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Going local in San Francisco

Given that San Francisco is a petite 47 square miles, going on a neighbourhood-hopping tour of the city is as simple as taking a long stroll. But don’t just restrict your wanderings to the city itself. From Oakland in the East Bay to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, be sure to discover both San Francisco and the areas just beyond official city limits.

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Right along the waterfront, Dogpatch used to be regarded as a gritty, industrial neighbourhood. But all that’s changed since the 1990s, when Dogpatch — and the rest of the city — began to undergo a speedy revival. Now, the area is rife with artist residences, stylish boutiques, cocktail bars, and trendy restaurants. Another neighbourhood must-visit? The Museum of Craft and Design.

San Francisco: a neighbourhood guide to Dogpatch

Palo Alto

Located in Silicon Valley and just adjacent to Mountain View (i.e., the home of both Google and Facebook), Palo Alto has plenty of tech-world cred — and while you’re there, you can visit landmarks like the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, where William Hewlett and David Packard founded Hewlett-Packard in the 1930s. But from the Cantor Arts Center to the lovely Stanford University campus, there’s more to see in town beyond tech sites.

Things to do in Palo Alto | a guide to San Francisco’s start-up centre

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The Mission District

Home to a thriving Latin American community, the Mission District is famous for its tasty taquerias, colourful murals, and diverse residents — and these days, it’s also one of San Francisco’s hippest hoods. Head to the historic Roxie Theatre (the city’s oldest) for an indie film screening, browse the local galleries and bookstores, and linger in its stylish coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.


San Francisco’s Chinatown isn’t just one of its most vibrant neighbourhoods: it’s also the largest Chinatown in the United States (and outside of Asia). You’ll want ample time to explore the area highlights, from the Tian Hou Temple and Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (fortune cookies were invented in this city, after all) to its fragrant restaurants and bustling street markets.

The old and new San Francisco Chinatowns


Oakland is technically its own city; located across the San Francisco Bay, it’s home to a sizeable population of 419,000. But it’s only a quick BART ride (or drive across the Bay Bridge) to visit this vibrant city, which has long attracted artists, writers, and other creative types who were priced out of San Francisco proper. Visit the Oakland Museum of California, wander along the coffee shop- and bookstore-lined Grand Avenue, and dine in flourishing restaurants like Duende, which pairs modern Spanish cooking with an adventurous cocktail menu.

Across the Bay: a beginner’s Oakland guide

Image credits:

San Francisco Chinatown © 2010 Scott Chernis Photography San Francisco Travel Association

Dogpatch © Matthew Millman, Museum of Craft and Design

All other imagery © iStock