Visiting the most popular streets in San Francisco will not disappoint travellers looking for an authentic California experience. As a walkable (and Instagrammable) city, San Francisco is indeed best explored on foot. After watching many of these popular streets in movies, you’ll feel like an actor in a scene greater than life while wandering throughout San Francisco. 

    On a stroll, you can enjoy charming urban corridors, dine in vibrant neighbourhoods, and see the city’s most iconic spots. The bustling streets of San Francisco are also a shopper's dream. You'll find a fantastic selection of unique trinkets and locally made goods. From the historic and trendy to the colourful and diverse, take a walk down San Francisco's most popular streets and squares.

    What are the most popular streets in San Francisco?


    Lombard Street

    A steep and curvy street with spectacular views

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    Lombard Street is a famous landmark in San Francisco. With 8 winding, hilly hairpins, it’s known as the “most crooked street in America”. as one of the most famous streets in San Francisco, the scenic road is paved with bricks and passes through several historical, upscale neighbourhoods, including Russian Hill and the Marina. Weaving left and right down the steep hill makes for a thrilling car ride.

    While walking up or down the twisting sidewalk, you can peek at the historic houses and enjoy spectacular views of The Bay, Bay Bridge and Coit Tower. For an Insta-worthy photo of cars and pedestrians winding their way down the switchbacks, stand at Lombard and Leavenworth Streets. To reach the top of Lombard Street, take the Hyde Street cable car line.

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    Haight Street

    Get a taste of the Summer of Love

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    Haight Street (and the surrounding neighbourhood) was a famous stomping ground for hippies seeking a bohemian lifestyle in the 1960s. Walking along the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, you can still see remnants of San Francisco’s counterculture.

    The beautifully restored Edwardian and Victorian homes, old-school record stores, vintage shops, and dive bars draw an eclectic mix of locals and visitors. Classic tie-dyed shirts are very popular souvenirs. You can take a Muni bus or the light rail N train to Haight Street. For an afternoon of fun, hire some skates and skate along Haight Street to Golden Gate Park.


    Castro Street

    A lively street in San Francisco’s gay neighbourhood

    Castro Street runs through San Francisco's famously open LGBTQ+ neighbourhood known as "The Castro". The buzzing vibe, inclusive hangouts, and fun nightlife make it a popular tourist destination. The street is incredibly alive and colourful during the annual summer San Francisco Pride Parade.

    Throughout the year, though, you'll find the rainbow colours painted on the crosswalks, as well as rainbow flags draped on many buildings in the district. While walking around, you can learn about the history of the city’s gay community, have brunch, or eat a phallic macaroon cookie from Hot Cookie. Movie buffs will enjoy watching a movie at the historic 1922 Castro Theatre.


    Market Street

    Beats through the heart of the city

    Market Street stretches for miles through downtown San Francisco and is one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Beginning at Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building, the street runs past many major tourist destinations. These include the Financial District, the trolley rides in Union Square, Westfield Mall, and the City Hall in the Civic Center.

    As part of a movement to protect pedestrians and cyclists, a section of Market Street recently became car-free. For 2 miles, between Main Street and Van Ness Avenue, you can enjoy the lively cityscape, restaurants, and sidewalk entertainment without worrying about cars at every corner.


    Valencia Street

    A hip street with an eclectic ambience and one-of-a-kind shops

    A walk down Valencia Street takes you through the trendier side of San Francisco. Located in Mission District, a colourful neighbourhood known for its artist atmosphere and Latino heritage, Valencia Street has become “hipsterfied” in recent years. The most popular corridor is between 14th and 28th Streets. You’ll find unique dining experiences, niche cafes, and quirky boutiques.

    Pop into Four Barrel Coffee or hang out with bartenders and hipsters at Craftsman and Wolves. The street is also home to often-forgotten craftsmanship such as cobblers and belt makers. They can create unforgettable mementoes right before your eyes. Don’t forget to turn into Clarion Alley, between 17th and 18th Streets, to snap pics of some of the city’s best street art.


    photo by Mark Hogan (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified



    An oceanfront boulevard with million-dollar views

    The Embarcadero extends some 3 miles from Pier 39 to South Beach Harbour on San Francisco's eastern bayside shoreline. The palm tree-lined walkway is one of the most scenic parts of the city. It's lined with renovated piers, restaurants, and shops.

    At the Ferry Building, you can choose from an excellent selection of locally-made goods and handicrafts. On weekends, join locals at the farmer's market selling superb California produce. And on an evening stroll, you can soak up the mesmerising Bay Lights show when the San Francisco Bay Bridge turns into a dynamic, shimmering light sculpture.


    Grant Avenue

    One of the oldest streets in Chinatown

    Grant Avenue is the main street in San Francisco's Chinatown. This area is the oldest and largest Chinese community in the US, so expect exotic surprises at every corner. This street is also a fantastic destination to shop for affordable and oriental-style souvenirs like traditional paper lanterns.

    Begin your walk at Dragon Gate, the landmark pagoda-topped entrance at Bush Street, and head towards North Beach. Along the way, try egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery, visit a Buddhist temple, and watch fortune cookies being made. If you're travelling to San Francisco during Chinese New Year, you're in for a treat! The celebrations are very elaborate, so the experience will be unforgettable. 


    photo by Michael Beaton (CC BY 2.0) modified



    A cosmopolitan destination for eating and drinking

    Divisadero Street (“Divis” to locals) stretches from the Marina District to Lower Haight, cutting through some of the hippest areas in San Francisco. Once a sleepy district, it’s now a hot destination to see and be seen. Plus, it’s an ideal street to spot the classic San Francisco hipster.

    An excellent place to start exploring is to turn on to Divisadero from Haight Street. On a stroll, you’ll pass a kaleidoscopic mix of cannabis shops, trendy restaurants, cute brunch spots, and arty boutiques. Get a caffeine fix and a quick bite at The Mill, stylish keepsakes from The Perish Trust, and handcrafted leather items from Tanner Goods. 


    photo by DXR (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Union Square

    A vibrant hub for shopping, dining and nightlife

    Union Square is a lively 1-block plaza in downtown San Francisco. Because of its diverse dining, shopping, and entertainment options, the large plaza is often considered the city's beating heart. It's undoubtedly the most famous square in the city. In the vicinity are art galleries, upscale department stores, chic boutiques, and off-Broadway theatres.

    You could easily spend an afternoon window-shopping and people-watching. In summer, you can watch live entertainment and in the winter holidays enjoy open-air ice-skating. Getting to Union Square is possible by cable car (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason), Muni, trolley bus, and BART.

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    Ghirardelli Square

    A historic square near Fisherman’s Wharf

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    Ghirardelli Square sits near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It's the original site of the 1895 Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. The stately brick buildings now house award-winning restaurants, speciality boutiques, and a 5-star hotel. The square is a pleasant place to stroll, shop, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

    Kids and adults with a sweet tooth will probably want to make a beeline to the legendary Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. The queue may be long, but it moves fast. You'll then need to decide from the overwhelming menu of sundae options.


    photo by DroneEddie (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer

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