. The John Muir National Historic Site and Redwood National Park are both within driving distance of San Francisco and provide a welcome respite from urban life with hikes and nature walks galore.Collapse
Jobs & IndustriesExpand
San Francisco is the global center of the technology industry,
but the city also has a strong banking and legal sector as well as a thriving medical and pharmaceutical research community. Tourism is another driver of San Francisco’s economy: More than 26 million people visited the city in 2019 and spent $10.2 billion, according to figures compiled by the San Francisco Travel Association.Collapse
Discover other guides
Scroll through to discover more city guides